“When you step up the environment to those speeds everything becomes psychedelic, you create the psychedelic thrill. The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic and you go inward, it’s not an outer trip.” Marshal McLuhan
“You don’t know Grand Funk? The shirtless antics of Mark Farner? The competent drumming of Don Brewer or the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher?” Homer Simpson
“It’s not a well defined line. If you’re in despair, if you’re in trouble, if your heart is broken, you turn to Jesus. In country music if you’re in despair or if your heart is broken then you go have a beer.” Larry Gatlin
“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” Dr. Johnson
Last Wednesday only one piece of analog mail came through the slot. It was my invitation to experience something called “Senior Summer Camp.” This was my chance to spend a week at a nearby assisted living community to find out what the place was like and to supposedly, “Connect with people your age and have experiences just like the ones you had at camp all over again.”
There’s a panty raid you won’t wanna miss.
I’m seriously considering it as it might be my only chance to live in one of those places Alaska Wolf Joe calls ‘the people pound.’
For openers our insurance company says we’re cancelled after TrumpCare (TM pend.) passes. Then there’s the small matter that the NRA has declared open season on registered Democrats, which doesn’t bother me because, as you can see below, the NRA is a little late to the party.
Lots of people have told me that’s a joke and that may very well be true, but none of them will be the one who finds out that somebody took it as an action plan.
When you pull those two items together then I might as well spend a week at the assisted living place as there’s no time like the present. Besides I might be able to help move the place into the future. Sooner or later there won’t be anybody left in the weekly Matlock Discussion Group. In a few years us Boomers born after 1955 will be plentiful enough that the weekly Matlock group will be replaced with bingo which means – as I’ve said many, many times before – sitting next to some guy who wants to tell you how he put bug spray in his bong while Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon comes screaming over the senior center’s public address system.
Heyyyyyyy speaking of Pink Floyd, that brings us to today’s topic – David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock. While the book is jam packed with info it tends to be a bit subjective in that it probably comes closer to reflecting Weigel’s personal taste than being a prog-rock Baedeker. But realistically when you deal with niche music genres that’s bound to happen.
Therefore I shall give you my personal take on the alleged rise and fall of prog.
Say ‘YES!’ to Yes
In the 1990s several musicologists in Britain put forth the idea that much of the composition in the 19th Century suffered from Beethoven envy. They thought that the Ninth Symphony paralyzed some composers who thought that unless they came up with something that out 9th’d the 9th then they would only be remembered as artistic failures. Oddly enough musicians and performers in the 1970s were faced with the same problem when this irreproducible gem appeared in the early half of the decade.
Obviously you can only take in that exquisite melody and nuanced performance so many times before you find yourself emotionally drained and mentally spent.
So what were you to do back then?
Stereo equipment was reasonably affordable and records were less than $5 each so all you really had to do was find something else to listen to until you were in the proper frame of mind to experience the man we called, le Dandy.
Sure, there was plenty of popular music going around, but what was there to chose from?
God knows, the woods were full of sensitive singer songwriters. They’d put out all their feelings on the very first track of and then repeat the process eight or nine times to flesh out the album. This lead many of us to ask, “How many goddam feelings do you have?”
While I’ve never bought into the whole Beatles/Adorno/Frankfurt School conspiracy theory I am pretty much convinced that all the sensitive singer songwriters were part of a cabal lead by Rod McKuen.
So much for that.
And the cosmic cowboy stuff?
You listened to that at your risk. Back then people would listen to that stuff and be so overcome with such a peaceful easy feeling that they became motionless for weeks at a time. Even after they snapped out if it their movements were slow as if they lagged behind reality by a second or two. If you asked them a simple question like, “Do you know what time it is?” they would struggle to focus their attention on what you had said. Years later they saw the 70s as so much missing time and irretrievable memories. That’s why when people ask me, “HEY, did you see The Walking Dead last night?” I smile and say, “No, but I went to a Poco concert once.”
This didn’t leave much and as the sky was dark with Englishmen riding their winged dragons long enough for Roger Dean to get a pencil sketch down, prog seemed to be the best choice.
Proggy went a’courtin’
Weigel spends little time letting prog bask in its glory days. His summary of the peak years deals with personnel changes and band infighting. As such the back half of the book is pretty much about the genre’s decline.
For me the decline in the number of prog-rock albums I bought can be summed up in one word.
A key element of popular music is that it lets you get up and work off some excess energy while allowing you the opportunity to get all sweaty with a member of the opposite sex.
Such was the case with Glen Miller, such was the case with Joey Ramone.
Back in my day prog was not something the young women liked much less tolerated. They’d flip through your record collection and when they got to the Fripp, Giles, Giles, Gong, and Fripp section they’d make a face like there was something nasty smelling in the room. If you said, “Look, I got the new Yes Album!” It didn’t register. Instead they could have sworn you said, “You know, my job at the rendering plant complements my passion for taxidermy perfectly.”
As an aside – yes, we went through people’s record collections. Back then there was no FB, Tinder, or credit scores. You judged people by the vinyl they owned. Today you look through somebody’s medicine cabinet, back then you took a couple of fingers and flipped through the records. You know, …Grand Funk … Bachman-Turner … Grand Funk … Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers … what a maroon!
Don’t give me that look.
I saw you do it.
Prog was a total failure when it came to courtship. You can’t dance to it, there’s not one single album that features anything anybody would admit to as being “our song,” and what kind of relationship would you be part of if you met somebody who was OK with making out to Van der Graaf Generator?
Because … damn … that’s just … damn
Weigel says there was one single moment when it was obvious prog was done. Early in the book he spends some time talking about how Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale as the one song that lead Brit pop musicians into prog. Some of them had long wanted to break out of the 4/4 structure and let things like an organ take the lead instead of the guitar. So when Peter Gabriel ran out his punk version of the song in 1979 it was an announcement, from no less that one of the major figures in prog, that its era had come and gone.
Days of Future Passed
The book does deal with the current state of the genre which begins with elders introducing the music to their young (see the video above) but finding it’s not something the kids take to readily.
The book’s intro and last chapter talk about how prog hasn’t really come back around again. Jon Anderson tried to get newer proggy kind of groups to tour with some of the Yes reunions, but it was a bust. Us potty old duffs don’t want to hear anything new – we just want to hear what we listened to in our teen years over and over and over again. That’s why prog nostalgia cruise ship tours do very well with middle aged high-school science teachers and graying tech workers.
Not surprising. When he was much younger AWJ liked DSOTM and we even went to see Roger Waters perform it live. But I think that’s a far as he got. A few years ago while stuck in traffic we got to talking about prog and he brought up some on his phone to play over the car’s sound system.
“Wow, that’s awful.”
And what of the book?
It’s an interesting read, but the breathless style leaves something to be desired. Sorta like the author staged a 50th anniversary celebration in a train station with people coming and going and talking over each other while others strained to hear the departure announcements. You might want to wait for it to come out in paperback or pick it up at a yard sale while you’re out on some fine Saturday morning looking for old Roky Erickson records.
The book’s single greatest fault is that Weigel is no fan of Krautprog. In fact he dismisses all of it in one sentence saying the German language and understanding of musicality never lent itself to prog.
But he carries on about PFM for five pages.
Again – what to make of a given genre is always subjective, but no mention of Can, Air, Guru Guru, Neu, or even the more accessible stuff like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk?
If we take that at face value that means I’m walking around with this massive body of useless knowledge – half of which – Weigel thinks is as practical as hoarding Weimar pfennigs.
On a wholly unrelated note – the family reunion is progressing well. A cousin from the midwest and I will be comparing our genealogy research notes and hoping like hell we’re not related to these two.
“Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism. And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support.” – Richard M. Nixon
“The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts.” – Klaatu
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter. tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning … So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Dr. Johnson
One housekeeping note:
Welcome to The Cloud.
A couple of months ago the company that had this page and a couple of other of our projects on a shared server got sold to some mega-corp. Since then the service has gone to hell. Case in point – every time you filed a help ticket or made a phone call you had to deal with Oleg.
Oleg’s favorite word is “Dunno.”
Doesn’t make any difference what you asked, why can’t I get into my site, what’s with all the error warnings, what’s your hat size, given any thought to what you want for Christmas, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
“Dunno.” says Oleg.
The only full sentence he uttered over the last couple of months came in a phone call two weeks ago. He was brief and to the point, “You to go into terminal tonight and change DNS with instructions you will get in email.”
Pretty much knew the answer to that before I even asked, but I successfully fought off the urge to say, “Is your cousin who rigged our election there? Tell him it’ll only take a minute.”
So that evening I went into my terminal as instructed and moved this web site to somewhere in The Cloud where Oleg can’t find it. He’s still got a file with some images I need, but I should be able to extract those when I get a spare moment or two over the 4th of July weekend. Otherwise please enjoy your nice new fluffy cloud-like surroundings.
Did that gum you like come back in style only to lose its flavor on your bedpost overnight?
This post comes at an auspicious time. The new episode of Twin Peaks won’t be out until next week For those of you who haven’t seen any of the new ones Alaska Wolf Joe brings you up to speed on how it’s been going.
In general, Twin Peaks 3, Twin Peaks 2017, etc. tends to have a sense of identity loss. It is, I believe, not particularly clear as to what identity is lost – Lynch’s, the soul of nostalgia, the characters, etc.
What little I can say is that in essence it follows from Lynch’s tradition in both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive as opposed to early efforts such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and the original two seasons of Twin Peaks.
Eraserhead might be the clearest explication of the world Lynch seems to continually hint at. The industrial process of the world has left behind something which is not only soulless, but which is ultimately completely alienating to the human subject. All relations are foreign, biology fails to predict the structures of its constituents, and even the duties of the Father fail in the face of near schizophrenic horror.
Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet attempt to offer something a bit more reassuring: the banality of life offers a guise to the horror that is lurking. Our subjects are normal, our predictions of them have not failed, yet something is deeply, deeply wrong at the fringes. What is this surplus we cannot account for? No longer in the machinic hellscape but the comfortable world of petit bourgeois homeliness, something evades ethic – avoids custom. There is always a cruel logic which structures these worlds underneath suburban or rural homeliness, perhaps not a machinic or capitalist schema, but something paranormal, or deeply sexual. There is a trauma which waits in accordance with the spirit and/or the psyche.
In Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, we exit even the realm of societal or filial relations and end in the wake of Los Angeles, where the city has eroded the few things which thread the subject together. Subjective knowledge, the manner in which any character (subject) gains knowledge that pertains to themselves alone, is abstracted into nothing but series of signs. The main character in Mulholland wakes up with no recollection of themselves, and finds that only through the world can they attempt to recollect themselves. The world is a vast place filled with signifiers that construct identity. In the end of Mulholland and the middle of Lost Highway, Lynch shows us as much: names change, events switch and become new referents, and no one but the audience notices – the audience alone wondering if from this new display of chaos they can even construct an identity for the film.
Twin Peaks is caught in this last stage of work, but it seems even more hopelessly lost as it situates itself in the vessel of ‘modern television’ – endless references to the series’ history, but also Lynch’s career, and the style of shows that took blatantly from Twin Peaks mystique. But it resembles something more like a disorganized manner of thought than a cohesive product of entertainment. Aesthetically, it’s poor, and the storytelling is so badly paced and vague so as to become tedious. Yet it is the furthest explanation of this hollowness of the subject in the final stage of Lynch’s work: what refers to us? Who are we, if not the signs outside of us, however they may be situated?
Therefore let’s remember what Mr. Lindemann meant when he sang “Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn kann man uns am Himmel sehn wir haben Angst und sind allein, Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein!”
Right as Rain
I haven’t been watching the new Twin Peaks much less American Gods or whatever else you’re supposed to gorge yourself on these days. Instead I’ve been reading up on morality and ethics and will probably blog about that in the near future.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re saying, “Morality? You?”
So noted, but let’s not look past the possible entertainment value.
How I got down this path all started with a major Tweetstorm that went around on a Sunday morning in April. It centered about The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Earlier in the week NPR had mentioned the book as the fastest selling bookclub selection since the election. Left leaning groups were eager to get the book to see if could provide some insight into how the other side thinks. Supposedly there had been many substantial and lengthy discussion of the book both online and in person.
Half of the Tweetstorm was all for reading the book and starting conversations and the other half pretty much said, “STOP NORMALIZING REPUBLICANS!”
OK – that got me to thinking – how can you normalize a group of people when their whole brand has been built around being normal?
Ike and Mamie? A plain cloth coat? The Silent Majority featuring special guests The Johnny Mann Singers? Wasn’t it no less than Norman Mailer himself who said the GOP was the party of small town authority figures and shop owners?
How normal can you get?
Face facts – Republicans are the people who stayed all the way through the tv show so they could hear the PSA suggesting everybody attend the church of their choice on Sunday. (Not like they had to be urged much less reminded because that’s what they were going to do anyway.) Then, and only, then, once the PSA finished did they leave the couch to heed, what civilized people refer to as, the call of nature. Not like us dirty Leftists. The second we heard the words, “Book ’em, Dano!” we were off to give in to our base instincts, no better than the beasts of the field, and wiz like a racehorse. At least the neighbors were thankful that we used the indoor plumbing. They knew if it wasn’t for the public decency laws us rancid Bolsheviks would be out voiding our molotov cocktails on the front lawn. They knew darn well that if we tried that then it would only bring the law and the last thing we wanted was The Man sniffing around our suburban dens of iniquity where the weed smoke hung in the living room like it was pea-soup fog.
But that was then and this is now – the time when drug laws have become more relaxed. In some states we’ve lost all fear of law enforcement coming to the house because a neighbor believes hemp is being set alight. And there’s no telling where this will go. Maybe we’ll not only lose all fear, we’ll loose what little sense of decency we’ve been getting by with, maybe at the end of the Dancing with the Stars we’ll forgo the use of household porcelain and wander outside to commune with nature.
Then you’ll have a whole new reason to tell us to get off your lawn.
A reason you never thought possible.
Just you wait and see.
Just you wait and see.
But how easy is it to be normal these days?
Thankfully there are pundits out there like Kaeley Triller Haver who describes herself as a typical, normal mom who happens to do a column for an online publication. The short piece linked shows that, like all good pundits, she does her due diligence which in her case means that once dinner is finished and the kids are in bed she sits down at the computer and Googles about for people trying to freeze their limbs off, drink blood, or be so out of touch that they still twerk.
Look, I get it, it’s strictly research and if she’s driving over to pick the kids up from soccer and thinks to herself, “Wow, I’d better take a minute tonight and see if any elementary school principals are going around in drag!” then we should think nothing of it.
Again – this adroit participation in the public discourse has been going on for years. My father hired a guy who used to tell my grandmother, the Democratic machine operative, “With all Due respect Mrs. O’Malley, I am a Republican and always will be.” My father eventually fired him because Mr. Republican would lock the store up early so he could inspect the restrooms in the public parks. He’d come to the house, own up to it, and give my father a full accounting of he found on his rounds then use our phone to share his findings with the police. I remember the last time he pulled that stunt. My father was so outraged he actually shut off Gunsmoke (Something I believed to be impossible) and fired Mr. Republican right there in our living room. Flabbergasted that the tv was off and stayed off, I watched Mr. Republican pull away in his Chevy station wagon that had a “Nixon’s the One” bumpersticker placed on the driver’s side of the rear bumper. Thinking back it’s fitting that the bumpersticker was on the drier’s side. It said he was the man of the family, the decision maker, the one who wore the pants, the one took a flashlight every night into every crapper the city parks department had to offer.
Put another way – Kaeley Triller Haver and Mr. Republican are involved in what the Alinskites in my Rolodex would call, “civic engagement” and if it takes thinking about how some one-off weirdo exercises his and/or her libido all day so they could become engaged citizens then so be it. Tolerance is not without its protocols and while she might not be tolerant of me, I am very much tolerant of Mr. Republican, who is no longer with us and Kaeley Triller Haver. If an average American woman can raise a family while going out of her way to make sure she can find out as much about pregnant transsexual women and faithfully track down little boys wearing dresses then who are we to judge?
Am I outraged about what she said in her column?
No, far from it.
In fact, I see her column as her way to becoming a more fully actualized human being. As the elders of the American Left used to say long ago, “She’s getting her head in good place.” and she getting it there even if it means she stays up until 3am night after night scouring the Internet(s) for every last person who just might be a “nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual demonkin.”
So to her let me say, in the tradition of our elder Leftists, “Hey righteous Momma, right on.”
Speaking of conservative women …
“One should never see sausage and nice-nice being made.”
Mark Zuckerberg says his long term goal is connect all the people in the world with one another whether we like it or not. So I guess it shouldn’t some as a surprise that I got a ‘MEMBER ME?!?!? note on FB a couple of weeks ago from the woman Alaska Wolf Joe calls, Debbie the Psychedelic Republican.
The midnight recitations of Gatsby? The constant updates on her three-week shopping trip for the perfect peyote button? The time she barged into my dorm room to give me a full accounting of all the orifices in her body only to run out as quickly as she barged in? Or all the trouble she went to when she offered to be a guide to a Grateful Dead concert only to blow it off at the last minute, and leave several us drowning in a sea of those nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual, demonkins known as Dead Heads?
… it’s starting to come back to me
At the end of her note she asked that I write and catch her up on what I’ve been doing for the last 35 to 40 years. I sent a pretty tight paragraph that covered the highlights, but I haven’t heard back.
There’s several reasons – the first would be that I left no room for doubt, I’m still pretty much what her friend Calista’s husband would call an Unrepentant McGovernik. Hot on the heels of that was the breezy tone of my note, similar to the prose you see here, which would probably lead her to say what she said to me me time and time again, “I was going to invite you to (function) but nobody wanted you to come. They’re afraid of what you’re going to say.”
I was never hurt by that as I realized at a very early age that I was completely nice-nice challenged.
And what is nice-nice?
Mom defines nice-nice by putting her hands under her chin, wiggling all her fingers, and in her tiny, sparkly, precious-princess voice says, “OHHHHHH let’s make nice-nice! We’ll go over to some one’s nice house with all the other nice people and we’ll have some nice tea and some nice little cookies and it will be so nice because we’re making nice-nice. (Expletive) nice-nice.”
You can look it up, but it’s a well known fact – couples who exhibit compatible antisocial behaviors stay together longer.
Where were we?
American suburban nice-nice usually begins with getting invited over to see some new patio furniture, a dinette set, maybe a large appliance, or any item an economist would define as a durable good. Think of nice-nice as the participation trophy for having shopped at Sears.
Debbie’s pals, like many people in my past, were afraid that if I came I’d bring with me a certain kind withering sarcasm that would curdle the nice-nice. (Never mind that it was the only hostess gift I could find on short notice.) The point of nice-nice is to celebrate the normal, and like cheese, most people just don’t want to ask the question, “Who moved my normal?” They like their normal right where it is. They don’t want some moonbat libtard coming around asking if the think their normal might look better over there.
But that’s all pretty much conjecture.
What I believe was the real reason I haven’t heard back is Mom and Alaska Wolf Joe.
Maybe Debbie thought I was in a trailer park somewhere overseeing the giant cloud of radioactive natural gas trapped a mile beneath unincorporated Rio Blanco County, Colorado. Instead I was out having a life and there’s these two very important people who’ve been at the very core of it.
In fact, until we open our mouths or if viewed for a distance, we look pretty normal too.
Now and then we could even be mistaken for Republicans.
In the meantime sit tight as I have some reading to do. After all this time it makes sense to try a different approach. Instead of reading the jacket blurb and flying off the handle like we did in the old days, I’m going to take a serious gander at Haidt’s book. But I’m not going to get crazy and run a highlighter through parts or even start an outline to create a cogent argument about what he said.
After all we do have to uphold a few of the old blogging traditions lest we get mired in digital apostocy.
In the next couple of weeks I’ll also be working my way through Davis Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends, the new book about the rise of and fall of prog rock. Here however you rest assured that if I go through Weigle’s index and find no mention of Can, Popol Vuh, Guru Guru or any of the other German bands I will come right back here immediately and go bat-shit ballistic without reading another word.
Join us then, won’t you?
“Media theorists discuss the body primarily as the site of the senses, (see senses) however Descartes began his discussion of the body as an assertion from the mind. The Cartesian man establishes his existence and the limits of his physical being through the existence and limits of his senses. “I think therefore I am” most simply articulates the self identifying the senses of the self, to the self’s body. Lacan complicates this understanding of the body, though, with his discussion of the “mirror stage” of child psychological development. Lacan theorizes that man, sensing himself from within his own body, is only able to conceive of his body as an accumulation of pieces–or other bodies. This accumulation is only truly composed, when the whole is viewed in reflection, at a distance, alone. For Lacan, bodily integrity or wholeness is only achieved with the assistance of an ‘other’ seemingly detached object–the mirror. This differs from Descartes because the Cartesian man is an accumulation of parts sensed simultaneously as one whole body, whereas the Lacanian subject can not conceive of the whole body until the entire entity is visualized–a primitive media interaction. Maurice Merleau-Ponty engages these conflicting arguments, claiming that while the Lacanian man feels disembodied by this distanced image of his whole, the Cartesian man feels comfortable with his self-sensed self, and identifies the image as a model of himself, rather than his detached self. In Lacan’s model, selfhood may only be understood with the assistance of an outside object–i.e. one mirror. Lacan reflects on the destabilizing effect this discovery can have–realizing that identity is only definable with the aid of an outside object. This is the beginning of the new thoughts on embodiment.” – Maggie Hansen
“Today at F8, Facebook revealed it has a team of 60 engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive implants. The team plans to use optical imaging to scan your brain a hundred times per second to detect you speaking silently in your head, and translate it into text.Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s R&D division Building 8, explained to conference attendees that the goal is to eventually allow people to type at 100 words per minute, 5X faster than typing on a phone, with just your mind.Eventually, brain-computer interfaces could let people control augmented reality and virtual reality experiences with their mind instead of a screen or controller. Facebook’s CEO and CTO teased these details of this “direct brain interface” technology over the last two days at F8. – Josh Constine
“What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe & invisible & the unbelievers couldn’t throw stones?) ‘Heh, heh, heh. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.'” – Amiri Baraka
“She had a snake for a pet and an amulet and she was breeding a dwarf but she wasn’t done yet She had gray-green skin, n doll with a pin I told her she was awright but I couldn’t come in (actually, I was very busy then) She said she was A Magic Mama and she could throw a mean Tarot And carried on without a comma That she was someone I should know” – generally attributed to the Comedia Del”Arte
“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Dr. Johnson
Every now and again you have to take a plunger to your zeitgeist.
Make yourself comfortable, we’re gonna be here for awhile.
The sun finally came out which in turn brought people out of their homes and into our business district. Walking along with the rest I had to stop and wait for the light to change. Standing next to me was a tall thin man who was whistling. He caught the attention of everybody waiting on the corner as he was one darn fine whistler. He was whistling along with perfect pitch and feeling in a most entertaining way.
The Mighty Mouse theme.
On Whistler’s other side was a woman carrying an enormous purse. She was transfixed. She never took her eyes off of him. She was also the first to notice that his mood was changing. Even though he stopped she didn’t break her stare. When he started again he only whistled the refrain, “Here I come to save the day.” only in a lower key and at a much lower volume. The light stayed red and that’s when refrain grew darker and emerged like Whistler just tasted something nasty. Whistler stepped off the curb into the gutter then back up onto the sidewalk and at that moment the light changed.
Sure hope Mr. Trouble wasn’t hanging around as Whistler took off at what could only be called a trot taking with him that mighty sound. The woman with the outsized purse watched him for a second or two then looked at me and asked, “Wonder what’s going on in his head?”
An excellent question dear lady, but hardly a new one.
Wondering what’s in the other guy’s head is an ancient quest. Some anthropologists believe that somewhere in prehistory warriors ate the brains of their enemy believing it would give them complete insight into the other guy’s thinking. Today nobody believes you could derive such a benefit some such a thing. Making matters worse, last week The National Geographic Society said there’s no much nutrition to be had by eating your fellow human being.
So what does that leave us?
If the F8 Conference is any indication we’ll soon be able to twitch, shimmy, and spit our vacation photos directly onto our Facebook pages which will then lead to the slippery slope of creating the human-brain-to-computer interface. The outcome will most likely be some way to hook up some sort of electronics directly into your nervous system and that interface will be provided by some large corporation like FB or Samsung.
Or to use the indelicate term by hackers years and year ago,”One day there’ll be a way for somebody to jack into your meat.”
And what’s the payoff?
Now that The Guardian revealed Facebook’s policies on being no fun it’s not like we’re going to get to see what’s flying through the brains of the Patrick Batemans of the world. Hell, we might not even get to see your Uncle Ed’s constant dithering over Ginger vs. Mary Ann.
If there’s no entertainment value in seeing what going on in the other guy’s head then let the Scandinavians be chipped and we shall sit quietly and pretend to be enthused when we see the inner workings of their minds fly past us on social media.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Since the first of the year the industry’s go-to buzzword has been “collaborate.” Makes no difference where you look, which trade journal you read, or whatever pundit you set your watch to – it’s all collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. As winter wound down two groups coalesced around the word – those who use it all the time and the rest of us who have idea what they’re talking about.
Come early spring I got invited to one of those biz gatherings that everybody insists one of us attend and then regrets having extended the offer once I show up. (This will become apparent in a moment.) For an evening we were going to set aside our mutual anxiety over reporter slappings, the precursor to reporter tackling, along with the economic and physical threats to our continued work. We’d take a couple of hours,rid our minds of all the commotion and unite to be in the same place for one night as a greater whole united by the single fact that none of us understood one word coming out of the other guy’s mouth.
The evening’s hospitality consisted of being issued a can of Sierra Mist and a plastic cup full of ice. Once the hotel staff was reasonably sure you had a sufficient grip on both items you were hustled off into a side lobby for the social hour. No sooner had I proven that I was capable of using my opposable thumbs correctly I was approached by someone who works for a very, very, very large media conglomerate. She greeted me warmly, but you could see that she was gravely disappointed that Mom wasn’t coming. Nonetheless I was pulled over to a clutch of people who were also holding their still unopened cans of Sierra Mist as they listened to some guy saying collaborate, collaborate, collaborate over and over and over. In a hushed voice my acquaintance told me the man talking was the social media guru for a half dozen or so media groups in the US and Europe.
His larger point was, “We must find a way to easily communicate the need for collaboration in order to break through and break down the old cultures of boardrooms and newsrooms. We must find a way, a clear simple way. Maybe something simple, only a few words.”
So I said – you mean like, stop, collaborate and listen?
That made Social Media Man light up. “YES! Exactly!An excellent start! Was that something right off the top of your head?”
No, that’s not mine, a famous man said that long ago.
His eyes got wide as he asked, “WHO?”
Ten to 15 seconds of uncomfortable silence passed. You could see that he was waiting for me to say something like “GOTCHA!” or “Had you going there, didn’t I?” But I remained calm, expressionless, and silent until it became clear that I wasn’t joking.
When the silence hit the 20 second mark I wandered off.
“Neil dear, I think there’s something you should know. Listen: to be eccentric, you must first know your circle.” Miss Webster
Some of you have asked how the family reunion is coming along.
So far it demands that you become something like a Cold-War-Kremlin watcher.
The communication ranges from pitiful to alarmingly paltry. On the older end we are graced with family who doesn’t want that damn Internet in the house because it could start a fire. On the other end there’s several of those guys between the age of 45 and 60 who only use a computer at work and then only sparingly. At night they park themselves on the couch trying to develop a taste for Matlock so that they’ll more easily transition into their Golden Years. Somewhere in the middle is the cousin organizing the whole thing who seems to be the only other person besides myself who is not afraid to use a computer and who will admit to owning a smart phone.
His last email simply said,”Looks like your niece is coming.”
At this point most of you are asking, “Aren’t you, thank you Jesus, an only child?”
There was a dog . . . I remember that . . . we had a dog . . .
Meanwhile you’re asking, “Did you ask him what he meant by that?”
Did I mention that Cousin Other Smart Phone Owner’s favorite thing is going off the grid?
After sending that email he went straight to Billy Jack, Arizona after leaving his smart phone with his sister in Phoenix before he went walkabout.
Never mind that I’m riddled with anxiety over the whole thing. If we go then at some point I have to wade through all the mud that others created long before I was born. A few cousins think if we talk it through it will be like traveling back in time and healing a wound and once we’re done everything will be fine.
They mean well, but at some point I must square my shoulders and deal with the bad things that happened long before I was born. That means grief, sorrow, and many other things. Sure some of them try to explain it, but as Mom’s mom Granmmom once said, “You should be happy. Your friends are your family. You made a family for yourself. How about that?”
She was a wise woman.
To honor what she said you have my solemn promise that I will not use this page to bother you with all the anxious moments I’ve had and will probably continue to have over getting together with my relations.
Because that’s what Medium’s for.
One housekeeping note:
Recently the cat and this page turned 17.
Years ago the cat would spend the summer nights endlessly going from window to window all over the house to see what critters were going about in the night. Now he gets off the bed at first light, sticks his head between the vertical blinds on the sliding glass door, look around some, comes back to bed, and flops all over Mom.
The output of this page, minus the Mom flopping, has followed a similar trajectory.
But you knew that.
“Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup [claps his hands] collides with ham.” Dale Cooper, government employee
“But I am, of course, a dirty leftist commentator, and will play fast and hard with the truth.” Alaska Wolf Joe
“The younger people are probably the most junior people on the team; for them to say something, they would have to be really confident in themselves. To have a younger millennial account person go up to a senior creative person and say, ‘We’re not going to do this, we think there’s a problem with it’ — that’s an uncomfortable power position to put a young person into. Products don’t solve problems. They’re trying to present a product as a solution to a very large, very important, very serious cultural and societal problem. The only way a company can get away with doing that kind of thing is if they’re really doing something. You can’t tell me that you’re doing that, Pepsi.” – Mara Epstein, Ph.D., Professor of media studies at Queens College
“I think the message that Pepsi hoped would come out of it is that Pepsi is in touch with what is going on. It would get young people thinking, ‘Is Pepsi a brand for me?’ But they missed the point. It’s completely overproduced. If you want something to feel at all genuine, why are you using celebrities? Let alone celebrities that have no association whatsoever with the thing you’re advertising. It makes sense that this was done in-house because it doesn’t have the creative rigor that an outside ad agency would bring. People at the agency rip each other to pieces if something isn’t good. It’s harder for that stuff to get made by an ad agency. I think what probably happened in this case is that someone just really wanted to use Kendall Jenner. Someone inside attached themselves to the thought that she is really of the moment. It’s really transparent when we do that. If you’re going to use a celebrity, you really need to have a good reason to use them. The world is craving authenticity, even if authenticity is a completely overused word. People want these things to feel real. Like use real people. This ad was the least relatable piece of communication I’ve ever seen. It feels manipulative. People are not stupid. I think they were smart to take it down. It looks like it could cost $2 million just for production alone … And having Skip Marley do the music doesn’t make a difference. Even if you had Migos do the soundtrack. Even if Offset had written the soundtrack, purely out of love for Pepsi, it wouldn’t have worked. – ad exec who did not wished to be named
“The Theater of the Absurd dramatizes the recent dilemma of Western man, the man of action who appears not to be involved with the action. Such is the original and appeal of Samuel Beckett’s clowns. After 3000 years of specialist explosion and increasing specialism and alienation in the technological extensions of our bodies, our world has become more compressional by dramatic reversal. As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the aristrocrat, the teenager, and some other groups. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to electric media.” Marshall McLuhan 1958
“It is not very easy to fix the principles upon which mankind have agreed to eat some animals, and reject others; and as the principle is not evident, it is not uniform. That which is selected as delicate in one country, is by its neighbours abhorred as loathsome.” Dr. Johnson
Now and then we like to have an outing that will keep our credentials as cultural anthropologists in good working order. Our preferred destination for such things is Los Angeles, but time and Alaska Wolf Joe’s ongoing experimentation with being a coastal elitist on the opposite coast have limited our options. Sure, Portland’s close, but even there we’ve worn down the possibilities there to little more than running out some tepid snark about the town being wholly dependent on foreign beard oil.
Instead we decided on coastal Oregon so that we test the proposition, “In Heaven there is no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that’s why we put it in everything here.”
Make yourself comfortable, we’re gonna be here awhile.
The central engine that drives coastal Oregon forward is neither lumber nor tourism. Instead the entire area seems to run on a limitless supply of pancake batter and whipped cream. The more successful eateries resemble one of those infinitely re-arrangeable executive toys you’d find in the SkyMall catalog. It makes little difference if you come alone or with a party of 12. The tables can be bent or shaped into any number of configurations as if they were made from Silly Putty instead of wood. The ensuing breakfast, which the locals still believe is the most important meal of the day, is surprising low on dairy products. Perhaps the butter would only get in the way of the whipped cream, several flavors of syrup, and soda pop which seems to be every bit as popular as coffee at that time of day.
These scalable breakfast nooks also come with attached gift shops as knick-knackery is a serious component in the coast GDP. Each offers a wide selection of Christmas ornaments year-round and the following items, each of which we took a pass on:
– Plush Oregon Duck mascot
– Plush Santa Oregon Duck mascot*
– Plush leprechaun Oregon Duck mascot*
– Plush Easter Bunny Oregon Duck Mascot
– Plush camo/Rambo Oregon Duck mascot
* Denotes discounted item
Pushing away from the breakfast table and wandering out to work off the HFCS we’d injested we found this retail establishment.
When we tried the front door we found they weren’t open yet, but my mind was reeling.
Is he in a tank in the back or some old bathtub? Did they caulk up and old show stall and keep him there? Does he have a name like Free or Wind? Wondering aloud about that last one Mom said, “Alligators live in water, so you gotta think of a water sign, probably Aquarius or Aquaria if it’s a gal gator”.
OK, but does he do tricks? Does he play hacky sack with a trainer? Can tourists buy little bags of pressed quinoa cut into shapes that look like little fish?
Because if those were around it would blow open the synapses on each and every French postmodernist alive!
Oh hey – speaking of semiotics – while in Oregon my Tuesday began with this 3-minute video popping up in my Tweety.
And my afternoon ended with Kendall Jenner sticking the HFCS to The Man!
Here to explain all things related to those on the lower rung the Kardassia is our own Alaska Wolf Joe –
Consider, I suppose, that the Pepsi ad is much like the Syrian attack which it so closely pairs with chronologically, a simile of bourgeois hors d’oeuvres and red wine, flesh and blood. Perhaps as Barthes would point out, red wine itself creates insatiable thirst at best, and at worst is a consequence of the social event (war). (Barthes’ Mythologies, “Wine and Milk.” To summarize here, I recall Barthes’ analysis of wine as being paradoxically dry but thirst quenching – in that in his own terms, “[…] at least thirst serves as an initial alibi for its consumption[…]” (Mythologies 79) To note briefly here of war, it is similarly a galvanizing act of quenching, its initial process claims to be a reagent in the reaction of peace, at least at the outset.)
No doubt in the mythology of the infamous Kendall Jenner advertisement, Pepsi itself is portrayed a nourishment of the body, that which quenches thirst. A better question to be asked of the commercial may be this: Why are they thirsty? The ideological supposition itself is immediately formed, “They are thirsty for justice!” but this is a lie.
I read it as that they thirst because they are attractive, creative, and have a surplus of sexuality – they are thirsty precisely because they are bodies in motion, but particular bodies: bodies of enjoyment. This thirst is not caused of a natural biological need, rather at the outset we can compare it with surplus value: it is the thirst of those who can afford to waste their biological energy in Spectacle. It is their raw hedonism of pleasure through protest, pleasure through art, pleasure through imagined narratives of “countercultural critique” which enables them to be thirsty. It is the perspiration of jouissance. They can only afford this thirst because of their status with regards to Capital. If they were truly proletarian, this Spectacle would be impossible, the thirst would become dangerous. It is not so disparate of course, worker’s hands have still manufactured this Pepsi, but it is precisely this which causes these young bourgeois to thirst. For the workers themselves are already thirsty, are already suffering – they could enjoy a nice cold Pepsi. The young bourgeoisie lacks this thirst; they do not have nearly such a miserable condition in life. They must become more symptomatic, more laborious. They must create thirst in order to enjoy this Pepsi. And what an enjoyable Pepsi it will be, once they have earned it.
To compare, here is Zizek on soft drinks:
A more pressing issue is at hand that regards the political in the commercial itself. I had recently watched Fritz Langs’ Metropolis, a great film of ambiguity regarding the bourgeois support of the worker as Spectacle. One of the things most mystifying about the film is that we do not know precisely what it is that the machines do. In the inadvertent gaze of Langs’ directorial sensibility and the overtones of the script, this renders the workers even more as an inanimate object unto themselves – even more as an undifferentiated whole only recognizable for labor value, removed and alienated of their subjectivity, brought through to the “self-consciousness” of their position in the master and slave dialectic. There is nothing more they are conscious of, and nothing more that we are conscious of, than that they are laborers. Their machines are nameless, their work is nameless, and they themselves (virtually) are nameless.
Contrast this, of course, with what we are offered here in the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. Its most infamous initial image is simply of that of protest signs devoid of any coherent message. It is a revolution without organs. A woman in a hijab scribbles on photography. What is she photographing? Kendall Jenner poses in front of a mirror. What is she modeling for? A man plays a cello. We do not hear the music he plays.
It extends too to the actions: This man perspires over his cello, this supposedly Muslim woman throws these photographs aside, Kendall Jenner discards her wig and (miraculously) changes into a proletarian costume, revealing her “authenticity”.
Inevitably, there is no answer. For what is there to consider of it but Spectacle? What are they joining, of course, but Spectacle? The musicians in the street, the break dancers whispered of briefly in the montage are the most authentic consumers in the whole commercial: they are already aware that this is a celebration, a perverted Carnaval, a burlesque of revolution.
Do not focus on the moment which has now cemented itself in our cultural conscious of Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to a cop1. Focus on the sequence afterwards, in which the cop smiles and looks over at the other cop in a knowledge of agreement. An agreement to what? An agreement to enjoyment. This is precisely what is novel about this commercial, what is truly revolutionary. For there is no longer a moment of free love, the uninhibited flow of orgone, no longer mass revolt, no longer “hanging them by the last bit of rope which they will sell us” there is—enjoyment. The revolution here is that the entire world will become a Pepsi commercial. The gross surplus enjoyment, the raw and impossible jouissance of all existence is nothing but an orgiastic enjoyment of Pepsi unto infinity.
Consider then the impossible fantasy of a Pepsi commercial, so enjoyable that it never ends – it is a never-ending montage of fantastical commercial enjoyment, it is this revolution without organs which we have glimpsed carrying on ad infinitum, it continues until the entire world’s factories have stopped, that the world’s population is starving, the clouds have darkened with pestilence, our urine has turned black with blood from kidneys which have tasted naught but Pepsi for years, and finally into the absence of God’s position in the heavens a lone voice screams: “Pepsi!” This is the horrid jouissance of Pepsi. The impossible horror of a commercial reaching its liminal conclusion in death.
Is this not how the end of the world will look? Will it not look like this commercial?
AWJ’s thoughts on Pepsi and Syria continue here.
As that’s all a bit much to chew on in one sitting, no matter how much Log Cabin syrup and whipped cream you put on it, I shall be succinct.
Barthes becomes difficult to use in after information becomes suddenly ubiquitous and easily manufactured. The old media was based on the scarcity of the means to produce content which is why co-opting symbols – as seen in the video above – made sense. His Mythologies remains an important read and maybe well go into this more at a later time.
Meanwhile – being the low season on the Oregon coast the store’s hours were highly variable and thus my search for the vegan alligator will have to continue in the summer months.
Until then I will whistle this happy tune.
“In today’s all-farm-to-table-everything environment of “conscious consumerism”––where we’re willing to pay more for a steak if we’re told the cow was happy before somebody slaughtered it, clothing companies like Everlane use their dedication to “radical transparency” as a marketing tactic, and it is possible to purchase fair trade cocaine on the deep web––a product’s worth is often linked to the perceived ethics of those who produce it. When it comes to music, this means that artists are viewed as part and parcel with the work they create. If they seem like a decent person, we’re more apt to listen to their music with favorable ears; conversely, if we enjoy their work, there is part of us that automatically assumes that person embodies the values we assign to their music.” Drew Millard
“But by the following year, in Age of Spin, Chappelle has figured out what he wants to say about Cosby, a man he says ‘has a legacy I can’t just throw away.’ He mourns the loss of Cosby as someone to be heralded as an entertainment pioneer and an icon who paved the way for black men to follow in his comedic footsteps (though Chappelle’s comedy is, uh, a little more explicit than Cosby’s ever was). He marvels at the sheer amount of time Cosby must have devoted to assaulting women, estimating that his ‘400 hours of rape’ makes the 65 hours you need to get a pilot’s license look like nothing. One of the best moments in either special comes when Chappelle dissects a confrontation that happened during one of his own shows, when a young white woman kept interrupting him as he tried to talk about Cosby. She apparently started shouting, ‘Women suffer!’ while Chappelle kept trying to say, ‘I know!’ But he describes drawing the line when she tried to insist that her suffering was the same as Chappelle’s. ‘She had no idea,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘Bill Cosby was a hero to me.’ What Chappelle wishes she would’ve understood — and what he keeps telling his audiences in Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas, as he has throughout his career — is that a lot of this stuff is more complicated than many might want to admit.” Caroline Framke
“All this while, Mailer has in clutch Why Are We in Vietnam? He had neglected to bring his own copy to Washington and so had borrowed the book from his hostess on the promise that he would inscribe it. (Later he would actually lose it – working apparently on the principle that if you cannot make a hostess happy, the next best thing is to be so evil that the hostess may dine out on tales of your misconduct.) But the copy of the book is now noted because Mailer, holding it one hand and the mug of whiskey in the other, was obliged to notice on entering the Ambassador Theater that he had an overwhelming urge to micturate. The impulse to pass urine, being for some reason more difficult to restrain when both hands are occupied, there was no thought in the Master of Ceremonies’ mind abut the alternatives – he would have to find The Room before he went on stage.” Norman Mailer from Armies of the Night
“A new age is upon us – and yet the some old qualities, love and admiration of them, still remain. These qualities are to exist and find their expression in new forms, comformable to modern life, usages, and tastes. Otherwise, we shall have but a nation of smirking persons, polite, dapper, genteel, and correct, following the established forms, their shrunken frames concealed in costumes, because, if they were stript, their meagerness and deformity would disgust the world.” Walt Whitman
“The art of the writer, like that of the player, is attained by slow degrees. The power of distinguishing and discriminating comick characters, or of filling tragedy with poetical images, must be the gift of nature, which no instruction nor labour can supply; but the art of dramatick disposition, the contexture of the scenes, the involution of the plot, the expedients of suspension, and the strategems of surprise, are to be learned by practice; and it is cruel to discourage a poet for ever, because he has not from genius what only experience can bestow.” Dr. Johnson
What follows is a disjointed mess that comes from a week of blogger’s block exacerbated by unexpected grief.
For those of you just tuning in, here’s how the division of labor works around here. Mom hears about a Rubber Chicken Dinner (RCD) and if it warrants attendance I go. Early in the week she got word that a “leading figure” in the community was retiring after 35 years ceaselessly toiling away at his no-show job so he could raise money for one of the two better known political parties. Our representation was required because he managed to scare up major cash for those who immediately represent us. Per Mom – not only would our local solons be stuffing their faces, they’d also be at the podium to dole out a few words which had a very close scrape with the heartfelt and sincere.
The treacherous portion of The RCD goes by a couple of names. Some call it “the pre-func” while others try to whitewash its sins by calling it “The Social Hour.” In either case only the most extroverted among us come away unscathed. Seeing as that I am not one of those outgoing lucky few I live in dread of the last 15 minutes before dinner is served as that’s the time when trouble seeks out the shy and reserved.
And this quarter hour was a doozy.
Looking across the room I saw two people charging right at me. Within seconds they were do close to me that the words “personal space” lost all meaning.
HIM: Are you who we think you are?
HER: (taking my chin and tilting my head up) Who looks after your sideburns, your dog?
ME: We don’t have a …
HIM: Look for a mustache, I’m not seeing one!
HER: Where is your mustache?
ME: It and the girlfriend who insisted I grow one disappeared about ’81.
HIM: No beard?
HER: (Tilting my head the other way) No beard!
HIM: Then you are not who we thought you were!
Glad we cleared that up?
Good thing those two weren’t amateur phrenologists or I’d still be there.
Wait, there’s more.
Now on Medium: Visit the (sic) and bury the lede
Regardless of how March came in where you live it went out with two RCD’s here. A few days after receiving a critique of my facial hair (see above) I had to wander out for the retirement dinner of a local business exec. His company was giving him a big send off for his many, many years of having roughly the same DNA as the company’s founder. There were many stories and jokes about his endless golf trips which painted a much larger picture – a picture of dedicated employees who were relieved when he was in Palm Springs or Vegas or Phoenix because then they could get some work done.
Taking no chances I arrived 5 minutes before dinner was the be served to avoid any Imperial entanglements.
The entanglements waited until I was in the parking lot.
A guy I see around the neighborhood every so often comes up and says, “Hey – you know about th’ social media right?”
o…k… sure …
He gets between me and my driver’s side door, put a finger in my face and lets go with, “I went to this thing about business using Facebook and the other shit and it was all a bunch of damn kids. Ever heard of the Medium bloggers?”
Sadly … yes.
“They say you gotta get a Medium so you can be a thinker leader!”
I think the term is “thought leader.”
“Yeah, yeah! You gotta do that. You gotta do a Medium blog and it’ll be all about you and how you are the guy who’s working on all this social media blogging!”
Sorta like Armies of the Night.
“I guess you can write about 80s bands if you want. Use ‘em like those things, those metaphors and similarities! Isn’t that what you blogger guys do?”
The upshot here is that the guy paid good money to sit through six hours of metric-free anecdotes delivered in a peppy tone from a panel of Silicon Valley executives. For all that money he felt he had come away with knowledge that resembled nothing more than the All New, two-topping, Saltines and Mayo Special from Domino’s. I didn’t heave the heart to tell him that all FUTURE OF THE MEDIA conferences are like that.
In short – his solution was to get somebody who is twice the age of the average conference panelist (i.e me) who won’t so much inject perspective into the discussion as dump cold water all over it. He was looking for somebody who would smother the panel in pessimism and gloom.
And I’m just the man to do it!
Hey – it took me years to build my brand and I’m proud of it.
So BOO-YAH you high-sheriff panel talkin’ motherfuckers!
Truth is you don’t need me. What’s going on with the conventional media (papers, tv, cable, & radio) is obvious. Just this week Bloomberg turned lose something that can be called ESPN’s memorial service pre-func.
ESPN broke ground on this $175 million, 194,000-square-foot facility, called Digital Center 2, in 2011. It was billed by executives as “future-proof,” capable of adapting to any possible change in the way people watch sports. At the time, ESPN looked indestructible. Its namesake cable channel had just topped 100 million subscribers and was posting record profits for its parent company, Walt Disney Co., even as streaming apps such as Netflix were growing rapidly. Ratings for live sports, unlike almost everything else on TV, were soaring. And ESPN had big games year-round—Monday Night Football, college football bowl games, Major League Baseball’s opening day, and the NBA playoffs, to name a few. A cover story in this magazine in the fall of 2012 dubbed ESPN the “Everywhere Sports Profit Network.”
Five years later the network’s profits are shrinking, and the 10,000-square-foot SportsCenter studio has already begun to look like a relic. The show’s formula, in which well-fed men in suits present highlights from the day’s games with Middle-American charm, is less of a draw now that the same highlights are readily available on social media. Viewership for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, a bellwether for the franchise, fell almost 12 percent from 2015 to last year, according to Nielsen. Keith Olbermann, the SportsCenter-host-turned-political-commentator, put it bluntly on a podcast last year: “There’s just no future in it.”
Nobody needs a Medium page.
It’s all out there if you know where to look.
Besides – a Medium page?
You do have your dignity to consider.
I do believe that these applauses are for some new honors that are heaped on Caesar.
The Paris Review ran out this memory of Chuck Berry a couple of days after he died.
“Bo Diddley had been backstage with him one time and was talking about magic and the radio. Back then a lot of people believed that the radio was magic, that sound waves traveled to different dimensions, maybe all the way to heaven. You ever get this little shiver in your spine, Bo Diddley asked him, like it’s hot and cold at the same time? That means someone’s been making love while a song of yours is on the radio. It goes right through the air and slips back into your soul. You know? And then, you ever get a sudden pain in your left foot, sharp, like a needle’s gone into it? That means somebody died while your song was on the radio. Somebody died.
“That was too much. It spooked him, and he’d gone to the library and checked out all the books they had on mysticism and magic. Madame Blavatsky and books on past lives and the occult. He read through most of them, but it made his head spin, and he stepped away from all of that.
“ ‘I don’t know,’ he said, and he shook his head. ‘I wouldn’t let any of them work on my car. Not one of them.’”
This list has been sitting on a legal pad for a few months.
Here’s the problem of how I can now come to a conclusion. The greater point I was after was the separation of creator and creation. Chuck Berry was proof that you can outlive your scandal(s) for a time, but the second you die your mistakes will come right on back. Berry’s death coincided with Dave Chappelle’s Netflix specials. Both were shot a couple of years ago, but the most recent ends with Chappelle trying to make sense of Bill Cosby.
Critics of the show – incorrectly- griped that Cosby did not lead to the comedy of Dave Chappelle. Cosby was one of the pioneers in a new form of comedy that did not rely on mother-in-law or women driver set-up and punch line jokes. Cosby brought forth a new form where comics talked about their lives. The material was based on life and the inadvertent discovery of humorous moments. At the end of the Cosby bit Chappelle runs out the many honorable things Cosby did while still acknowledging that 400 hours spent raping women is as heinous as it can get, but he still doesn’t know what to make of it and he ends with a look in his eye – the look you see older guys get – when they really don’t know if they’ll ever make sense of it.
That’s why my short list will most like remain on my shelf. I’m not sure what I’m to make of it either. I offer no defense of what the men on that list did nor do I condone their sins. In fact, the thought of Chuck Berry reading Madame Blvatsky stopped me in my tracks for an afternoon.
What are we to make of that?
In the meantime – please – let’s not get into political correctness.
Please save that paltry and threadbare out-of-the-box answer for another time.
Instead take a moment and wonder if the old Romans were right to wait for 100 years before they undertook the study of a famous life.
While you do that there’s a rumor that an evening of karaoke has been added to the family reunion so I must prepare something.
“In Vegas, if you make over a 100 big ones a week, your last name is never used: Frank plays Vegas, and Dean and Shecky; so does Jerry Vale.” John Gregory Dunne
“Meanwhile, I kept traveling the American countryside playing my songs, telling my jokes, and consciously infecting toilet seats practically everywhere I went. This included (in what was an unfortunate career move) Kenny Rogers brand-new 40-foot jade toiler seat. I vividly remember emerging from Rogers’s extremely ornate dumper into his sequined living room. The Southern California sun was ricocheting ferociously from the chandelier to the swimming pool to the tennis courts and back again into my right iris. ‘You ol’ storyteller, you’ I said humorously. ‘I can understand the chandelier, the swimming pool, the tennis courts – but Kenny, ‘ I asked shaking my head incredulously, ‘why in the world would you need a 40-foot jade toilet seat?’ “Well Kink,’ he said wistfully, ‘we never had one of those when I was growin’ up.’” Kinky Friedman
“You’re my older brother, Fredo and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.” Michael Corleone
“By taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by showing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time.” Dr. Johnson
“It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.” Groucho Marx
How did last week go?
Let’s take a peek.
– Managed to get some public realtions hotshot from Chicago off the phone by promising him all my business when my startup, InfantiGo gets off the ground.
– Told someone to her face that if she’s afraid of “cyberbullies” then she should either get used to being called a “snowflake” or a “libtard” or get off the Internet altogether. After she was a safe distance away Mom told me I had just been speaking to the person who ran the statewide Trump campaign.
– Someone phoned, yelled, “I KNOW YOU TOOK MY DOG!” and hung up. The same person called a minute or so later yelled, “AND DON’T BE FEEDING HIM THAT DRY SHIT YOU BOUGHT AT TARGET!” Haven’t heard anything further, but the cat has been tasked to let us know if he sees a dog running around the house.
– Got invited to a family reunion.
Ten or so years ago there was The Golden Age of The Bloggitysphere. Some of you will remember that it was much like the golden age of Ancient Greece only with cat pictures instead of statues of the gods. Back then from time to time I would talk about my relatives AKA The Neil Diamond Fan Club.(TNFDC) They’re the ones having this shindig which will center on finding more or less where our grandparents’ home used to be in one of the not-so-radioactive portions of unincorporated Rio Blanco County.
Of course this has lead people to ask, “Are you going?”
For those of you just tuning in it goes like this – I am the product of two second marriages. As such my time line is seriously out of synch with the balance of my generation. Some of TNDFC have some memory of seeing me in the 1970s whereas the majority see me as … how to put this?
Have you ever been on the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland and had some one nudge you to ask, “Is that new or has that always been here?”
It’s like that.
At least TNDF does speak to me which is more than I can say for the other side of my family. They shut me out of their lives entirely after I said one little thing at the reception following my grandfather’s funeral. Before the coffee and cake came out we were all gathered to listen to a second cousin tell some story about The Awfulest Awful Thing That Ever Happened Which Must Be Talked About at Each Family Gathering Because of the Awfulness.
The cousin got up on a dining room chair and started in using a loud amateur theatrical voice. Somewhere around 1930 my grandfather lost some property rights in a crooked game of Panguingue that was using a rigged card shoe. (At this point the hankies started to come out.) When it came time to flop or fold, or yell “Fizzbin” the other six players had 4 aces and a jack each and the property rights were gone. (Muffled sobs could be heard.) On and on it went about how this one tragic incident kept us from being invited to all the good ponzi schemes and if it hadn’t been for that game we could have been off and running stiffing one country club after another for the entry fees. Instead, and this is where the weeping got shot into high gear, we are left to our lowly station – a bunch of hicks without two nickels to rub together.
At this point – callow youth that I was – I got up in front of the room, thanked everybody for coming to the funeral and said, well that was 50 years ago and there’s not much we can do about it now. Back then did anybody think to call the sheriff or go find a lawyer?
Moments later I was offered neither cake nor coffee. Instead I was offered the use of the back door for my immediate exit. On the way to the car I was told that I should be ashamed of myself for asking questions about what makes a family a family.
At least I’m faring better with TNDFC and one relative in the old country. Thanks to the missionary efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its interest in genealogy I have been receiving email in broken English from Ainii Uppa, (No, really.) who is a member of a stake house not far from where my great-grandfather grew up. Per her – we’re related as we share a common ancestor named Olaf. She sent a copy of her big genealogy chart and right there at the top it says, “OLAF (b.? d.? 1420)
You got to talking and you forgot to ask? Or was Olaf some sort of 15th Century mega-celebrity who went by one name, you know, like Prince or Cher?
You know –
Right now we’re probably going to go, but we’re looking for Alaska Wolf Joe’s buy-in. We think he’s key to the whole shindig. First, he’d get to meet more family than he’s ever seen before. Next he’d get to collect more stories about our most colorful relative of all time, Uncle Jussi.
For those of you just tuning in – Uncle Yuse was the baby of the family and part of the liberation of Europe during WW2. Specifically he liberated anything that wasn’t nailed down or too heavy to carry. Years later he worked out his midlife crisis by striking a deal with either his second or third wife (no one is sure where she fits in his timeline) to vanish and then have her get him declared legally dead so she could collect his VA benefits. A few months after the ink was dry on the legally-dead papers Uncle Yuse rose from the grave only wandered about our local Grayhound station to find a payphone to call my father and speak in, I guess, what would have been Uncle Yuse’s newly acquired other-wordly voice.
Those of you who knew my father know that he was no stranger to dropping an angry son-of-a-bitch now and then. But the second he was off the phone with Uncle Yuse Daddy-o was using his angry son-of-a-bitch like it was his mantra.
Where were we?
I told AWJ the others could put a finer point on why Uncle Yuse couldn’t stay married and what happened when he broke it off with those women, although I suspect there was probably a custody fight over who’d get the bar tab.
That aside – some of you who have been subjected to one of the various blogs I’ve put up since 2000 might remember that the politics of TNDFC differs from how Mom ’n me see the world much less AWJ. I’m all for outsourcing any political discussions to him. He can introduce them to such terms as late-stage capitalism and anarcho-primitivism.
How will they react?
But hell, if you can get thrown out of your own grandfather’s funeral reception then it’s just a short hop, skip, and jump to getting thrown out of your family reunion, right?
If you’ll excuse me I gotta start building up a tolerance for this stuff.
“Texans invent their own metaphors and similes, often of a scatological nature, which is kind of fun. As a group, they tell good stories well. The reason they’re good at stories is because this is what anthropologists call an oral culture. That means people here don’t read or write much. Neither would you if all you had to read was the Dallas Morning News.” Molly Ivins
“The Clinton campaign has struggled to win support among young voters of every description, including traditional Democratic Party voters: women, African-Americans, people of Latinamerican or Hispanic origin, etc. … The AOL Email login-screen ad bought by her campaign is either an act of monumental cluelessness about how to reach those young voters, or (more likely), it’s an indication that the campaign feels the need to double-down on the older voters who constitute the bulk of Hillary Clinton supporters.” Cory Doctrow
“Advice, as it always gives a temporary appearance of superiority, can never be very grateful, even when it is most necessary or most judicious. But for the same reason everyone is eager to instruct his neighbors. To be wise or to be virtuous is to buy dignity and importance at a high price; but when nothing is necessary to elevation but detection of the follies or faults of others, no man is so insensible to the voice of fame as to linger on the ground.” Dr. Johnson
Going around the dial last weekend I came upon an episode of the old George Reeves Superman show. It opened with the local crime boss busily occupying himself with a yo-yo. The phone rings and he hands the yo-yo to an underling and says, “Keep that going for me, will ya?”
That when I realized I needed to pick the loose bits and pieces from last week’s post.
Originally the second part of last week’s missive was to make the point that those born on the front end of the Baby Boom have no idea that those of us born on the back half have no interest in listening to their tales of protest.
When I started high school the Paris Accord was signed and Saigon fell just as we were being fitted for caps and gowns. Between those two points – and certainly thereafter – we had nothing to protest. There was no war, no draft, and cultural mores had been loosened sufficiently that whatever we did could not be seen as rebellion. I used to joke that the only protest Boomers like Mom ’n me knew about was Disco Demolition Night.
To clarify – the owner of the team’s last name rhymes with “wreck.”
But you knew that.
The closest I ever came to real protest involved our ongoing efforts in what The POTUS would call “dishonstism.” As some of you know, now and then I’m called upon to be a photodishonestist. Several years ago it came down to me to take pictures of the Occupy’s port protest. Phase one was to follow the local Peace Grannies who were marching as a group that day to stand in front of a stub of the Port of Seattle which had been designated as Ground Zero by the local Occupy organizers. About half the grannies had shown up by the time I got there. Arriving hot on my heels were the anarchist kids from Black Diamond, WA/ Eugene, OR,/Fort Bragg, CA. (circle all that apply) They immediately started handing out pints of milk, instructions on how to use the milk to get the pepper spray out of your eyes, and skull-face bandanas intended to hide faces from police and media cameras. One produced a Sharpie marker and took the arm of one of the grannies, the kid then shouted, “I’M WRITING THE PHONE NUMBER FOR THE BAIL BONDSMAN ON YOUR LEFT ARM AND THE PHONE NUMBER OF OUR LAWYER ON OUT RIGHT ARM!”
One took my arm and I said simply, “Media.”
She lowered my arm and replied, “FUCK YOU!”
Then she spit at me.
I then asked her if anyone thought the police would go ballistic on a group of 80 year-old women.
“FUCK YOU, YOU COMPLICIT PIG!”
And that’s where I came in on this movie.
By now the Grannies, Viola, Dottie, Margaret, and Ingrid were huddled up refusing to get anything written on their arms. Out of the corner of my eye I saw more anarchists on bicycles shooting by so I took that as my cue to wander up the street. As I got to the police line you could see the teenager march that was headed for the other side of the port entrance. Kids from high schools al over Seattle marched from downtown to be part of the rally. Looking at the front of the crowd I said to myself, “Gee, there’s a mess of these kids who dress just like my kid.” Pulling out the long telephoto lens it became clear that there was one kid who dressed like my kid because he was my kid.
There front and center was Alaska Wolf Joe.
I walked up to the police captain in charge of the line and said I just needed through for a picture or two. Two officers opened up to let me through. Quickly I took both pictures and my child and got to the other side of the line. I told AWJ there was going to be trouble and we were going upwind – now- to get get away from the pepper spray and tear gas the police brought not to mention awful smelling smoke bombs the anarchists brought to create a cover for their rock throwing.
Fatherly advice comes upon you at the most awkward of times.
A steady breeze out of the south meant the bus shelter to the west of all this was the best place to be. Thanks to the miracle knows as the 150-600mm lens I got what I needed while AWJ got to watch it all unfold.
So what became of all that? What’s going on now since most of those protester/anarchists are creeping every closer to the age of 40?
Since Alaska Wolf Joe subscribes to all the FB groups for card-carriers, dupes, pinkos, fellow travelers, and useful idiots I asked him what the average protester looks like today. He says the kids these days are all about th’ Mao.
Here’s all I can say about what I know about Trotskyites: you probably smell like patchouli, have “white person dreads”, and are handing out a newspaper at a rally which no one will read. This is the stereotype as I have garnered it from mediocre young radicals, who are no doubt soured Alinski-ites hell bent on destroying the Christian fabric of this nation with their cold hands covered in the residuum of sin.
Also, with an emphasis on recent thoughts regarding intersectionality and decolonization (which are not exclusively Marxist, more re: bell hooks and Frantz Fanon, among no doubt countless others, though no one is really cited), the dirty word “imperialism” creeps in. Any Western narrative against movements esp. in East Asia or the third world is construed as an imperialist narrative, so most people revise Mao to be a sanitary theoretician fighting the imperialist West as opposed to an absurd dictator trying to destroy culture for his own means. I’d say this stems largely from a focus currently towards PoC or WoC led movements, where to look for figures who went for radically Marxist approaches and had success on a widespread culture means looking generally outside of the West. Also the kids really love materialism now because it isn’t that stuffy thing that ivory tower elitist liberals shove down your throat with the list of Great Books.
Everybody on the same page now?
As far a future protests go I’ll probably only go those that require me to throw a saddle on ol’ Nikon and ride off.
Moving along –
Good news came along this week.
Somebody wants Mom ’n me to run out a PPT on the current state of the media!
OK it’s for a senior center enrichment group, but it’s the first time anybody wanted to hear what we have to say in a long, long time. Never mind that the only time these folks experienced fake news it was Orson Welles going on and on about martians in New Jersey.
To recap – for several years the Internet’s young hip good looking set always wanted to meet with us. The scuttlebutt said Mom was a regular digital spitfire while I was the Bloggitysphere’s answer to that daring 19th Century man-of-action, Russian Count Vladimir Klappon-Klappov. Then we’d catch up with them and they’d see we were these perpetually rumpled people with wrinkles and gray hair who were about as sexy as the average IKEA showroom. Once that shock wore off they backed away from us, but not before treating us like some old gray muzzled mutt who does little more than sleep and fart all day. They’d smile and they always said the same thing, “Gee Pops, you’re not a puppy anymore are you? Nozzums not, Nozzums not! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”
Then they’d scratch me behind the ears.
God, how I always hated that.
Oh – before I go and in case you were wondering – The Peace Grannies lived to see another day. In fact, a few years later they managed to shut down an entire Port meeting using what Joe Bob Briggs would call sit-in/hootenanny-fu using little more than the Pete Seeger songbook.
As always we end with music. What follows is what Alaska Wolf Joe said has “All the artistic panache of someone cosplaying as Karl Marx at an anime convention.” while Mom ’n me say it more as a death-by-a-thousand-cuts moment as we had to sit through a three-minute AARP ad before it would roll.
“The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.” – David Foster Wallace
“Ideology is conceived as a pure illusion, a pure dream, i.e. as nothingness. All its reality is external to it. Ideology is thus thought as an imaginary construction whose status is exactly like the theoretical status of the dream among writers before Freud. For these writers, the dream was the purely imaginary, i.e. null, result of ‘day’s residues’, presented in an arbitrary arrangement and order, sometimes even ‘inverted’, in other words, in ‘disorder’. For them, the dream was the imaginary, it was empty, null and arbitrarily ‘stuck together’ (bricolé), once the eyes had closed, from the residues of the only full and positive reality, the reality of the day.” Althusser
“‘Radical nostalgia’ describes a politics that reaches, creatively, into the past, drawing up stories, characters, events, and philosophies to retell and reinvent, in order to bolster and animate current politics, both as a foundation to build upon and as a goal to reach towards.” Molly Sauter from Disruption as Radical Nostalgia
“But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty,To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them; Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, Have no delight to pass away the time, Unless to spy my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity: And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain And hate the idle pleasures of these days. Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams…” Richard III
“Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight. … Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country.” Dr. Johnson
Right back at ya K-Man!
We all have those things in life that are small annoyances. My father’s was being born the same day as Richard Nixon while my family collectively got marginally irritated at the fact that no one could spell our last name correctly. Some of that came back at me last week.
At a civic function for some of the older folks in the neighborhood, the president of the group got up and said the secretary couldn’t make it as she had come down the the flu that’s been going around. He then asked, “Anybody out there that can take notes? It’d be good if you had one of those computers you can carry around – the ones that fold up, you seen those?”
Looking up at the moment I saw that everyone was staring at me. So I acquiesced and dug the foldable, portable computing device out of my courier bag.
That’s when I found Karl standing behind me.
Karl had to make a few remarks at the start, but I got the impression that as he spoke he was watching me type. He stayed right behind me for the entire meeting, sometimes looking over my left should and sometimes looking over my right. At the end he leaned over, stuck his face right in the screen and said, “Show me where you talked about me!”
I scrolled up and pointed.
“You spelled my name with a ‘k.’
“Where’d you get that idea?”
I pointed to the name badge sticker he was wearing and said that if he personally filled it out then it is reasonable to assume that most people know how to spell their own name.
He smiled broadly and said, “I don’t care that they say about you, you’re alright!”
Some of you will recognize that as a line from the movie Repo Man while others will realize it is a form of high praise when coming from people who are a bit longer in the tooth than the average reader of this page.
Guess all those years of being automatically thought of a Carl with a ‘c’ had worn on him and it was OK that some punk-ass kid (pushing 60) got it right.
Along those lines –
IT’S ONLY 12 LETTERS LONG HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO SPELL?
Alaska Wolf Joe tells me Milo Yiannopoulos, or Milo Minderbinder, as AWJ likes to call him, is old news. Right now AWJ is probably the only college-age kid in American who thinks that.
Let’s look at the record:
Alma mater – true to form – tried to kumbaya Milo into submission while the Berkeley kids went with the tired-and-true method of storming the barricades.
Then there were the kids at UW…
What can I say?
Maybe it’s the long dark nights and the miserable wet days that keep you inside that gives you too much time to think and far too little to do. Or maybe we live too close to the magnetic north and it acts on your brain when you sleep. In either case the UW kids pulled out all the stops when Milo came to town. They threw paint, they threw bricks, they started fires, they forced the campus cops to call in the SPD riot squad for back-up, and by the end of the night somebody got shot.
Like that was the end of it?
Oh, hell no!
The shooter had a dubious swastika-themed tattoo and while the UW campus newspaper ran a story about who he might be, the administration had the story pulled within a couple of hours of publication. Another Seattle web site ran the story as, but pulled it at about the same time the UW’s story disappeared.(A version of the article has resurfaced here.) Another citywide website filed a public disclosure request about the whole mess and were told “No can do.” as this is still an ongoing investigation.
In this case “ongoing” means, “We’re waiting for Dale Cooper to drive down.”
In case you’re wondering what all the fuss is about – Milo is a sort of alt-right-ish kinda guy who furthered the conservative cause during the campaign by having two alleged twinks give him a bath in pig’s blood which can be construed as freedom of expression
Freedom of speech is one thing, but ain’t context a bitch?
“Suck on this, hippie.” Travis Bickle
You have 30 minutes. Pick one of these questions, be specific and use examples.
1. Is Steve Bannon single handedly creating the Baby Boomers’ political legacy?
2. Should we think of Milo as the new Abbie Hoffman?
For those of you who have stopped screaming and/or put your pencils down here is the here’s the quiz key:
1. Mr. Bannon was born in 1953 putting him right in the middle of the Boom. In the past two weeks he’s done more to further his cause than any anti-war protest held in the past 50 years. Add that to the fact that history, like context, can be a real bitch there’s no guarantee that the Vietnam era protests will not some day be taught as a footnote, the same way the post-Civil War currency riots are treated as an aside in the introduction to Gresham’s Law.
2. Eons ago I was working on a college degree in what Mr. Trump would call “dishonestism.” Back then the 1960s where still fresh in the minds of many so we were taught to carefully scrutinize the people who were at the forefront of any protest to see if they were real activists or those attention whores who could only be described as a professional pains-in-the-ass.* On that scale Milo comes closer to being a pain despite the fact that his schtick isn’t anything new. If anything, he’s Marilyn Manson to Ann Coulter’s Alice Cooper. There’s a certain warmed-over aspect to Milo’s agitprop, pig’s blood aside, that traces back to Annie, but she really can’t run the college circuit any more.
Kids these days don’t want to hear her Dead Head stories much less anything about her love of The Dave Matthews Band, the strongest sleep aid you can get without a prescription. No, her time is now better spent being a desk at Fox News where she can get the olds’ bowels moving again while Milo becomes a silver glyph for the young to interpret.
By now some of you are asking, “So what jumpstarted your Buick this time?”
Jesuits practice a mild form of self flagellation to atone for their sins and improve their concentration.
I read Medium.
Unlike Molly Sauter, quoted above, I am not so sanguine about the olds’ take on what passes for revolution these days. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be putting out some thoughts on the corrosive nature of nostalgia and the current state of politics.
Why not now?
Because at this point we’re within inches of the border of The Romulan Neutral Zone when it comes to tl;dr and there’s no real reason to keep you.
But I will leave you with this – on the way out of the community center where I managed to spell Karl’s name correctly, I ran into one of my fellow travelers in the dishonestism profession. He was studying a flyer posted on the big cork board by the front door. He pointed to the lunch menu for a senior center far south of the neighborhood and said, “I guess that’s OK, but a steady diet of that would plug you up!”
Those people have cable. They can go home, fire up Fox News, and the second Ann Coulter comes on they’ll be right as rain.
Until next time – sing along – you know the words.
* I have plenty examples of both. I’d mention them, but I’ve already done enough damage to your blood pressure.
“The revolution will be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia, the revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal, the revolution will not get rid of the nubs the revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner … There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays pushing that cart down the block on the dead run or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance NBC will not predict the winner at 8:32 or the count from 29 districts
“The revolution will not be televised, Brother!” – Gil Scott Heron
“ ’They Live’ from 1988 is definitely one of the – forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood left. It tells the story of John Nada. ‘Nada’ of course is Spanish means’nothing’. A pure subject, deprived of all substantial content. A homeless worker in L.A. who, drifting around – one day enters into an abandoned church – and finds there a strange box full of sunglasses. And when he put one of them on walking along the L.A. streets – he discovers something weird; That these glasses function like critique-of-ideology glasses. They allow you to see the real message beneath – all the propaganda, publicity glitz, posters and so on. You see a large publicity board telling you – have your holiday of a lifetime – and when you put the glasses on – you just see just on the white background a gray inscription. We live, so we are told, in a post-ideological society. We are interpolated, that is to say – addressed by social authority – not as subjects who should do their duty, sacrifice themselves – but subjects of pleasures. Realize your true potential. Be yourself. Lead a satisfying life. When you put the glasses on – you see dictatorship in democracy. It’s the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom. The explanation for the existence of these strange ideology glasses – is the standard story of the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. Humanity is already under the control of aliens. – Zizek
Miller: A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconciousness.
Otto: You eat a lot of acid, Miller, back in the hippie days?
Miller: I’ll give you another instance: you know how everybody’s into weirdness right now?… – from the movie Repo Man
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” – Dr. Johnson
Here’s a couple of things and then I’ll move along.
“I COULD BE A SHAMAN! I’D BE REALLY GOOD AT IT TOO!”
This week I tried to go to my Happy Place only to find out I’m not welcome there any more. The old hippies who run my Happy Place said that they got too many complaints that I was always “putting a heavy thing down” and it was “getting everybody’s head in a bad place.”
Of course, that’s the problem when you’re of a certain age – the old hippies are part of the original equipment that came with your Happy Place. Truth be told – I’d rather have a Happy Place that looks new and shiny sorta like one of those hipster barbershops where everybody has lots of tattoos and you get a complimentary IPA when you walk in. Not that I know why they give you a beer as it would seem to be a chore to keep hair our of your drink not to mention that it might dull your wits to the point that you didn’t notice your haircut looks like it was done by a the guy who had to stay behind and clap the erasers after barber college let out.
But I digress.
The reason I wanted to go my Happy Place was wholly apolitical. For the better part of a week I suffered with the flu that’s been going around. The low part of the exercise came when I decided I’d spent enough time in bed and I might feel better if I lollygagged on the couch.
It didn’t go well.
First, after dropping the remote I discovered I didn’t have the physical and mental wherewithal to find it. Thus I was stuck watching The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel in the title role and featuring Dame Judi Dench as an interdimensional composed of second-hand cigarette smoke. The movie is well over 5 hours long and at no time does it ever bother with the simple courtesy of making a damn bit of sense. So after being stuck on the couch with aches, pains, and a nagging cough with nothing to watch Vin Diesel in swim goggles I thought a trip to my Happy Place would be in order.
And there was nothing new about it. For years and years I’ve heard how my bad attitude/negative statements/withering look either ruined everything for everybody/seriously advanced the expiration date on the cottage cheese. (Circle all that apply.) The attitude I can pretty much turn on and off, but the withering look is one of those things I’m not aware of until it’s well along. Case in point – Friday morning two people I marginally know came up to be and were all weepy, glassy-eyed, and choked up. One said, “The White House web site pulled everything on climate change and doesn’t say anything about LGBTQ rights!!!”
Calmly I asked, what did you expect?
(Insert withering look here.)
Look, it’s not like Trump called everybody in around the start of the month and said, “On New Year’s eve I was outside of Sante Fe doing peyote with a shaman and right at sunset a column of smoke appeared to me and spoke…”
In a voice that sounded remarkably like Judi Dench and in that moment everything changed?
Seriously, what do I have to do?
Do I have to come over there and beat you with your own copy of Mother Jones until you come to your senses?
It’s not like I won’t have the time as that brings me to the other half of this missive.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO FIND IN THE COUCH.
I’m taking an extended FB hiatus and it’s all your fault.
1. You’re hysterical. Look, I wasn’t any more pleased with the election than you, but I really don’t want to stick around and see how you’re on FB every day talking about your new dedication to changing the world.
1a. You never shut about the tv shows you’re watching. First you’re all, “OMGS, OMGS OMGS I’M WATCHING THIS TV SHOW THAT’S SOOOO GOOD I WISH IT WAS BUTTER SO I COULD PUT IT ON TOAST AND EAT IT ALL UP!!” Then two weeks later all I see is, “OMGS OMGS OMGS I’M WATCHING THIS NEW TV SHOW THAT’S SOOOOO GOOD I HAVE TO TOUCH MYSELF EVERY TIME I THINK ABOUT IT!!”
After years of putting up with that I’m scared to think what your bake sale would look like.
And it goes without saying – I won’t be answering your FB bake-sale invite.
2. Glad you had a good time at Hamilton. You do realize that when it gets to be one of those live-tv Broadway events it’ll be shot through with pop culture references? So please don’t act surprised when Burr is played by that Urkel kid who will look right into the camera after the duel and say, “DID I DO THAT?!?!?”
3. Dog pictures, every day my feed is nothing but dog pictures. I can’t put up any dog pictures as we don’t have one. We have a cat and even though he’s getting up there in years he has never learned to sit up or beg, and he certainly wasn’t going to fetch the remote for me as he likes Vin Diesel movies.
4. FB assumes you’re being your real self whereas blogging lets you become something like Norman Mailer’s quasi-fictional construct of himself that he rolled out in Armies of the Night. These are strange times and they call for a strange narrative and it occurs to be that I need to be somewhere strange enough to pull that off and for 17 years there’s been no place stranger than this one.
5. Lastly I’m sick of how FB infantilizes your musical taste. Currently there’s a thing going around about how you’re supposed to associate Abe Maslow like peak experiences to every record you bought before you were old enough to drive.
Like I can remember that far back?
OK, I can, but I kinda have to stretch and warm up first as it’s a long trip back there, but is it one I want to make? Even if I were to put the effort into I’m not sure I’d find any album that I truly believed changed my life.
OK, maybe one …
“Do you remember a few years ago when people described absolutely everything as “Meh?” Everywhere you’d look on the Internet, there it was – “Meh!” A big bored shrug. We moaned that everything was sort of mediocre and bland. Not anymore. Now everything’s shit or brilliant and there’s no in-between and everyone is furious. Stick your head in the Internet now and and it’s like a fucking screaming convention. Black ants vs. red ants. It’s as if everyone’s been radicalized , and there fore in Brexit Britain, your either a knuckle dragging racist or a metropolitan elitist. Those are the only two roles available. Sorry! But we know these are caricatures, out here (IRL) most of us are bland and meh and reasonable.” – Charlton Brooker
The general fantasy of media criticism, especially public media criticism, is that the media has unlimited money available to it. In reality it has negative money available to it. Great accuracy is generally a luxury afforded to ‘quality’ publications and the product of much labor. How to share this with people so their fantasies of “fact checking” remain under control; i.e. it’s on us, collectively, caveat precursor. The media can at best dig its hole more slowly, not climb out. There are no ladders. – Paul Ford
“Enter the Unabomber and a new line is being drawn. This time the bohemian schiz-fluxers, Green yuppies, hobbyist anarcho-journalists, condescending organizers of the poor, hip nihilo-aesthetes and all the other “anarchists” who thought their pretentious pastimes would go on unchallenged indefinitely — well, it’s time to pick which side you’re on. It may be that here also is a Rubicon from which there will be no turning back.” John Zerzan
“As Mailer had come to recognize over the years, the modest everyday fellow of his daily round was servant to a wild man in himself.… He would have been admirable, except that he was an absolute egomaniac, a Beast—no recognition existed of the existence of anything beyond the range of his reach.” — Norman Mailer on Norman Mailer
“I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves.I wonder, Madam, that you have not penetration to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Dr. Johnson in response to his landlady
First, take a minute to watch this review of the year just past and then we’ll begin.
Clears your sinuses too!
The orgone box in the basement has been sitting largely unused for the past several years. Some of you who were subjected to one of the earlier incarnations of this page remember how I spent an afternoon gathering myself in the box prior to posting something. This week – as I had nothing better to do – I decided to see if the box was still in good working order. In fact, the experience went so well that I composed this very post in my mind as I sat in the accumulator!
Here come the conclusions gathered while sitting in the box.
1. Science tells us that the average human body is mostly water and a few trace elements. While this is generally true for most people it does not apply to the average Scandinavian-American males whose bodies are composed mostly of water with the balance being opinions. Setting aside the theological problems for a moment, the real reason reincarnation gets no traction among Lutheran men is that they have no interest in coming back as a bug or a lemur. They want to come back – as is – ‘cuase they ain’t done talkin’ yet!
As such it is the sole reason for this page to exist.
2. If you’re tired of everyone on social media having the emotional range and studied thought of spooked cattle then you’ve come to something almost but not quite like the right place. Not that we’re going to anything about the hysterics in your life, but you’ve arrived 2016 year-end desk cleaning post, which is my feeble attempt at grasping that concept the poo-ass types call, “Sense Making.”
One of my great fears is that I’m slowly becoming one of those old guys who constantly repeats himself. But it also dawned on my that if I call this post a year-ender, one of those 2016 wrap-up sort of things, then I am free to repeat myself without any risk of embarrassment befitting my advanced age.
Lies, damned lies, and bots
Fake news and disinformation comes in many forms. This week I learned the meaning of the term, “honeypot bot” via “The Saga of @christianmom18.” The Mile High Swingin’ Daddyo Fred sends this list of fictitious academic sites.
So why mention this?
There are lies in your feeds. Makes no difference, left or right – you don’t notice them because you’ve seen enough of your feeds to pass judgement and move on. Put another way – it doesn’t make any difference which end you’re swimming in – somebody’s wee-wee’d in the pool and made you think it’s Chanel No. 5.
Needless to say this causes the little voice in your head to shout, “WHO WOULD DO SUCH A THING?!?!!??”
In the case of @christianmom18 there are those who think some people in this world need a good nose tweaking. There’s also sociopaths, narcissists, and the people who are in it for the money.
Once you’re done hyperventilating
Oh lordy! I said “money” and not in a good way. Libs don’t like when that happens because they think the very idea of people who readily handle money is like watching a dyspeptic ox relieve himself in slow motion. The Right meanwhile likes the idea that the markets will provide in a Newtonian clockwork fashion, unless it provides something they don’t like such as porn, 4LOCO, or fake news intended to tweak their collective nose.
That’s why you should watch this video until you stop feeling dizzy. Charlton Brooker is a sly man. If you spend the next hour watching this you’ll see that he slags all sides equally. If you don’t see that then you’re still upset that I mentioned money and you should lie down before reading on.
“Boy, what a sound! How I love the sound of clinking money! That beautiful sound of cold hard cash!”
Here the part where I get to repeat myself without much impunity.
Recently The Proprietor AKA Berlin Wally wondered aloud (on another social media platform) as to whether or not a divided nation was in someone’s best interest. Put another way – does someone out there benefit from making sure that we are only known by our differences instead of our commonalities?
What brought this up was a small mention that every year Mom ’n me buy $150 worth of tickets for the Kiwanis Holiday Pancake Breakfast which raises money for college scholarships for Key Club members at our three high schools. Not that we sit down and eat as we give the tickets back and tell the Kiwanis to go resell them. Nevertheless we do stop by for coffee to see how things are going. Each year we get to meet the usual suspects who attend – the Legion guys who put on our big 4th of July parade, the half dozen Marines who do their Toys for Tots thing at the breakfast, various functionaries of the VFW, Santa, (who owns the local furnace and water heater repair company) and most of the local Masons as the breakfast is held in their basement’s multi-purpose room. Later we usually see all the same folks along with the Chamber of Commerce high sheriffs, a Girl Scout choir doing your caroling favorites backed by one of our high schools’ band, and several ministers from the neighborhood at the Christmas tree lighting that the local merchants put on. This year the jeweler who’s been in business for 45 years brought his two toddler grandkids up on on the stage and they all threw the switch to light the tree.
And how does this happen in a city where Mr. Trump only got 8% of the vote?
Simple – there’s big money in you not knowing things are not as doctrinaire as they seem.
To expand on something I said last summer – the political viewpoints of the left and the right have been commodified. Working forward from that you could say that once a viewpoint has become commodified it becomes a form of entertainment.
What probably divides us is anger and frustration borne out of glaring differences.
What we have in common is boring.
And that makes for bad tv.
Gut jiggling however is great tv. And if I may repeat myself – O’Relley and Maddow are Coke and Pepsi. It’s all which form of gut jiggling your prefer. There’s no real difference just so long as you have a nice bout of reflux when you’re done watching.
Resolutions any one?
Where we do differ is dinner table conversation. Over Christmas dinner we played Six Degrees of the Unabomber and I won with three degrees left over! Alaska Wolf Joe asked what that UB believed as he’s heard him mentioned in something from John Zerzan that one of his pals read aloud at a party. (Millennials!) I said that when his papers were found the conservatives with thrilled at first as the UB tore the libs a new one. Their enthusiasm wore off quickly as they read on and found themselves at the center of a real butt kicking as well.
I only mention this as my new year’s resolution, aside from spending more time in the orgone box, is to swim back and forth going to both ends of the pool to figuring out who should have thought of that before they left the house and pointing it out in a sort of Ted Kaczynski way. Face facts – you can’t do it. You’re going to be busy enough spending each day on Facebook watching no end of people make the hard transition from losing their shit over a foreign-born president to losing their shit over having a president who might be a foreign agent.
Good luck with that.
While we’re all waiting for that to start let’s take a moment and get this one stuck in our heads.
“The fact that French toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions obviously cannot but prepare the child to accept them all, by constituting for him, even before he can think about it, the alibi of a Nature which has at all times created soldiers, postmen and Vespas. Toys here reveal the list of all the things the adult does not find unusual: war, bureaucracy, ugliness, Martians, etc. It is not so much, in fact, the imitation which is the sign of an abdication, as its literalness: French toys are like a Jivaro head, in which one recognizes, shrunken to the size of an apple, the wrinkles and hair of an adult. There exist, for instance, dolls which urinate; they have an oesophagus, one gives them a bottle, they wet their nappies; soon, no doubt, milk will turn to water in their stomachs. This is meant to prepare the little girl for the causality of house-keeping, to ‘condition’ her to her future role as mother. However, faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it: there are, prepared for him, actions without adventure, without wonder, without joy. He is turned into a little stay-at-home householder who does not even have to invent the mainsprings of adult causality; they are supplied to him ready-made: he has only to help himself, he is never allowed to discover anything from start to finish. The merest set of blocks, provided it is not too refined, implies a very different learning of the world: then, the child does not in any way create meaningful objects, it matters little to him whether they have an adult name; the actions he performs are not those of a user but those of a demiurge. He creates forms which walk, which roll, he creates life, not property: objects now act by themselves, they are no longer an inert and complicated material in the palm of his hand. But such toys are rather rare: French toys are usually based on imitation, they are meant to produce children who are users, not creators.” – Roland Barthes
“The thing about Doctor Who is the constitution of the audience. It covers a huge age range, so you have to entertain little kids and you have to entertain hipsters and students, and middle-aged men who should know better. So sometimes there is a kind of metaphysical and intellectual aspect to it, which is more to the fore than other times. But generally we just blow up monsters. … There are some moments when you feel, that’s a little bit silly, or that’s a bit mawkish or whatever, but then you realise, that’s for children. You would be a fool not to play to them, because it’s their show.” – Peter Capaldi
“It may be doubted, whether the pleasure of seeing children ripening into strength be not overbalanced by the pain of seeing some fall in the blossom, and others blasted in their growth; some shaken down by storms, some tainted with cankers, and some shriveled in the shade; and whether he that extends his care beyond himself does not multiply his anxieties more than his pleasures, and weary himself to no purpose, by superintending what he cannot regulate.” – Dr. Johnson
“I like children. If they’re properly cooked.” ― W.C. Fields
Time for a little holiday desk cleaning.
Their father’s hell did slowly go by
The question, “How am I supposed to explain the election to my children?” has been shooting around for a few weeks, but no one seems to wonder what would happen if the children explained the election to you.
A couple of days after the election Alaska Wolf Joe phoned.
Alaska Wolf Joe: Tell me about your old girlfriend
Me: It’s not an extensive list, but you’ll have to be a little bit more specific.
AWJ: Debbie The Psychedelic Republican.
Me: She wasn’t my girlfriend, but the rest is accurate.
AWJ: Mom said she was your first girlfriend
Me: Mom exaggerates.
AWJ: Did Debbie do lots of LSD?
Me: Well .. that was the 70s and manufactured hallucinogens were on the wane and the Carlos Castaneda books got people moving towards those fruits-of-the-earth, peyote and magic mushrooms. She used to talk about peyote way in advance of doing any – kinda like how some one would talk about booking an expensive day spa appointment.
AWJ: Did she say anything about turning her back on society or discovering spirituality?
Me: Oh no, in fact she used to spend her summers going door to door for Republican candidates.
AWJ: I’m asking as it confirms my suspicions that old people like you could have done all those drugs and not had to deal with any cognitive dissonance after voting for Trump.
Me: How so?
AWJ: If you were just using drugs as an outlet and not a repudiation of society then Debbie could vote for Trump without having second thoughts. All the 60s did was open up a door to distribution and commodification of drugs with no attachment to any political viewpoint. Did she vote for Trump?
Me: Possibly, probably likely, but we’ll never know for sure. I haven’t seen her in years and years.
AWJ: What other drugs did she do?
Me: One time she crushed up a whole mess of Contac and tried to snort it.
AWJ: What’s Contac?
Me: Something your grandfather used to get full MSRP for during cold and flu season.
AWJ: And don’t send any more of my books, I’m going to take some time away from those and read trashy novels.
Me: Like Mickey Spillane?
Me: Another fast moving item in your grandfather’s inventory. Your grandmother threatened to blister my backside good if she caught me so much as looking at one of his books.
AWJ: Is he the boobs-in-the-moonlight guy?
Me: More or less.
Lately there’s been no end of talk about difficult Thanksgiving dinner conversations. If my mother were alive we would be wondering how we could have a conversation at the dinner table while she screamed like a jackknifed banshee. Even if we set aside the fact that we serve Thanksgiving dinner using her good china, which she believed should only be looked at and never used, there would still be AWJ talking about the Continental philosophers which would have brought our her distaste for all things French. Oh sure, they say they’re Catholics, but all that sinful rich food, the nonstop talk about wine, the chain smoking, and that postcard business…
The less said the better.
Speaking of family-
How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want.
On the day after Thanksgiving I type up my email to Santa. This year the only item I’m interested in is Michael Chabon’s new book. (BTW – Nice shirt, Mike.) The very idea of the book is endlessly fascinating as I know so very little of my own family’s history. My father’s side is an open book with only a few chapters as his father came to this country long after the major wave of 19th Century European immigrants had ceased. Needless to say, thanks to my father’s baby brother, Uncle Jussi, its a warts-and-all book. For those of you just tuning in – Uncle Yuse had a highly flexible set of moral standards. He treated things like the Ten Commandments like a rough outline of good behavior which is why during WW2 he was part of the liberation of Europe liberating anything that wasn’t nailed down or too heavy to carry.
My mother’s family is a book locked away in a trunk because they organized their life around their shame. I know bits and pieces of it, but never enough to anything together. When my grandfather died I was hoping some one should say something. In stead all I got was stern admonitions for being a “college boy with soft hands” who didn’t know anything about hard work.
OH – speaking of urban and rural gaps!
When you coming back to reality, Dad? “I don’t know when, but you know we’ll have a good time then!”
Mom ’n me are kinda hiding out from the Bookface. In fact we’ve checked ourselves into The Facebook User Protection Program after the election turned lots of people into relentlessly earnest banshees. If you don’t talk about the election they start screaming and what are we supposed to do? As Mom said – there’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said somewhere else and what would be the point?
We could say, “DITTO!” but I think the Howard Stern guy owns the copyright.
The one small and only thing that I’ll talk about is the fake news as it presents a problem to all of us who have an arm’s length relationship with reality. Unlike Uncle Yuse who saw morality as a loose set of suggestions, some of us have thought from time to time that societal norms can be tinkered with for the sake of fun. While this might have bothered those who act as if society is a rock-solid thing that was built according to specs long ago put out to bid, the goofballery that transpired previously was largely harmless.
Case in point – I have long been a fan of the San Fran Cacophony Society who pulled this bus stunt over 20 years ago. You could say that such things might trace their way back to The Situationists, but that’s always tough. Sure, The Situationists pioneered monkey wrenching art and media, but getting little Billy of the Family Circus to shout obscenities is not necessarily societal liberation.
The larger point here is that people have putting bullshit in plain sight since the 1950s so why is everybody so upset now?
God knows The Situationists weren’t in it to make a buck and neither was a bus full of clowns. Sure, the Subgenius crowd had merch, but none of us believe it was sufficient to buy Strang and Nenslo a place in the Bahamas nor was that their intent. Nor were they ready to serve up their nonsense in COSTCO sized lots.
Where is this all going?
Like I’d know?
Let’s spilt the difference and summarize.
– Bullshit is harmless unless there’s money in it.
– My family history on my mother’s side is a mess that left me with little to work with. Therefore I have no choice but to make stuff up in order to approach and understand of Tolstoy’s old phrase, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Mom ’n me are fed up with the Bookface and we’re not coming back until everybody gets over themselves which is the same as saying we’ll never be back. OK- we’ll probably be back, but as Mom’s mother liked to say, “You’ve got Christmas and your birthday to think about. If you get everything you want all the time then there won’t be anything special to get when Christmas and your birthday come around.
– If AWJ writes the history of the US the hippies will be credited with commodifying and distributing illicit drugs in a manner similar to how Henry Ford put the automobile into wide spread use. In his history the titans of 20th Century industry will be Ford, General Sarnoff, and some dude name Moondog and his ol’ lady Fireweed.
Now go eat your leftovers.
“The quote ‘We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’ is often mistakenly attributed to Marshall McLuhan. It does NOT appear in ‘Understanding Media’, as Wilson Miner confidently asserts in the presentation below, indeed it does not appear in any published work by McLuhan at all. The quote was actually written by Father John Culkin, SJ, a Professor of Communication at Fordham University in New York and friend of McLuhan. But though the quote is Culkin’s, I would argue that the idea is McLuhan’s, as it comes up in an article by Culkin about McLuhan: Culkin, J.M. (1967, March 18). A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan. Saturday Review, pp. 51-53, 71-72. The idea presented in the quote is entirely consistent with McLuhan’s thinking on technology in general.” – akuskis
“Television has conditioned us to tolerate visually entertaining material measured out in spoonful’s of time, to the detriment of rational public discourse and reasoned public affairs”. Postman alerted us to what, in my view, is happening with the media in this election. There are “ready and present dangers and offers compelling suggestions as to how to withstand the media onslaught. … all techniques and technologies that permit people of a particular culture to exchange messages.” Neal Postman
“The TV critic Todd VanDerWerff once compared the Fox format to ABC’s ‘Lost’: you need to immerse yourself entirely to grok the breadth of its world-building paranoias and mythologies.” Emily Nussbaum
“That desire which every man feels of being remembered and lamented is often mortified when we remark how little concern is caused by the eternal departure even of those who have passed their lives with public honours, and been distinguished by extraordinary performances. It is not possible to be regarded with tenderness except by a few. That merit which gives greatness and renown diffuses its influence to a wide compass, but acts weakly on every single breast; it is placed at a distance from common spectators, and shines like one of the remote stars, of which the light reaches us, but not the heat. The wit, the hero, the philosopher, whom their tempers or their fortunes have hindered from intimate relations, die, without any other effect than that of adding a new topic to the conversation of the day. They impress none with any fresh conviction of the fragility of our nature, because none had any particular interest in their lives, or was united to them by a reciprocation of endearments.” Dr Johnson
I didn’t mean to yell at that kid from Spotify and I feel awful about it.
He’s some poor kid in Sweden trying to make it at his first real job. All those years of long hours doing summer menial labor, making sure every piece of Ikea furniture that went out was sure to be at least two fasteners and one allen wrench short, just to pay for the education that got him a marketing job.
And what happens?
Some mean old fart gets all bent out of shape over one measly question, “Do you practice mindfulness?”
In retrospect, saying something like, “Gotta go, my mother’s calling.” or “My ride’s here.” would have been better choice than anything that began, “LET ME SET YOU STRAIGHT ABOUT A LITTLE SOMETHING, BUSTER!”
It wasn’t his fault.
Wasn’t the election’s fault either.
Like the full moon’s pull on the tides, my mood over the past month has been pushed and yanked around over something that happened about three weeks ago. I went to a conference on new tech and the morning session gave me quite a shock. As with all such gatherings I tried to sit next to someone who either looks terminally sleepy or is so involved in work that small talk is out of the question. This time around I sat next to Mr. Busy. He had an open briefcase, a stack of manilla folders under one arm and he was talking a mile a minute into his phone. I didn’t ask if the seat next to him was taken – wouldn’t have mattered – he never noticed me.
Most of the keynote went well. Mr. Busy paid no attention to the speaker as he went full-metal fussbudget on his briefcase. Near the end the speaker said something about being on good terms with the people who email you and how it’s a good thing to reach out to the people who comment on your web site and create relationship that will lead to better comments.
Well that did it.
Mr. Busy got up and started yelling at the keynote speaker. Nobody was going to make him interact with a bunch of people who have nothing better to do than “sit around in their underpants and leave comments on some blog!” He admitted he had a web site, but it only existed at the request of his publisher and it wasn’t his idea. OH NO, because thousands and thousands of his books on fireplace and chimney repair had sold all over North America and had been translated into 12 languages. So if you think he’s going to talk to some beer-swilling freaks who stay up all night “banging on the Facebook” you’d better think again.
I was riveted and riveted to the point that I finally began to study his face. He looked to be no more than in his late 30s. The longer I looked the more upset I became. There was no question – I was the oldest person in the room and here’s some punk giving the speech I was supposed be giving.
The little creep was stealing my alleged thunder.
Not that I had any problem with what was being presented, it’s more the principle of the thing. There should have been some sort of … you know … some sort of unspoken age-before-beauty arrangement where he’d offer me first crack at going on and on about how nobody and nothin’s any good any more. Which is what it comes down to – he should have at least given me a look that said, “You want this or is it mine?” and then he could have ranted all he wanted and I would have been just fine with it.
You gotta wonder what he was expecting though. The invite included a cocktail reception thrown by those swell kids at Google’s Media Lab.
But enough about why I’m emotionally distraught. Maybe you should watch this while I get ready to changes gears.
When the 1960s were still roaring along in full force, two sons of the old Empire and Dominion, Arthur C. Clarke and Marshall McLuhan spent no small amount of time looking at a popular notion of the time – Man as Toolmaker. (MaT) The concept’s popularity slowly declined over the ensuing decades, but while they were at it they managed to explore the topic in very intriguing ways. It was the central theme of Clark’s ‘2001’ and, as mentioned above, McLuahn was misquoted frequently as saying eventually tools shape man. Yet while both were far-sighted thinkers neither really put forth any idea of what happens when a given tool ceases to exist.
Which bring us to your tv set.
As tools go – it has done plenty to shape Boomer culture as we’ve always had one around the house. It created communal memory ( e.g. Kennedy assassination, moon landings.) It served as social lubricant (e.g. “Hey, did you see Hoss give Little Joe a piggyback ride last night?“) and created no end of metaphors or analogies. (e.g. “WOW! This is just like the time Hoss gave Little Joe a piggyback ride!) We’ve formed tribes around its offerings (Trekkies) and used it as a companion when we were sick or lonely.
Be that as it may – we’re reaching the point where in the next 10 years owning one would make as much sense as making a stone ax to have around the house. Audiences are declining, the networks and local stations are finding it increasingly harder to stay profitable while the cable companies are resigned their future as Internet providers. Increasing the medium and the device that delivers it are increasingly seen as something for the elderly.
Sure, there was a golden era of radio, but radio moved on and managed to survive the loss of Jack Benny or Fred Allen. Also radio was not as largely present for so long. TV overtook radio in the 1950s as the dominant domestic tool which leaves us with nothing to compare in living memory.
Here’s comes the part about the election.
A couple of posts back I took the blame for Trump, but that took some thought. Now I have to take the blame for how the media got it so wrong.
I can do it with my eyes closed, but then I couldn’t see to type, could I?
The point of all this MaT business comes down to how people are – very much – shaped by their tools. The people who currently run the large scale media are lost in their own past. Too many at the top are still executing what they learned in the 80s and some are still are still clutching to the 50 year-old paradigm of horserace coverage.
Put another way – the stone ax was the starting point for all the folks who bought into the MaT concept. But what happens when the stone ax can’t break iron?
Which is what just happened.
As each stone ax broke and the only solution was to bring another stone ax.
Sure, but only in the sense that it was merely cursing the stone ax for not doing its job.
More to the point – Alaska Wolf Joe likes to remind me that us Boomers are their own worst unconscious idealogical tyrants. His point is that in our own minds we are our own best Stalinists.
That probably needs some expansion, but we’ll save that for another time.
Meanwhile we all need to take a deep breath and wonder about that time ahead of us when we ask the nursing home attendants if they can help us remember something about two men named Hoss and Little Joe.
“The ‘mood of the country’ in 1972, was so overwhelmingly vengeful, greedy, bigoted, and blindly reactionary that no presidential candidate who even faintly reminded ‘typical voters’ of the fear and anxiety they’d felt during the constant ‘social upheavals’ of the 1960s had any chance of beating Nixon last year… After a decade of left-bent chaos, the Silent Majority was so deep in a behavioral sink that their only feeling for politics was a powerful sense of revulsion. All they wanted in the White House was a man who would leave them along and do anything necessary to bring calmness back into their lives – even if it meant turning the whole state Nevada into a concentration camp for hippies, blacks, dope fiends, do-gooders, and anyone who might threaten the status quo.” Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972
“I suspect that there should have been more of a discussion in the campaign of the everyday frustrations and problems of working people, conditions under which they work, maybe more of an effort to identify with them.” George McGovern, December 1972
“Thank you for subscribing to this, the newsletter sent to all Millennials in the world. Everyone here at the Millennial High Council wanted to recap a few of the decisions made at our last shadowy cabal meeting, which, as you know, dictates the behavior of every Millennial everywhere. As you remember, we decided last year that Millennials will no longer be using bars of soap, spearmint toothpaste, travel agents, or Velcro.Furthermore, later this year Millennials will be killing open floor plans, cranberry juice, the Sunday wedding, and attendance at water parks.In more positive news, Millennials should be preparing for the return of landline telephones, pinball, ferret ownership, Savage Garden, the handjob, and drive-in movie theaters. Also, please be aware of the following: Sexting is no longer cool. Au Bon Pain is fine but Pret A Manger is NOT. We’re all getting into Ska music again. The new acceptable slang term for “good” is “Michael Bolton” (Example sentence: ‘That new Gatorade cleanse endorsed by Danny Glover is totally Bolton!’). The 🎷 emoji can represent a penis now. The hot new winter haircut for men is the bowl cut. The hot new winter haircut for women is shaving your head like Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. Soylent? No.” The Millenial High Council
“As Audience’s third co-founder, Oliver Luckett, explained it to me, a major part of the job, at that point in time, was simply working with the celebrity to determine what it was he or she had to say. ‘We had to create the architecture. We had to sit down with someone and say, ‘What are your five buckets of content?,’ ‘ Luckett told me on the phone from the Copenhagen airport a few days after he had attended Lindsay Lohan’s 30th-birthday celebration in Mykonos. ‘ ‘Are you a humanitarian? Are you interested in short films? Do you like movies? Do you like music? What clothes do you like?’ You just kind of had to break [it] apart and say, ‘Here are going to be the story lines this month.’ “ Josh Duboff
“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between. … Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.” Kurt Vonnegut
“Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” Dr. Johnson
My old anthropology teacher used to say that primates picked the lice off each other just to be sociable. That’s why she put forth the idea that as humans became less hairy we adopted small talk (e.g. “Hot enough for ya?”) as sublimated version of mutual grooming. What follows is a great deal of desk clearing which could be thought of as that form of higher primate parasite management known as, “So, how was your summer?”
Nietzsche called, he wants his abyss back.
The Abrahamic religions all set aside one day of the week for common observance and reflection. Muslims have the Friday Call to Prayer, Jews have the Shabbat, while Christians have Sunday morning.
Retired guys have trash day.
About a dozen years ago the guy next door hung up his spurs and since then he’s been an observant Rubbishist. Somewhere near dusk on the day before pick-up he takes his trash can to the curb and begins to adjust it this way and that over and over and over. In order not to disturb him Mrs. Neighbor puts on her velour jogging suit and takes her cigarette for a walk. After an hour she returns usually just in time to see Mr. Neighbor complete his zen-like placement of the can. At that point they usually go out for an early dinner and come home to watch Dancing with the Stars.
How do I know this?
Last year they bought one of those gargantuan tv’s.
If we want to know what’s on all we have to do is look out the kitchen window.
But please be assured that that’s not the end of it. On trash day I, the neighborhood goldbrick per Mr. Neighbor, manage to get the trash out usually within minutes of the arrival of the garbage truck. More often than not Mr. Neighbor is out there keeping watch for the arrival of the trash guys. Normally he uses the time to upbraid me for putting the trash out at the last minute, so it was a bit of surprise when he had a new topic to bring up a couple of weeks ago. He was upset that Alaska Wolf Joe failed to properly conduct himself in sublimated higher primate parasite management. (QED)
With out a ‘Hello’ or a got-a- minute he said “Your kid rode his bike in front of my house!”
“He said ‘Hello’ and kept going!”
… o … k …
“Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to stop and talk? Is there something wrong with him?”
I took a deep breath, looked him in the eye, and said – what do you expect? He goes to one of those effete schools back East where a bunch of activist judges gave all the left-wing professors tenure so they could stuff the poor kid’s head full of libtard mush!”
Mom heard all this and responded with a simple, “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TELL HIM THAT FOR?”
You have to talk to people in a way that they’ll understand and God knows I have gazed out the kitchen window many, many times only to see Bill O’Reilly gazing back at me.
“We should become the pitiless censors of ourselves.” Alain Badiou
Slaughterhouse Five really isn’t so much a postmodernist novel as it is an astructural work. Vonnegut was only in his late 40s when he wrote it, but what you can see is his own ability to look backwards to see how things shaped up and then extrapolate possible futures. As I get older that’s what I’m beginning to grasp – I’ve now been around long enough to amass a good look at what’s transpired and how that does give me some meager insight as to where things might be going.
The reason I bring it up is that sometimes you can find yourself becoming unstuck and my recent moment with unstuckidness pretty much answers the question, “So how was your summer?”
Full of grumpy, angry old people.
Not that they were bent out of shape about the big stuff, the stuff this election is supposed to be all about. No, they were grumpy and riled up over things like a shoddy asphalt patch up the street, increased fares for buses that they do not ride, and bicycle lanes that they do not use. As far as they’re concerned nothin’s any damn good like it used to be and nobody cares. They go on long and loud only to finish each vocal javelin with a hearty, “WASN’T LIKE THAT BACK IN MY DAY!”
And that’s why I dropped out of a couple of civic do-gooder things I was marginally attached to just before Labor Day. In July at meetings for both I was asked for an opinion and – in a moment of intense realization – I discovered that I was speaking in tongues – specifically ancient Cranky Old Fart. The only thing that my “opinions” lacked was a quick and final, “WASN’T LIKE THAT IN MY DAY!”
In both cases I drove home deeply embarrassed.
Shortly after Labor Day I met with one of my associate do-gooders and said that no one can achieve much with somebody who thinks that nothin’ and nobody’s any good always in the room. Therefore I was pulling back and going home to think. She took a long pause and then said that it was a remarkably astute and perceptive. At that point I could have said that’s what happens when you become unstuck in time, but I bother people enough about all the old hoary records I have lying about – no point in bogging them down with stories about all those old hoary paperbacks on the shelves at home.
Speaking of all things old and on vinyl –
WARNING: OBLIGATORY POLITICAL PORTION OF THIS BALANCED BREAKFAST STRAIGHT AHEAD
If that realization wasn’t enough, Alaska Wolf Joe was there then someone said I should come to the senior center for lunch.
To recap – I have no interest in going to the senior center because when the senior center begins to cater to people like me it means being stuck next to some guy at bingo who wants to tell you about the time be put bug spray in his bong while the overhead speakers blast Dark Side of the Moon all over the damn place.
I politely declined and somehow our yearly discussion about Burning Man started. Every year I say that being a Burner is on my non-content related bucket list and AWJ states firm opinion that I’d last about two hours at Burning Man before I had to be med-evac’d for acute oldness.
But not before I see this!
I usually fire back that some day The Old will sneak up on him. OK, it might be somebody inviting him to the senior center or maybe it’ll be getting stuck with some guy on a cross-country flight telling him how much fun it was to see Skrillex and Rebecca Black show in Vegas. That shifted the conversation to observations about the election. AWJ believes this is the single most Freudian election anyone at any time – in the whole history of forever – has ever encountered.
Can’t stump the Trump?
One of the GOP nominee’s biggest fan’s insists on calling Trump “Daddy?”
The kid’s kinda got a point even if it’s just higher primate parasite management for the sake of higher primate parasite management.
But enough of that – let’s all hold hands and sing along.
“Bear’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee. Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,But not expressed in fancy; rich, not gaudy,for the apparel oft proclaims the man.” Polonius from Hamlet Act I Scene III
“They (strippers and burlesque performers) wear their audience when they take off their clothes.”- Herbert Marshall McLuhan
“In Being and Nothingness (1943), Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that man wishes to possess things in order to enlarge his sense of self, and that we can know who we are only by observing what we have. Studies of ownership and identity – by marketing experts, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists – come to the same conclusion: we project our sense of self onto everything we own. According to Russell Belk, a professor of marketing at York University whose 1988 paper about possessions and the extended self remains a touchstone for all subsequent research, this kind of projection serves a valuable function for a healthy personality, ‘acting as an objective manifestation of self’. Humans have a fundamental need to store memories, values and experiences in objects, perhaps to keep them safe from memory loss; proof that, yes, that really happened. It is not even necessary to own these totemic items for their charge to hold. People speak about ‘my’ television programme, ‘my’ movie star, or ‘my’ seat in a classroom – a form of possessive self-definition that extends to matters of taste as well as to stuff. Questions such as: ‘Are you Beatles or are you Stones? Blur or Oasis?’ are examples of how taste funnells us into tribes that proclaim our aspirations and ideals along with our interests.” – Lee Randall
“Vulgar and inactive minds confound familiarity with knowledge, and conceive themselves informed of the whole nature of things, when they are shown their form or told their use.” Dr. Johnson
“Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King, ‘I got forty red, white and blue shoestrings and a thousand telephones that don’t ring…’” – generally attributed to Ovid
My Facebook page seems to be dying. This comes with all the personal angst of coming home to a dead goldfish. (OK, coming home to a dead goldfish – minus — the angsty six year-old wondering why Mr. Swimmy is upsidedown.) The general cause can be traced back to a Facebook quiz that was making the rounds which showed just how large your vocabulary is. Most of the people in my feed routinely turned up with vocabularies well over 30,000 words while I barely managed to crack five figures. Some how my low score seems to have triggered a slow migration of people away from my FB page. Again – not that it concerns me, after all I’ve reached the advanced aged where I’m either going to endlessly repeat myself or forget what I was going to say.
How many words do you need to do that?
Jejune? De rigueur? Phlegmatic?
Those cows are long gone from the barn.
Mom, who’s razor sharp when it comes to all this social media jazz, said, “When this happens the first thing to do is stay up all all night vauguebooking your butt-hurt, but that’s kinda teenager-y for somebody as ancient as you.”
Instead I decided to put some thought into the matter. After a tiny bit of lengthy consideration, I decided that I can be something more of an oddity than I already am. Imagine what would happen if I wrote a novel with that teensy vocabulary. On the low end I’d be some sort of side-show come-on for Oprah’s Book Club and on the other I’d be the Booker Prize MacGyver who coughed up an award winner using only a paperclip, a 9-volt transistor battery, and some gum.
Which brings me to where we’re going with this mess – a short excursion back to the 1960s.
“For a couple of years he’d been a used car salesman and so hyperaware of what that profession had come to mean that the working hours were exquisite torture to him. … Yet at least he had believed in the cars. Maybe to excess; seeing a parade seven days a week, bringing the most godawful trade-ins; motorized metal extensions of themselves, of (the drivers’) families and what their whole lives must look like, out there so naked for anybody, a stranger like himself, to look at, frame cockeyed, rusty underneath, fender repainted in a shade just off enough to depress the value … the inside smelling of hopelessly of children, supermarket booze, two, sometimes three generations of cigarette smokers, or only of dust … “ from The Crying of Lot 49
That passage has always managed to light up my brain like a cheap pinball machine. Two kinds of people sell things for a living – those who have a natural talent, who put not one iota of conscious thought into it, and those of us who understood it as something like learning a second and very difficult language, and by doing so we gained uncomfortable insights into how complete strangers’ lives worked.
Whether we liked it or not.
The endless psychic grind of selling comes when the moment in each sale when you see what exactly the thing sought will be an extension of the buyer. Does it match the decor? Does it come with the latest version of Dolby Surround? Is there a different one with even more rinse cycles?
How will this thing announce my coming?
How will this thing represent me to others?
Objects come to alleviate personal insecurities the same was Tylenol suppressed the pain, but does nothing for the cause. Show me what some one is shopping for an I can tell you what problem they’re trying to keep at arm’s length. I met so many people who found that the things they bought were the commodification of angst and insecurity- whether they knew it or not. Lately I’ve come to see that the same is true of our politics. Whether we noticed it or not for 50 years we’ve been on a slow path to the commodification of political belief. The process accelerated over the past 30. Big media didn’t really pigeon hole anyone so much as give us things to try on. Fifty years ago the media at least tried to show how each aspect of a political party fit into a greater whole. It was easy enough to do as the 60s. Reporting tried to follow zeitgeist to its lair in the weltanschauung. Reporting was all about mapping what we would call today an ideological eco-system. Reporting tried to answer the question, “How does the niche relate the the whole?” I’m not sure when that changed, but it certainly changed after I came of age. Reporting became more like a yardstick or a checklist. Somewhere along the line the question became, “What do you believe among the things on this checklist and how ardently do you believe it?” Exploring how something fit intoa greater whole was abandoned for a baedeker approach – less designer and more off the rack – more easily picked up and easily traded in. AM Radio and cable news were really the best when it came to destroying the worldview in order to save the worldview.
Nuance, to borrow an old phrase, doesn’t play in Peoria. Roll that up with tv and cable news being nuance proof and you wind up with designer political views. It’s off-the-rack or nothing at all. Anybody who is pro-life and a climate change believer is merely someone who mixed up items from different departments and needs to stop by customer service. Media, especially cable news, has not moved beyond the point where it cannot allow for gray areas. Therefore our beliefs are no longer tracked as a whole, but as part of a preferred designer collection of information.
You pick a political identity and in order to report it the media lays out everything associated with that identity. Your extension into the world is less the result of your own thinking and experience as it’s just something you managed to pick up on the way home.
Like picking between an Android or an iPhone.
Social justice? Balanced budgets? Climate change? Pro-life?
Reporting says there’s an app for that.
Political identities then become a mass produced item as if your beliefs were left on the porch by UPS or were oozed out of the long end of an extruder.
OK – right there.
That’s a big word and I know what it means and before you get all poo-ass’d uppity about it, I gonna use it in a sentence.
Violetta blushed jejunely as Archbishop D’Rigeuer lead the procession of the hydrated around the royal extruder at the Blessing of the Phlegmatic.
Look at all those big-ass words.
BOOO-yah you FB quiz-makin’ motherfuckers.
The way I figure it, you gotta sneak up on those Booker Prize high sheriffs. Maybe run out a couple of Harlequin novels first and then BAM!
They’ll never what hit ‘em.
“‘Personal density,’ Kurt Mondaugen in his Peenemünde office not too many steps away from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, ‘is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth. Temporal bandwidth is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar ‘∆ t’ considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.'” Thomas Pynchon from Gravity’s Rainbow
“Here’s the divide: The young and educated see the possibilities of life without borders and nationality, not necessarily so much as grand ideology but certainly for the convenience and opportunity. Older and perhaps less worldly people see borders as defining autonomy and identity. They are less sanguine about sharing their homes, cars, photos or their space with strangers and aliens. The former view, the premise on which so much new wealth is founded, is the high value opinion. The latter view obviously is the low value one because the people who espouse it are so much poorer. In that, there is a confusing zeitgeist issue. In the modern era, particularly since borders and regulations began to drop in the 1980s, the zeitgeist has slavishly followed the money. But culture, a sense of well-being and personal identity has, before this, in a more classic conservative sense of valuing bonds with the past, often superseded economic considerations. One of the truly bad words of classic conservatism in fact is ‘innovation.’ Edmund Burke refers to the ‘innovator’s lust for power.’ Curiously, much of the new, left, young, urban zeitgeist is, while theoretically anti-wealth, in full cultural alignment with those innovations that create such wealth.” – Michael Wolff
“The left says: ‘Look, it’s very simple. The political press ultimately serves the interests of the people who own it— the corporate capitalists, the ones with money and power and ‘access’ to politicians, the people who run things and always have. Those who are unwilling to make peace with this fact don’t make it very far in political journalism.’ The right says: ‘Look, it’s very simple. Press coverage reflects the bias of the people who produce it— and they’re liberals!’ Conservatives who are against abortion, suspicious of gay rights, skeptical about global warming, against the redistribution of wealth and instinctively wary of government regulation don’t make it very far in political journalism. ‘Look, it’s very simple,’ our journalists say. ‘The press isn’t on the side of the left or the right. Of course, journalists are human. They have passions, they have interests, they have opinions. But these are irrelevant to the way they define and do their job, which is to find out what’s happening and tell the world about it. Ideologues don’t make it very far in political journalism.’ In the puny camp that I’m a part of the first sentence is: This is complicated… Jay Rosen
“Kim Kardashian West’s boob is so soft it makes velvet feel like splinters. It makes the fur on a baby bunny’s tummy feel like a plastic bag of syringes. It is so soft that touching it is like scooping up the delicate pink dawn sky with your fingers, or holding a ball of lotion in your hand. It is softer than the thick, warm, all-enveloping smoothness that caresses a globule of wax as it travels up a lava lamp. I know this because Kim Kardashian West has just put down her passion-fruit iced tea and peeled back her sleeveless Adidas x Kanye West bodysuit so that I could place my hand on it (the boob) while we eat dinner under the furious early stars at the Beverly Hills Hotel.’Even though I’m an ass girl, Kanye always says my boobs don’t get as much credit as they deserve,’ Kim explained. At the time that she invited me to touch the upper-left quadrant of her left breast, I was merely an unkempt person Kim Kardashian West had met one time. And yet, on just our second short meeting, I felt comfortable enough to ask her to ‘please describe what your boobs feel like.’ That’s how we got here. ‘Really soft!’ exclaimed Kim, seated primly in an out-of-the-way patio booth. She was eating half a salad. I was eating a hot dog and fries on her enthusiastic recommendation. (‘I love the hot dog here.’ she said with a sparkle, neglecting to mention I would have to order this item from the kids’ menu.) (Real good hot dog.) ‘You wanna feel?’ she asked. ‘Yup.’ I said.” – Caity Weaver
“Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its original Teutonic character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology.” Dr. Johnson
“Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” Chairman Mao
One of the tidbits coughed up by institutional economics states that the division of labor, as we understand it, dates back to the Middle Ages. Closer to home Mom divvied up all the chores and the duty of attending that semi-regular civic function known as a Rubber Chicken Dinner (RCD) fell to me. Some of you might be familiar with such things, for those of you who have never had the pleasure it goes like this; in a large hotel banquet room at least 100 people gather to eat Monsanto’s chicken-like substance, but not before being served a “salad” composed of that sorry excuse for lettuce known as “greens.” Hiding beneath the “greens” are all manner of f’n sticky little walnuts. Oh sure, you can try scraping them off, you can even try to use the knife provided, but it only makes things worse. While you’re at it you can pretty much write off scraping the damn things off with a roll. Yes, there’s a bread basket. There’s even a decorative pat of butter on a little plate with a tiny butter knife, but the second you ask some one to pass the rolls they become hysterical deaf or instantly involved in someone else’s conversation.
While I am not required to attend any RCD which is strictly a fund-raising exercise I am under strict orders to attend those that award those about to retire for their many years of compulsive behavior. Such was the case last weekend when I went to a RCD honoring a man who had tirelessly attended to the drainage of low-lying areas under the aegis of some “sanction tax entity” that may or may not report to the governor. Our alleged host for the evening was some high sheriff from the legislature who was driving from the other side of the state to put on the feedbag, acknowledge roughly half the audience, take 45 minutes to “say a few words”, and hand out some sort of engraved clear acrylic lump which probably came from the came vat as tonight’s dinner.
Such was not the case.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like the night didn’t start off al swank ’n stuff. There was an open bar where you had your choice of COSTCO’s Kirkland label microbrew or wine out of a box. One box of wine had been drained by a couple of gents standing near me. Both were slightly older than me and while not consuming box wine Olsen and Johnson loudly took turns finding one another terribly amusing. This seemed to be moving along well enough until the master of ceremonies, a lesser functionary of the legislature, came in and announced that the high sheriff couldn’t make it. While we were repeatedly assured that he was on his way it turned out he never left his house for reasons unknown.
This did not go unnoticed by the slightly older comedians at the end of the “bar.” The Olsen hollered across the room, “If we were givin’ out an award to a one-legged Harley ridin’ Chinese transsexual he woulda been here yesterday!”
With that his Johnson doubled over in laughter. As he straighten up Olsen went about brushing off Johnson’s lapels and in an even louder voice said, “OH I AM SO SORRY! DID I GET MY P-C ALL OVER YOU! HERE, LET ME BRUSH THAT DARN P-C OFF!”
Before they could get all that out of their system our host returned to tell us that the honoree was a no show as well. Through clenched teeth he got out something about a hip replacement gone bad and to make his point he snatch the beer out of my hand, waved it at the dining room, and told everyone to go have a seat as dinner was being served.
Commotion broke out all around. That’s two entrees too many and you can’t just put those back in the ‘fridge. Monsanto has a whole cube farm full of Philadelphia layers who have nothing better to do than swoop down on the poor sap who would re-heat, re-serve, or chop up into salad. And it’s not like you can put it back in the 55-gallon drum it came in. There are procedures for these things, strict procedures, and if you don’t follow them to the letter then the Moon will turn blood red and across the land chickens, who at the molecular level somewhat resembled tonight’s entree, would cease to lay.
None of this mattered to me.
I was transfixed.
The Gnostics said that you can receive enlightenment by hearing only a few words. God knows, that moment had arrived for me. I had not lost 2/3rds of a warm bottle of COSTCO’s finest IPA, I had been given a passage, an opening, a gateway into the far reaches of the cosmos. My mind was racing through time and space and out there is some far reach of existence, a place that looked like it had been personally designed by Jack Kirby, there was a phone pole and on that phone pole there was a post that said, ‘TONIGHT ONLY! ONE-LEGGED HARLEY RIDIN’ CHINESE TRANSSEXUAL!”
No cover charge.
The salad came, the salad went, dinner arrived. Mostly it was a blur of motions around me. Now and then I would notice Olsen and Johnson across the table. They would erupt in a mild spasm and you could see them mouth the words,“…one legged… huff…. huff good one!” Not me, I could hear the whole thing. In fact I kept hearing the whole thing in my head over and over and over until it was almost mantra-like.
You see, at that moment, I’d been given a gift. Between now and November I didn’t have to have an opinion. If some one asked me about Trump and the Brexiteers all I had to do is look them in the eye and say, “So I was at this dinner the other night and do you know what I heard some guy say?”
The rest of the evening is pretty much a blur. By the time I got in the car I came around and started to wonder if the convenience that statement gave me outweighed the efficiency or the efficiency was greater than the convenience?
But as Mom likes to say, if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. Such was the case the next morning when I was overcome with the question of, “How did we get here?”
Stick around – I’m about to take the blame for Trump.
Over the past few weeks a couple of things stood out, one concerns the large scale media and the other involves class structures.
Let’s start with the media.
When the Brexit vote was counted no one was as shocked at the British media. CSPAN picked up ITV’s feed which provided no end of dumbfounded looks. Save for one guy, the pundits could not clutch their pearls fast enough. None of them saw this coming.
How could this be?
Let’s start with something Jürgen Habermas said:
The publicity effort, however, a carefully managed display of public relations, showed that the public sphere (deprived, for the most part, of its original functions) under the patronage of administrations, special-interest associations, and parties was now made to contribute in a different fashion to the process of integrating state and society.
Large scale media has internalized all that to the point that it’s a bit like knocking on wood or throwing salt over your shoulder – how that all got started is lost to the ages, it’s all internalized now. The daily function of reporting and informing becomes automatic and unconsciously worked through as if its all like breathing or blinking your eyes. Sure, there’s been financial turbulence, but when you look at the reaction to the financial drain there’s no indication that anybody wants to do anything differently. At least in this country a few of the Beltway types figured out they have no idea what the Average Joe thinks or does. No that it makes any difference. Reporting goes on and at this very second no one in the old large scale media has a clue about what’s happening – in an election year – but we do have a gloriously rendered 5000-word write up about the upper half of a Kardashian’s anatomy.
Yeah, I know – there he goes again.
But at some point the old large scale media itself has to move on from being numb to the scorn its received for years and get to a point where it understands that it serves no one when it talks to no one but the insiders and itself.
Which brings up a second point – media and class.
Last week Michael Wolff ran this out in The Hollywood Reporter:
Here’s the divide: The young and educated see the possibilities of life without borders and nationality, not necessarily so much as grand ideology but certainly for the convenience and opportunity. Older and perhaps less worldly people see borders as defining autonomy and identity. They are less sanguine about sharing their homes, cars, photos or their space with strangers and aliens. The former view, the premise on which so much new wealth is founded, is the high value opinion. The latter view obviously is the low value one because the people who espouse it are so much poorer. In that, there is a confusing zeitgeist issue. In the modern era, particularly since borders and regulations began to drop in the 1980s, the zeitgeist has slavishly followed the money. But culture, a sense of well-being and personal identity has, before this, in a more classic conservative sense of valuing bonds with the past, often superseded economic considerations. One of the truly bad words of classic conservatism in fact is ‘innovation.’ Edmund Burke refers to the ‘innovator’s lust for power.’ Curiously, much of the new, left, young, urban zeitgeist is, while theoretically anti-wealth, in full cultural alignment with those innovations that create such wealth.
For years we’ve been told that the Internet(s) would force us into idealogical silos, single-minded echo chambers that would turn us all into tribes. Interesting up to the point that it fails to take the global recession into account. Once you factor that in then you can make the case that we’re not moving into silos, we’re moving deeper into our respective social and economic classes.
And I’m as guilty as anybody. Back in 2007 we got rid of cable and started sourcing our news from places like the BBC. We’d heard enough yelling on the cable channels to know that it wasn’t journalism or even informative. (Unlike most of you – and you’re not going to like this – we didn’t think much of the yelling topical comedians either.) By cutting the cord we removed ourselves from what Wolff calls “a far more loyal audience and much better economic bet” – those who kept the cord.
Because our level of education and income allowed it.
Also along those lines – only thing that was even remotely surprising in all of this is that Olson and Johnson were not in my face about the demise of newspapers. What they said didn’t surprise me as most of the time when I encounter folks of a certain age their all bent out of shape about the fate of the newspapers, local tv, or NPR and some how that’s my fault.
But enough of all that.
I’m in the media and I never saw Trump coming. Even worse, I’m one of those cord-cutting elitist libtards who’d rather get his news from some dirty foreigner because I think the American media’s product is no better than anything that came out of Detroit c. 1977.
Put it all together and I guess I must be to blame for Trump.
I’ll save some other thought on Britain and the US crossing paths for later. But I will leave you with this thought. Boris Johnson used to be some sort of automotive reviewer. The idea that some one who used to do that sort of thing is as ridiculous as thinking someone in this country writing for some innocuous publication like TV Guide could rise to proinence by being a cheerleader for some unnecessary military expedition in the Middle East.
… oh … wait
In closing – Trump, my bad.