I’d wish you a Happy New Year, but it’s going to be a rough one.
So, instead, I’ll wish you victory over all the ordeals to come.
UPDATE. Molly the greyhound is feeling a bit tentative about 2014 too.
I’d wish you a Happy New Year, but it’s going to be a rough one.
So, instead, I’ll wish you victory over all the ordeals to come.
UPDATE. Molly the greyhound is feeling a bit tentative about 2014 too.
The Dallas Cowboys played last night for the NFC East division title, which was their only possible route to the playoffs. Somehow, inexplicably, and as far as ESPN and the NFL Network are concerned, inconsolably, they didn’t win — thereby extending their streak of not getting into or winning a playoff game to 17 years (excluding a fluke victory in 2010 over some team that once threw snowballs at Santa Claus.)
But we Americans are still so committed to America’s Team that the sports press knows the Dallas Cowboys are the only subject we have any interest in hearing about, even when their season is over.
We watched the coverage this morning for several hours while we recovered from yesterday’s family Christmas gathering at our house. We heard dozens of compelling theories about why the Cowboys lost, and even more theories about what it will take for the Cowboys to win again.
Fortunately, ESPN also operates a scoreboard website at which you can learn the results of other games that were played yesterday and who is going to the playoffs.
So, what we’re pretty sure of at the moment is that the marquee game Saturday night will be between the New Orleans Saints and the Not-the-Cowboys squad not located in New York. But who cares? It’s all pretty meaningless now, isn’t it?
We’ll see, I guess.
Supposed to be fun, right? The worst, the best, the funniest, the most whatever.
But it’s been a horrifying year. And the new one will be worse.
2014 is going to be a kind of American Apocalypse. One that as a nation we must deserve because we voted for it. But cruel and terrible nonetheless.
So I won’t offer silliness. Just five year-end summaries instead.
(Wouldn’t have exposed you to this. But the degree of tone deafness, moral blindness, and sheer smirk are all proof of a fundamental tenet of mine. Women are not morally superior to men. They can’t be trusted to serve a purpose beyond narrow self interest any more than anyone else. Why Christianity has its rules.)
My wife used a phrase on me earlier today: “Too funny.” I replied, “Sort of funny.”
Where we are. The New Year won’t be funny at all. It’s going to be catastrophic, no matter how divine Hillary is and no matter how sensible and guarded the Republican Establishment is. It’s time to take a crowbar to the whole rotten pile of graft, insider trading, and the presumptions of the political class.
Just my private opinion, of course.
Why it remains so private. And why, no doubt, even the New Media are already handicapping the 2016 presidential race as if nothing is on the line more serious than who gets the Senate and who gets the presidency. Politics as usual.
While the nation dies. But if you’re a progressive, that’s no biggie.
Get your wife two kinds of gifts. What she wants and didn’t know she wanted. And something completely unexpected that has no practical value whatsoever.
Don’t get defensive. I’m just an old guy. My wife still routinely gets me better gifts than I give her. But I hang in there, always trying. Which is where all the points are scored.
She said she wanted a Rutgers football jersey. Couldn’t find one, even after ransacking the Internet.
Not saying I have it all figured out. But I’ve learned to go with the flow. Rutgers doesn’t sell jerseys, just billions of tee-shirts. The Ravens won the Super Bowl but they, uh, suck. The solution?
Then there’s the other thing. She loved this too.
Been hearing a lot about how reflexively conservatives defend Fox News in our pursuit of a racist, sexist, homophobic agenda against Obama. Right. Try this from years ago:
Or maybe Part 2, namely, Hannity.
Part 3? John Gibson and Andrew Napolitano.
And let’s not forget the Pope.
Or the Nun of K Street.
You lefties are all pretty funny. But so are we. Difference is, we can laugh at ourselves. You can’t.
Which makes you the joke. Happy Holidays.
Honestly, truly, and completely, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, no matter how unlikely that is.
NOTE: if you’re on an iPad, you might not hear anything. Hie thee to your laptop, where you’ll hear everything. Our experts are working on the iPad, working on everything, but they’re mad about my racist, sexist, homophobic, etc, attitude. Just kidding. All they really want is deniability. It’s a small sacrifice. Get thee to thy laptop.
Life, you see.
Now it’s 812 channels and nothing on but Lena Dunham.
Snobs on Parade. My alternative title. This is all getting mighty silly mighty fast.
As I suggested in my post on the Duck Dynasty flap, I’m not responding to a free speech issue per se. I’m seeing a cultural bias that amounts to a religious issue because A&E’s decision was so obviously self-destructive from the standpoint of business. Phil Robertson got to express himself, and A&E had a right to sever its business relationship with him. Part of believing in free speech is accepting that it can have consequences, fair or unfair, that simply go with the territory.
I don’t have any particular problem with what he said, unlike most of the, uh, conservatives who bravely rallied to his defense. I think it’s disingenuous for the family to claim he was set up, because I think there’s an equal chance he set them up, knowing exactly what he was doing.
As a matter of fact, I don’t even think it’s a gay issue. Rather, it’s a class issue that is gradually revealing itself in the second wave of essays and commentary that’s following the early headline reactions and declarations.
Here are two stories that illustrate this second wave, the first from an LA Times columnist and the second from a witty young thing at National Review, meaning left and right both represented.
I’d quote teaser excerpts, but I’ve learned when I do so my wife only reads the teasers. I want you to read the articles.
However artfully or (rarely) logically expressed, the desire to banish what we personally dislike or suspect of being injurious to others who are not as enlightened as ourselves is inherently dangerous, fascistic, and/or narcissistic. It is also anti-market, anti-freedom, anti-community, and anti-democratic. Which means that it’s a huge and complex question not resolvable by either denunciation or ridicule.
Both left and right are guilty. For example, on the right, there are moral crusaders like Brent Bozell, whose MRC would like to return television to a state best exemplified by Murder She Wrote, Matt Dillon, the Dick van Dyke Show, and The Waltons. There are also economic crusaders like John Nolte at Breitbart who inveigh constantly at the wide variety of “bundled” programming we get with standard cable packages, because it would be maybe cheaper if we got to pick exactly which channels or programs we desire to pay for, without being exposed to accidental encounters with the Logo Channel, FX, MSNBC, the E! Channel, Oxygen, or the various murder channels, including ID. Much much better not to know or care what the broader culture is concerning itself with.
On the left, there’s a Pravda-esque sense that there’s stuff suitably worthwhile or at any rate acceptable and stuff that blatantly promotes racism, sexism, homophobia, and other lower class diseases which should be stamped out by the U.S. version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. NPR, 5-year-old Global Warming documentaries on the so-called learning channels, and a few incredibly stale bits of pseudo entertainment called Law & Order SVU, Seinfeld, BBC Apocalyptica, and whatever current sitcom has the most sexually eccentric cartoon characters at the moment. When’s the last time you watched nightly news on NPR? Like a time warp. Everyone pretending to be Eric Severaid, all throaty patronizing platitudes and no hip-hop. Kind of like Brit Hume on FNC. An inside-the-beltway version of “All your base are belong to us,” no translation offered. They know. We don’t need to.
It’s all the same thing. A desire that the ideas and convictions and beliefs we hold most dear be subtly or energetically reinforced by the mass media we should choose to watch. Funny just how tedious are the preferences of those on both sides. NPR’s Frontline is every bit as coma-inducing as reruns of Quincy. (I could go on and on and on and on… But thankfully for you, I won’t) though I will say I’d rather see an episode of Andy of Mayberry than the nth pledge drive repeats of Andrea Bocelli in concert or anything new and loaded with tits and f-bombs on HBO or Showtime.
But my vote doesn’t matter, even to me. Reality TV was conceived as an antidote to the mannerist cliches of 50 years of television programming, both drama and sitcom. It has proven so successful that it is no longer a genre to be sneered at and swept away; it is the new context of an entire medium.
As such, it does not exist in any single category. Sure, there’s white trash, but that’s not really a category at all, just an easy label. Fact is, Reality TV originates from more than one pole, and despite a few superficial resemblances, there is a spectrum within each category that shouldn’t be dismissed on snooty grounds by either left or right.
As I call these out and comment on them, bear in mind that I grow weary of most series within a very few episodes. Doesn’t mean there’s never anything to be appreciated or learned.
Pseudo-celebrity Junk. This runs the gamut from the Kardashians to Awful Housewives to Spoiled Rotten Daughters to Life with Real Rockstars You Wouldn’t Want in Your House. I call it public service programming. If I could lock it out, I wouldn’t get the vivid reminder five minutes of one episode accidentally showing up on my TV gives me.
Competitions. Survivor was the first one. Never watched it. Not snobbery just no hook. But there’s no end of them, pitting people against one another in situations that if artificially created do have some documentary aspect. Riflemen. Aspiring chefs. Models. Celebrities who play military heroes trying to do in fact what they pretend to do in front of blue screens. At the other end, wannabe singers and dancers who go through a seemingly unending audition process that reflects if not duplicates what it takes to succeed in a realm where talent is an arbiter, if not the final one. Perhaps the best of these is Face-off, a grueling marathon of would-be special effects makeup artists, who touch us by helping one another even while locked in do or die competition. The worst? Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. (Unless it’s really Fear Factor or The Biggest Loser.) Something to be learned by viewing the spectrum. Sticking your head up above the crowd is hard, no matter who you are.
Slice of Life Eavesdropping. An invitation to indulge the native impulse toward contempt. Jersey Shore, Toddlers & Tiaras, Breaking Amish, and, yes, Orange County Choppers and Duck Dynasty. Lots of staged hijinks, crises, and manipulations. But all fiction is staged. This kind of show is your opportunity not to be swindled by acting talent. You get to decide what’s real and what, well, isn’t. Consider it non-method-acting. There are fewer sets, less rehearsal, more improvisation, more shots at a now and then epiphany not written by a talent above your pay grade. I watched an early episode of Duck Dynasty. I thought they were funny and inoffensive. But then where I grew up their antics aren’t especially unique. If it hadn’t been so much not news to me, I might have watched again.
Real Life, Edited. Which, when you think about it is a genre called documentary, isn’t it? In the links above I was amazed at how easily the snobs lumped Reality Shows like Honey Boo Boo in with shows about Alaskan crab fishing, logging, and other respectable blue collar professions, which probably differ from Cannes Film Festival nonfiction entries only because they eschew socio-political commentary for personal narrative. Ice Road Truckers doesn’t harp on the grievances of the class of tractor trailer drivers who keep the far north’s oilfields linked with equipment and supplies. They just put us in the cab with the drivers.
My strongest image of contemporary female emancipation and courage doesn’t come from Corporate America or the DC political class. It comes from Ice Road Truckers. She repeatedly put herself in, well, fear to prove that she could do the job, and I spent a large part of my youth driving everything I could find with a steering wheel and a gearbox. Couldn’t do what she does in the show.
But by all means let’s sweep everything into a big pile of trash that has no redeeming content, educational value, or cultural interest. Let’s laugh at the people who do all the work, sacrifice everything for the merest chance at success, and tar them all with the brush that applies to the very worst. All reality TV females are Snooki, all laborers in the Deep South are toothless troglodytes, and all the competitions are fraudulent. Except that they aren’t.
The guy who hosted America’s Dirtiest Jobs did all those jobs. The Mythbusters have busted a number of dangerously wrong myths. The crab fishermen have allowed us to kibbitz even while they lost members of their own families. But the fact that they’re hard-drinking, chain-smoking and quarrelsome makes them risible nonetheless. Get rid of them. Because they’re all of a piece, disposable trash with no pedigrees or stunning glossies. And those of us who live in the tower are entitled to sneer and brush them away like crumbs from our immaculate table of life.
What the best among us know is that the way and the light for progressive utopia is BBC America, beginning with 40 years of The Truth of Doctor Who and ending with the apotheosis of Graham Norton. Andrea Bocelli is a sop for the fools who keep tuning in during pledge drives.
I’m thinking, the more I think on it, that Phil Robertson knew precisely what he was doing. Let’s see if I’m right.
In the meantime I’ll keep my 812 channels of dross. It makes me feel like I’m not living at the bottom of a loudly echoing well.
P.S. Yeah. There’s this one other thing, which doesn’t mention reality TV at all. But read it. Every goddam word.
A long long way away. Wish you could have seen it. Life in the country. Eyes are still better than cell phones. I saw the gorgeous thing. I didn’t get its picture. LESSON.
I know it’s hard to accept. You don’t have to. Only I have to. You don’t know what it’s like to behold you.
It’s an advantage, I admit. I know everything, for example. Like who killed Kennedy, what happened to the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, and what the New World Order is all about. I also know who wrote Shakespeare’s plays and what the Voynich manuscript means.
I take my orders directly from HQ at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.
Feel free to discuss. Just trying to remain as relevant as all the other stories coursing through the media while the four real reporters in the nation are on Christmas vacation.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m thinking that if I were you, I’d have some questions. I can answer some if not all. Please advise.
The patriarch of Duck Dynasty has been kicked off his A&E show for disapproving of homosexuality. His Biblical reference was to Corinthians, but his image, particularly in still photographs, is evocative of Moses. The fear that inspired A&E’s overreaction was that he might convey an impression of authority that goes deeper than his words.
If you see an amazingly irrational response, look for an irrational cause. Clearly, A&E isn’t making a business decision here. The network’s management is cutting its own throat. Duck Dynasty is the most successful series A&E, or any cable network, has ever had. The demographically tiny segment of viewers who are LGBT can’t compare to the 14 million viewers the show draws.
This is about paranoia, repressed guilt, and existential fear. The campaign for gay rights has been, from the first, a stick-and-carrot sales job. Support us and you are one of the new cool ones. Oppose us and you will be demonized, relentlessly ridiculed and punished. The mass media have been a huge component of that sales job. Reality TV has played a key role. Channels like Bravo, shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, multiple shows about fashion and wedding dresses, and an infinitely creepier show in which gay men organize and emcee beauty pageants for prematurely sexualized little girls as young as three have tirelessly promoted the notion that gay men in particular are a pop cultural treasure we must learn to admire.
Not one of these shows has been as successful as Duck Dynasty.
I’m sure the A&E brass have been uncomfortable with Duck Dynasty for quite a while now. They undoubtedly thought the show was a joke, an opportunity for their elite, PC-simpatico audience to laugh at the backwoods rubes in ZZ Top beards. They flat misread the appeal of similarly cynically conceived reality shows like Call of the Wildman, Swamp Loggers, Gold Rush, and Rattlesnake Republic, perhaps because they were thinking of Honey Boo Boo as a programming cousin, an exercise in discreetly unstated producer contempt for their subjects.
But it wasn’t urban liberal intellectuals who glommed onto Duck Dynasty and made it a hit. The audience that set viewing records was the very demographic for which they hold the greatest contempt.
Then Phil Robertson began to chafe publicly, began to speak in public about his Christian faith, drawing even more attention, more viewers from the detested rural traditionalists A&E never intended to reach. What if his image speaks to those others at a deep level and galvanizes them into a counterattack that submarines the sales campaign? And deep, deep, deeper, all the way down deep, what if he is somehow right? What if that eerily Old Testament visage is a message from, you know, about divine judgment and everlasting…… uh, Forget that. Not true, never happened, can’t be. Moving on…
What to do? Reap the bonanza and get excommunicated from the entertainment establishment’s Church of Political Correctness? Or regain its blessing by biting the bullet in hopes of getting back on track with the elitist liberal blitzkrieg on the foundations of our civilization?
It’s not really a business decision, but it’s an explicable if irrational one because it’s also based on an article of religious faith. If we hew to our ideological allies, we will be rewarded in the after-season. Next year or the year after.
Who knows? Their faith might yet be proven right. If the Robertson family continues with the show absent their patriarch, they will be revealed as hypocrites who are as easily seduced by money and fame as anyone else. If they go elsewhere, the true believers will reward A&E’s demonstration of orthodoxy by tuning in to new reality shows about transgender makeovers, gay-couple child-rearing, and hidden camera exploration of the racial sensitivities that put a human face on the Knockout Game, not to mention new “arts” offerings (long absent from A&E) celebrating LGBT fingerpainting and Mapplethorpe-quality photographs of the beautiful ugliness of squat Lesbians in camo, some of whom go duck hunting with or without ZZ Top beards. Full circle from mere success to salvation and (hopefully) awards show and ratings success. Hallelujah!
And, you know, chances are, Phil Robertson isn’t Moses. The danger is rather that he might be an authentic old-fashioned Christian, neither fire and brimstone preacher nor publicity hound. If he turns his back on the mass media and goes home to his family life, he will become the stuff of legend.
P.S. Getting sick and tired of hearing conservatives (we’re all too sophisticated even to know what Reality TV is… Harrumph) insist they don’t personally agree with Robertson, BUT…
No BUTs (or is it butts?) about it. When did homosexuality become a fine cultural phenomenon? We’re less than a generation away from the absolute proof that male homosexuality in particular is more life threatening than, say, one of the true bête noirs of PC religion, smoking. HIV/AIDS was not visited on homosexuals by heterosexuals. Gay men brought it on themselves by a gluttonously promiscuous surrender to lust that at one point threatened to kill one in three. NOW they think of marriage. Really? And how long will that last? Yet today gay is good, smoking is a worse sin than late-term abortion, and old men with beards should shut the fuck up.
My two cents. You did good, Mr. Robertson. Now, like all civilians drafted into a war you didn’t start, you should count your lucky stars and go home to private life and your barcalounger. That would be a picture worth a billion words.
For once, the most compelling thing I found today at National Review was a comment. Nothing against Jonah Goldberg, whose brief post was about insurers and the question of whether or not they would resist the edicts of ObamaCare. It’s just that the commenter, one devan95, exhibited real passion:
Will Obamacare be repealed or won’t it? Will Congress fund it or won’t it? Will the web site be fixed or not? Blah, blah, blah. We the people just need to do what we need to do and Congress be damned. Resist. Refuse. Revolt. EXEMPT OURSELVES! We did not comply with Prohibition and we simply should not comply with Obamacare. For religious reasons. For privacy reasons. For the cause of liberty and freedom and in protest of the idea that the federal government (under one party rule, no less), can force private citizens to purchase anything with our own money. Are we citizens or subjects? Mice or (wo)men? Just say NO to socialism and to the corrupt, unionized, far left IRS: the gestapo of America’s political class. After all, the federal government ignores millions of illegals who are breaking U.S. immigration law every day. Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. All we have to do is just say no to a scheme we all know is un-American and a violation of our most basic founding fundamentals of privacy, self reliance, limited government and individual freedom.
Which got me thinking. He’s not alone out there. Surely, there are plenty of people, mostly healthy people not coincidentally, who would go to extreme lengths to opt out of this massive income redistribution scheme. When prices are artificially inflated or access is artificially limited to any product or service, the inevitable economic by-product is a black market.
ObamaCare has already been compared to Prohibition as a colossal error of public policy which led eventually though inevitably to repeal. But perhaps the Prohibition analogy should also be instructive. It was the rise of the bootlegging industry and all its associated institutions which made it clear that the law was an unenforceable failure.
Let’s think about the shape and prospects of bootleg medical care.
Prohibition put a lot of distillers out of business. Today, thousands of doctors are threatening to retire early and shut down their practices. They are the new potential bootleggers. How might they continue to live up to the Hippocratic Oath, make a living, and help restore the integrity of their profession?
The answer is: lotsa ways. The market for their wares is there, and unlike with abortion, there is no shame about needing and wanting medical care that doesn’t cost as much as your home mortgage. Just as people in the twenties didn’t feel shame about wanting a drink. Which means lots of those in positions of authority will be willing to turn a blind eye. To what? The sudden establishment of thousands and thousands of health care speakeasies.
Yes, house calls will make a comeback as private citizens make private deals with doctors in their circle of acquaintance (compare with bathtub gin). But diagnostics requiring medical equipment, tests, and drug treatment will require facilities. Where might these be located without detection?
Well, how about bars and restaurants? You know, those back rooms and upstairs rooms that only insiders usually visit for clandestine poker games, et cetera. What is suspicious about going out to lunch or dinner or an evening drink? Costs can be considerably lower without impoverishing the doctor. No regulations, no need for malpractice insurance, no use for the markups of pharmacies (more on this later). The quality is controlled by reputation. A doctor who screws up loses customers by word of mouth, not hideously expensive lawsuits. A good doctor benefits the same way. There’s no advertising expense — no TV ads, no yellow page displays, only word of mouth.
In the event of a need for surgery or capital-intensive diagnostics (MRI, etc), there will still be emergency rooms, but that doesn’t have to be the only resort.
Who exists on the fringes of the healthcare industry, not yet fully ensnared in the forests of regulation and government funding and bureaucracy that so plagues contemporary medical practice? I give you dentists and veterinarians. More or less, they still operate as entrepreneurs, often doing cash deals in place of insurance minuets, and they have the ability to prescribe drugs. (I once knew a buccaneer vet who dispensed antibiotics and such to his intimates, because in many cases, they are the same drugs, just not so hard to come by.) Both vets and dentists also have surgical facilities OR the right to procure same. Both also have laboratory facilities or access to same.
Need an appendectomy? Call this number. An unmarked vehicle manned by a skilled driver will transport you to the back door of Doggies’R’Us, and a thoracic surgeon will do the job in the spotlessly sterile operating room you rely on for your cocker spaniel’s spaying operation.
But we haven’t gotten to the most colorful feature yet — moonshiners. Yes indeedy, if there’s one thing the world’s other black markets know how to do, it’s transport drugs anywhere and everywhere. What do you need? They can get it and fast. But in this case there’s a price they have to beat, meaning the going retail market price. Only they don’t have the same cost structure as a pharmacy. And they’ve got to stay within spitting distance of the price of veterinary equivalents.
All right. Enough of the road mapping. Black markets always find their own way. But I urge you to think about the possibilities. If people really do revolt, resist, opt out, whatever they call it, they have a chance to show everyone else how cheaply a free (if illegal) market can do things. People will be paying cash, whether they join groups or not, and they will think twice before they consult a doctor about a hangnail or a bout of indigestion. They will question what tests are needed. They will take responsibility for their own health, and doctors will have to replace paperwork with an old-fashioned bedside manner.
And moonshiners, er, medshiners, will become the new, glamorous pirates of America.