g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon Valley-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry and political bile.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

InstaPundit
USS Clueless
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Secular Islam
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog

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Sunday, September 5, 2004
15:46 - The sky is green, and all the leaves are blue

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It's easy to see how people get so they don't want to watch TV anymore. Sometimes it gets so that you can't even turn it on without feeling like you're peering into a freakshow, a Stargate to another dimension where everybody behaves according to the most cultured illogic imaginable, like Kirk in that one old Star Trek episode where he and Spock and McCoy foiled the evil robot of the Ron Jeremy villain by dancing around acting as incomprehensibly as possible until its head exploded.

I bring up Star Trek because two nights ago, in the wee hours, an episode came on that I can't imagine anyone even pitching today: The Omega Glory. If you're not familiar with it, just read the synopsis and think about how hard they'd laugh at you if you tried to submit this script in Hollywood today. Imagine what kind of world it must have been in 1968: one where intoning the preamble of the Constitution in a sci-fi show wasn't part of an irony-filled parody of McCarthyism or an indictment of American propaganda as being worse than anything the Stalinist state ever dreamed up. Imagine it being sincere.

For that matter, imagine an age where a utopian idealist like Roddenberry, committed to the idea of the abolishment of money and personal property and national identity, nonetheless produced this episode, which ends with Kirk smiling and exiting as the camera fades out over the faded and tattered Stars and Stripes. It's so cheesy and overdone it's distinctly embarrassing to watch, even for me; how did audiences react to it? I can't even begin to guess, as the concept of a world where a show like this can even be broadcast is utterly alien to my modern eyes. Nothing would surprise me.

Because flipping around the channels, I keep landing on things like Jay Mohr finishing up "Last Comic Standing" with a monologue about how "We'll be back after the Republican convention... yeah, those wacky Republicans..." to raucous catcalls from the audience; and other comics taking the stage to issue tired routines about how Bush stole the election by rigging the polls in Florida with the help of his brother, which elicits deafening cheers from the audience. Now, I know all too well that it's possible to laugh at a funny joke even if you disagree wholeheartedly with the logic underlying its premise. But have I completely lost my ability to find things like that funny? Or is it just that I'm too bowled over by the idea of whole roomfuls of people who see nothing wrong with the comedian's reasoning, and too frightened by that prospect, to toss it off with a giggle?

I wasn't quick enough to the remote on Friday, and the first few seconds of The Daily Show blared behind me before I had a chance to turn it off. Jon Stewart and his comic troupe of reporters were covering the convention, and the first thing they sneered about was how tight the security wasó"which shows you just how dangerous they thought WE WERE." Which is such an insultingly disingenuous piece of misleading language as to make me want to claw my eyes out: which convention was it that put all its protesters into a razor-wire-topped "Free Speech Zone" cage? And which one let the protesters run amok in the city? And which convention's protesters mobbed the downtown of the city all week long, causing vandalism and violent attacks and kidnapping flags (and planning much worse, like barrages of urine bombs and throwing marbles under the hooves of mounted cops' horses) until they had to be arrested by the scores, not to mention infiltrating the actual convention to be repeatedly within weapons range of the speakers? "There was a distinct feeling of fear in the air at this convention..." said the reporter, flashing a shot of a big projection screen saying FOR A SAFER AMERICA AND A FREER WORLD or something. And I wonder, just what kind of cataclysm would it take before our lionized and implicitly trusted comedy organs should start to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it's possible to be funny without cramming reality through a garlic press first? That it's possible to entertain without lying? When our first national impulse is to see the word FREE and read it as FEAR, hasn't the spirit of this country become completely obscured and banished from polite discourse? And shouldn't something be done about that?

I mean, just flipping on the radio is fraught with peril these days. I stepped into Lance's car to go get lunch because my own car was boxed in; he has KCBS running, and the only times I hear it are occasions like this. But I can't listen to five minutes of KCBS without hearing something that makes me furious. Last time it was the uncritical, ten-minute long promotion of Fahrenheit 9/11 put on by the on-scene reporters interviewing exiting moviegoers. And this time it was some guy from the "Progressive Democrats of America" (anyone wanna bet his favorite band is Rush?), responding to Henry Kissinger's remarks about the War on Terror by saying that "The way to make America safer is to make friends, not to make new enemies." I wanted to slam on the brakes and scream at the radio: So what you're saying is, we should have made FRIENDS with Saddam? We should be making FRIENDS with Bin Laden? Since when the %^&$ was Iraq a NEW enemy?! ... Not that it would do any good, of course. Just as it would do no good to shout at the author of this cartoon and ask him exactly how it's possible to be neither "with us or with the terrorists". But that's futility in its most distilled form, since we're talking about someone who can make Bush look like some kind of mutant rodent and Kerry resemble a square-jawed superhero, replete with halo and beatific grin.

Maybe I'm doing something to attract things to my senses that infuriate me. Maybe I've got some sort of magnetic field that starts right outside arm's reach that pulls freaky things into view, shows them to me just long enough to make me mad, and then clears them off and makes room for the next one. I really don't know. But if the alternative is sealing myself off in a little box, only to emerge for November 2nd and then re-ensconce myself like a groundhog, I'm not convinced that it's a worse choice. At least as far as my mental health is concerned.


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