January 26, 2005

Death of a Salesman

So Johnny Carson has finally coughed his way off this mortal coil and up onto the big buff-colored soundstage in the sky. Let us pause for a moment, gentle friends, and reflect upon the Great Man’s legacy.

This task might actually prove rather difficult, once one really tries to get into it. Was Carson a great humorist? Only if you’re fond of the wheezy, "baDUMP-bump" style of jokery that might have given your grandparents a few feeble cackles after the evening’s third glass of cheap bourbon. Was he a kind and generous human being, a pleasant companion and a benefactor of the weak and vulnerable? "Colossal, drunken asshole" seems to have been the preferred classificatory term used by everyone who ever actually socialized with the man. Did he permanently transform the landscape of popular culture – was he a Bob Dylan, a Jim Henson, a Steven Spielberg or a Raymond Chandler? On careful reflection, I’d have to say that he was more of a Clifford Suggs. What – you’ve never heard of Clifford Suggs? Well…all right, neither have I.

Here’s one thing Carson did better than anyone before or since, though – he managed to persuade Mr. And Mrs. America that advertising is really entertainment! Consider the format of The Tonight Show. Guest arrives. If guest is male, guest makes a few feeble, formless wisecracks; if guest is female, guest tosses hair and gives the camera a flash of barely concealed tit. Guest then proceeds to shill for some ghastly movie, book, pop record or (sweet mother Mary, help us) speaking tour for about ten minutes. Then we pause for…what?…surely not…a commercial?

My suggestion for a mourning ritual, then, is this: everyone who feels the need to grieve should set aside an entire day to do nothing but watch pre-recorded infomercials. In slow motion. Without the aid of alcohol or human companionship. Until well after their normal bedtimes.

January 24, 2005

A New Addition to the Western Canon

I knew that I had to start up this blog - with the sort of deeply mystical insight usually reserved for Hebrew prophets, Otis Redding and shivering men in rubber rooms who soil themselves regularly and believe themselves to be in permanent conversation with demons named Bruce - the very moment that I read this unutterably puerile article in The Weekly Standard about Bush's second inaugural address (click on the title above to go and take a look at the wretched piece).

So now our President gets props for being a Great Philosopher. Never mind that as far as speechwriting goes, he's even more of a ventriloquist's dummy than most modern presidents. Never mind that his remark about Christ being his favorite Deep Thinker was so callow a piece of political rhetoric that it should have made an eight-year-old sneer. And never mind that Jesus' one genuinely novel idea (not really a "philosophical" one, since the J-man seems to have preferred just announcing his opinions from hilltops, rather than muddying his feet by engaging in actual argumentation) was that you should learn to love your enemies. As opposed to, say, bombing the shit out of them, cutting their medical benefits or disenfranchising them when they try to vote against you.

Could the level of public discourse sink any lower in this country? Clearly what the world needs now is a for a few brave men and women to sit up slowly off their couches of contemplation, rummage around in the cupboard until they find the dusty Bullshit Detectors that they acquired during their college days and oil up those neglected machines for immediate use. I have set myself this chore herein - go now, beloved reader, and do thou likewise.