Tina Fey has a new book out. And while we haven’t read it, there are some cultural rules that have been chiseled over the Ten Commandments, so you pretty much don’t have a choice: it will be funny; it will be the best thing a comedian has ever written in an actual book; if you don’t like it you must be a smoker or an addict or a midwestern conservative; if you get it from the library that’s even better, because Fey is pretty much an angel and doesn’t need or want the money, she really, truly, just wants to help; and she cannot, ever, get too much exposure a la the dad of that adorable Suri, or James Franco.
Unless of course she hosts the Oscars but doesn’t write the material, and shows up drunk, or disinterested, and then realizes how bad it’s going and grows despondent. Then we’ll get sick of her and say enough is enough…but that can’t happen for another year…so what will it take? When will Tina Fey become too much Tina Fey? When will we give Amy Poehler the tiara and thank Fey for her reign and set her on the shelf next to Orlando Bloom?
The underlying premise of the show Mad Men is that anyone can start over and/or do whatever they want at any time. (Or so the characters think.) One of the lead male characters lives under an assumed identity, and even when he is discovered, and outed, it doesn’t matter; his boss simply quotes a Japanese proverb claiming “A man is whatever room he is in.” It doesn’t matter who a man was…it matters who he is, right now, in this room.
Another character had a baby with no one knowing it, including herself, and promptly gave it up for adoption. The aforementioned male character finds her in the hospital after her absence from work worries him, where he tells her to get back to the office because “This never happened. You’ll be amazed at how much this never happened.” Reinvention, restarts, and rebirth work themselves through the subplots and storylines of each of the characters, and the consequences of their actions are as seemingly superfluous as the marketing copy they produce. They rebrand themselves as if they were one of the products hiring their Madison Avenue advertising firm.
In season two, as the previously aforementioned lead is dining with another of his many extra-marital conquests, he realizes she is as slippery, and reinvented, as he is. He asks how she came to be the agent and manager of one of the highest paid comedians in show business, especially when it is obvious that she actually shouldn’t be (were she not either posing as the comedian’s wife or sister, as the situation warrants). Her response was as Mad Men as any of the employees of the firm; “This is America. Pick a job and then become the person who does it.”
Is America really that wide open? Can we all become anyone we want to be, or anyone we are willing to be? Is it a noble or desirable thing to reinvent ourselves into something totally different, or hide what’s true about ourselves, or even discard the truth, with no regard for who is peripherally affected? When is the reinvention a con, and when is it a resurrection? What would you be…or are you one of the rarities who is actually what they want to be where they want to be it?
The unwritten zenith of ludicrous and inconsequential vocation (in the minds of Americans) that anyone can choose, besides a congressperson, is a movie producer. Producer credits are becoming as cheap and easy to get as Courtney Love tickets, and while no one knows what a producer does, exactly, everyone knows that, whatever it is, it doesn’t need to be done. Much like Congress. But congresspeople and producers are too innocuous to hurt the rest of us. That job belongs to the racists. Racists hurt everybody, even kindly yet mildly-annoyed bloggers. But as bad as racism is, the only philosophy or worldview ever devised that could possibly be worse than racism is animal cruelty. If you hurt a dog you will be judged in a layer of Hell that is occupied only by Hitler, Simon Cowell (eventually), and New Jersey Housewives (now) (they’re in New Jersey, am I right? Ba-Zing!).
A new video (we won’t link it, but the article does) of just such a person has set the world on fire, and mobilized the hacker community into a singular, tunnel-visioned grassroots movement, with motivation unseen outside of perverts and stalkers. In the video, Little Red Riding Hood is seen hurling a bucketful of puppies, one by one, into a Bosnian river. 4Chan hackers around the globe let go of their Mountain Dew and Oatmeal Cream Pies and set to finding the girl by pinpointing the YouTube account which posted the video; this is the same group who identified the woman who tossed a cat into a garbage can in England as Mary Bale of Coventry. (Sorry, Mary. But you did the worst thing ever done. You threw away a cat.)
But how and why did this become the most despicable thing to do? Why do people care more about pets than they do about victims of natural disasters, or political atrocities, or packs of tweens at the mall? Why are we more obsessed with bringing this happy girl to justice than we are any African leader, or than we are with seeing full restoration come to the country of Haiti? Would we care so much if, instead of a girl, she were a madam? And instead of animals, she was discarding overused and second-hand women trafficked from the other side of the world on a container ship? Would greasy nerds stop at nothing to track her down then?
In the latest installment (as of 1 September 2010) of The Conversation, where New York Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins quip online about recent issues or events between their more serious and critical columns, Brooks admits that he not only attended the Glenn Beck Tea Party Rally in Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, but that he also actually had a good time. We at the Pub thought the most pertinent part of the discussion came when Collins gave her assessment of the anger in the Tea Party movement:
Here’s my thought for the day. The Tea Party people say they’re angry about socialism, but maybe they’re really angry about capitalism. If there’s a sense of being looked down upon, it’s that sense of failure that’s built into a system that assures everyone they can make it to the top, but then reserves the top for only a tiny fraction of the strivers. Capitalism is also a system that lives off of change. When people say this isn’t the America they grew up in, they’re right. Nobody gets to grow old in the America they grew up in.
Is Collins right? If she is, and if you think you are old enough to have seen shifts in your pieces of America, what is different about it? What was it like when you grew up, and what is it like now? Does the American experiment, in even its darkest corners–or does capitalism, in its even darker alleyways–really inherently foster that much change? Or do you side with the following David Brooks answer, that “God and Mammon are intertwined?”
I guess I’d put it this way. Every society has to engird capitalism in a restraining value system, or else it turns nihilistic and out of control. The Germans have a Christian Democratic set of institutions, enforced by law. The Swedes have their egalitarianism. Since the days of Jonathan Edwards, we have developed a quasi-religious spirituality that informally restrains the excesses of the market. God and Mammon are intertwined. Many people feel that the values side of this arrangement is dissolving. Both the government and Wall Street are leaping into the void, to bad effect.
In season one of The Wire Detective Bunk Moreland is discussing with a street banger named Omar why Omar plays the game the way he does. Omar admits to dirt, but brags “I ain’t never put my gun on nobody who wasn’t in the game.” To which Bunk replies, “A man must have a code.”
What’s your code? Hipsters wear shrink-wrapped tees proclaiming similar codes of conduct also emblazoned across the over-sized tees of video gamers, bragging (untruthfully) that all their lives exhibit the discipline and structure of certain sets of unbending, proven, canonized rules, distinguishing the strong from the weak and the right from the wrong; the pirate code, the samurai code, the soldier code, the athlete’s code, the gamer code, even the celebrity code. So what is your code, and what 5 rules, if you had to boil it down to a mere 5, mark (or should mark) a life that actually adhered to it?
If you’re at BP headquarters you have got to be thankful for the Ground Zero Mosque (which is not exactly at Ground Zero, but close enough) debate. It’s juicy, it’s extending the pundit careers of rich folks who will continue buying your product, and it’s taking our ire away from your vapid efforts in the gulf. (Although no one has yet suggested that the Moslem group behind the planned mosque is funded by BP, it’s only a matter of time before someone merely drops the suggestion in a small but horribly well-done and critically acclaimed blog.) The topic is big enough to grab attention of even those at the top of the power chain, and everyone seems to be obliged to weigh in on it.
The whole issue, on both sides of the aisle, is eye-raising; Many think it’s an affront and a travesty to build a worship house of Islam near the Grand Poobah of Moslem atrocities.* Others think it’s an affront and a travesty to deny any religious freedoms to any group within the borders of the Grand Poobah of religious experiments, regardless of hidden motives or agendas. Irrespective of the camp into which people fall, or jump, the issue is so polarizing and tense that emotions get toked and fed even when calm statements are made by one of the calmest presidents in the history of the United States:
As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
Even moderates, accused of “employing a clever little dodge” in affirming the right to build the mosque while questioning the wisdom to do so seem to be getting observers all riled up, while others offer up examples of “what Obama should have said” about the whole endeavor.
So are you riled up? Do you care either way about this? Do you take the Ground Zero Mosque as an insult? Or perhaps more interesting, what do you think of the proposed venture to put a Moslem gay bar next to the mosque; Funny? Poor taste? Irony? On point? Do you agree with opponents that Islam is masquerading behind religious freedom while calmly seeking to undermine American principles (whatever those are), or is everyone masquerading behind their own subjective sets of standards, or fears?
*That’s relative, of course, depending on where you live; Ugandans or Somalis or Sudanese or Kurds or Serbs or Indo-Chinese might beg to differ.