vendredi, janvier 22, 2010

Best of, Most of . . .

Well known, perhaps even painfully obvious, is Entertainment Axiom #21: A "best of" or "greatest hits" compilation spells the end. There are no exceptions. It has been true for every musical entity you've ever loved. (The recent Clay Aiken compilation being simply the most gloriously hilarious). It was true for the Simpsons when they ran their first "clip" show--though the writers/producers claimed they put it out simply to placate an impossible schedule imposed upon them by Fox.
This is a truth we have to admit and face without compromise. Too often, we fool ourselves into thinking that because we like something it should continue. Face it, the world would be a better place without the final 6 seasons of M*A*S*H. The BBC has it largely right: Cancel the show while the flame is still bright. Don't give us too much of a good thing and leave us wanting less.

We therefore bid a fond farewell to The Office (American version), of which a clip/montage show aired Thursday, January 21. Even as it reminded us of how glorious the show was in its prime, the episode confirmed the vague feelings of inferiority this season with a palpable goodbye. To the viewer who claims that the vitality of the montage of past genius is a reason to continue, we simply say you are wrong: when the collective memory of the past makes the present pale, put a bow on it and get it under glass with a quickness. And move on. When I literally cried with Pam as Jim simply asked her out to dinner (a television moment never equalled by the show since, and rarely equalled by any show anywhere), I came to understand that coasting on that greatness is a mirage. In this case, one's thirst is better slaked by the memory of the past than by the false hope of future satisfaction. Let it be with Television as with Life: let it go. Please.

I don't know why American shows insist on coasting to a slow, painful death. But if The Office goes on beyond this season, it can only be as a sad tribute to the gravity incurred by the attainment of great heights, and I'd rather not witness the decent any further.

samedi, janvier 09, 2010

A Little Dream I Had--part two

The cameras flashed like any press conference. The legit press--or was it a town hall meeting?-- gathered around, taking notes. Standing outside, with cotton candy stuffed into their mouths until they gagged, were the gaggle of reporters who had been asking Obama questions like: "What has enchanted you about being president?" and essentially giving him a free pass on everything and letting his teleprompter answer for him. Even further down the road was a port-a-potty where everyone who had ever screamed a protest slogan or shouted down a speaker in a public forum was being crammed with ruthless efficiency. (There were many of them. They were very uncomfortable.) The Daily Show and Fox news had been told that there was a monumental pile of political hay on the other side of town, the kind for which their constituents are so hungry. They ran to it as though it would cure their raging rabies.

Even after these precautions had been taken, there remained a few idiots in the room. Some of them were intelligent idiots. We decided to proceed. At the pulpit was the Presidential Nominee of the New Federalist Party. She, (or he--we never even discussed gender) stood there without a prepared statement. There was no teleprompter. No action committee had trucked in supporters. No operatives had filtered through the audience and dismissed people who might disagree. The Networks had not been allowed to line up anything controversial for ratings.

The first question came: As President, what will you do about Education?

Quickly came the answer: NOTHING! Why would you ask the president about education? Before asking a question like that, you might peruse the Constitution. Then ask yourself: Does it give the president any authority or purview over education? You might further ask, "How the hell did the people of this country get fooled into thinking that an elected official in freaking Washington DC should have ANYTHING to say about the running of their school in Colfax, California--or anywhere else? So yes, my answer is, literally, I'm not going to do anything about education. I'm not supposed to. Get up off your couch and go to the local School Board meeting. Better yet, join the PTA and see how you can help out. This is not an issue that the federal government has the tools to consider. Next question.

Now there was a pause. The candidate spoke clearly, and like a real person, whose authority comes from confidence, rather than buzz lines followed by mandatory pauses for applause. The press were taken aback.

The second question was a little tentative: Your party's platform seems ambivalent on certain issues. for instance, What is your position on abortion?

The candidate smiled before answering: My position on abortion is officially irrelevant. I believe, with all my heart, that the federal government should have nothing to say about it. But since this will, apparently, not suffice, I'll give you my personal opinion. I think the idea of sucking a partially formed or potential human being out of a woman's body with a vacuum, or plucking it out with forceps, is disgusting and anyone with a soul feels the same way. But I also despise the kind of political activism that would protest outside a clinic where a woman is having one. Each state should decide that issue for itself and then you can move to a state where abortions either happen or don't, whichever makes you feel like you can go on living. Like most other issues, this should shake out on a local level. Does anyone have a question about something the President is supposed to decide and act upon?

A sea of hands went down. A burly ex-marine and an unwashed hippy peacenik stood and simultaneously said: What about the military?

The candidate smiled again: Wow, stereo! You know what? Believe it or not, I think I can satisfy both of you at the same time. This is, in fact, one of the few things the President is supposed to manage effectively. I believe in a strong military--but not necessarily in a gigantic, invasive one. My sacred trust, as President, will be to protect our country. I don't see how sending our forces out all over the world accomplishes that. Under my watch, we will no longer be regulating conflicts in other nations, unless I perceive a DIRECT and IMMEDIATE threat to our national security. Let me be clear. All troops will return from foreign shores. All forces will focus on national defence. And you know what?
This is an opportunity to address the idea of foreign aid. I'll be withdrawing it. Entirely. Until we pay off the national debt, we will send ZERO money overseas. Before you go hating me for that, think about it for a second. How does a country with TRILLIONS LESS THAN NOTHING send money to other countries? If your parents were in the hole, would you go to them with your hand out? Even if you did, could they help you? Think about it. By the way, once our debt is erased, believe me, whatever surplus we generate will go to the neediest countries we can find. We absolutely have a responsibility to help the less fortunate. Which begs the question: What have YOU done lately, with your own damn time and money, to help the less fortunate? You know why you want the government to dish it out? Because YOU DON'T, and yet you still want to appropriate, somehow, the good feeling of living in a world where people help each other. Get off your couch and open your wallet and help someone. Then maybe you'll stop crying when your government fails to do something it isn't supposed to do anyway.

At this point, a large section of the audience was getting into it. They had never heard a political candidate talk like this. They asked about taxes. About crime. About the movie rating system. The answers were all in the same clearly exciting vein. When it was over, it was clear that the next election was going to be very interesting indeed.

And then I woke up.