Lately I’ve been spending too much time surfing the Internet. There’s a lot to take in, much of it Teflon. To compensate for the uneventful and/or repetitious nature of my life, I sometimes go online for inspiration. I take notes, jotting down phrases referring briefly to topics to blog about. Days later, the subjects are already stale and out of date. It’s frustrating. I’d prefer to be an artist, someone who dwells in timeless universalities, instead of getting bogged down in trivia and remaining a hackneyed hack.
But since trivia is where most of us live nowadays, here are a few desultory comments about some crap that’s been flying into my windshield lately.
Celebrities with Feet of Clay
Have you heard about the accusations several women have made against Bill Cosby? You can read all about it on Alternet.org and Newsweek‘s website. After the resurrection of the Woody Allen sexual abuse of an elementary school girl scandal allegations (the “allegator,” to quote James Joyce, being Dylan Farrow), the beloved pompous ass who portrayed smug dickhead Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the TV sitcom named after him for too many years (the character being married to a lawyer, the prevailing situation for most urban African-Americans, of course), has been accused of having drugged and raped a number of women while they were unconscious.
“Here, baby, have some vanilla-flavored Jello Pudding. Or Maybe you’d prefer a drink of my Cock-o-cola.”
You may find the above quote offensive; may be, but so are the accusations. As Canadian verbal artist Jenny Holzer would say, “Disgust is the appropriate reaction to most situations.”
That it’s not just one woman pointing the finger at the voice of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids suggests the veracity of the accusations (echoes of the Michael Jackson scandal). Even though Silly Billy and Woodrow Allende will never have to do prison time, or even have to appear in court to face their accusers formally, at least they’ll have to squirm a little before diving off the stage into their graves (unlike their mentor, the BBC’s notorious perennial pedophile, Jimmy Savile, host of the children’s television programme Jim’ll Fix It, who was posthumously denounced for being a creep by scores of women who didn’t have the nerve to go after him while he was still alive as he was such a sacred cow, cherished by the royal family as well as the Beatles; his name should be pronounced “So Vile”).
Turns out they’re not so beloved after all.
Speaking of people named Dylan–and of sellouts or fellow corporate shills–I finally watched the TV commercial Bob Dylan made for the Super Bowl. What is he, running of president all of a sudden? A fine article by Tony Kashani on the brilliant website truth-out.org, entitled “Bob Dylan and the Ethics of Market Fascism,” dissects the phenomenon beautifully. If the best that the author of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” can do anymore is hawk clunkers for Chevy, what does that say about what we (meaning the US, if not the world at large) value as a culture? Kashani points out that Dylan is also a dyl-do for parroting racist claptrap in the second half of the ad, pigeonholing Germany as the country that makes beer, Switzerland as the land of watches, and all of Asia, where the lion’s share of people on earth live, as our humbly underpaid smart phone manufacturers.
Disgraceful, Bob. You just kinda wasted my precious time, but don’t think twice, it’s all right.
(There’s also an amusing YouTube clip from a parody of the ad created by the folks on Conan O’Brien’s show that’s worth a chuckle.)
Are We Going to Hell in a Handbag, or Heaven in a Hearse?
Last summer I read Stephen Emmott’s book Ten Billion, a sobering work. Or so I thought at the time. Yesterday I read a review on the Guardian’s website excoriating Emmott for being a misanthrope who pulls facts and statistics out of his backside. (I’m very sorry I don’t have the name of the author for you at the moment, but if you’d like I can provide it for you in the next post.) The author’s measured criticism ends with a long list of things supposed scientist Emmott got wrong. I didn’t even have time to read the whole thing.
Whenever I read something like that, I start feeling guilty about my own misanthropic tendencies and remember that when it comes to plundering the earth’s natural resources, I’m an especially egregious offender myself. George Orwell once said he never met a man worse than he was. Lucky for him he didn’t live long enough to meet me. Between photocopying things for my students to read or discuss, blowing my allergic nose, and wiping my bum, I use enough paper to clear-cut the old-growth forests in British Columbia in a week. Since I can’t seem to blink without breaking a sweat, I have to shower at least twice a day, and my overzealous bladder, kidney, and prostrate trio require that I use the toilet more than most people too. I also eat enough solid food to ensure a more than regular supply of bowel movements. Too much information–fair enough. At least I don’t usually let the tap run while brushing my teeth anymore, and I hardly ever drive a car these days. But I make up for it by eating a shit-load of meat and flying half-way around the earth twice a year (it’s always a round trip) for my Persephone-like reunion with my family.
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from the Monkees
Do you know who the Monkees are? You may have heard a few of their songs, such as “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Stepping Stone,” or “I’m a Believer.” Or perhaps you’ve seen their TV show, which aired around the same time as The Banana Splits, back in the late sixties, shortly before H. R. Pufnstuf took the world by storm. I’m not a huge Monkees fan–who is?–but lately the lyrics from one of their more profound songs have been going through my head. It’s not a particularly great song, but the words are worth ruminating over. The song, “Shades of Gray,” was sung by Davey Jones (who has since been reunited with his locker). I suppose since he was English, he would have spelled it “Shades of Grey.” I’ll have to find the authors of the lyrics for you later; again, apologies for the oversight.
The song has the same wistful thrust as Supertramp’s “Logical Song.” The singer starts out lamenting that now that he’s older, figuring out life and how to live has become a lot more complicated:
It was easy then to tell what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care
But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray.
The other lyric I like, which reflects what I wrote about above, goes as follows:
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise.
As for the part about who to hate, the answer is: nobody. Hate never got anyone anywhere. Every religious tradition worth a shekel has it that hate can never dispel hate; only love can.
Amen to that, homes.
By the way, since my heart is still troubling me rather insistently, and I may pass away shortly, allow me to thank you once again for your kindness and to mention in the name of shameless self-promotion my old blog, http://lettuceprey.weebly.com. It’s got some Twitterish snippets, along with about a thousand anagrams, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I wrote it under the pseudonym Tom Renshaw, which is an anagram of my name, Stew Harmon.)
Over and out, my friend(s). May God, peace, love, good fortune, and a sea of fluffy bunnies be with you.
P. S. Please see Robert Redford’s movie All Is Lost if you haven’t already. (Caution: You might have to watch it twice to catch all the dialogue.) It’s a great film about a lone man’s struggle to survive on the high seas of the Indian Ocean. He’s the only actor who appears on the screen throughout the picture; I can’t think of anyone else who could have pulled off that trick, but as a laconic man of action, Redford fits the bill. The movie could have been called Jeremiah Johnson’s Less Than Excellent Adventure on a Sailboat.