“What is Time Magazine calling it this week? Drug-culture? Mini-culture? Micro-culture? They have a million hyphens over there at Time Incorporated. Throw them around! – George Carlin
“The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity… The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.” – Dr. Johnson
“While gossip among women is universally ridiculed as low and trivial, gossip among men, especially if it is about women, is called theory, or idea, or fact.” – Andrea Dworkin
Here’s something like 1300 words about how our family dinner-table conversations differs from yours.
Not that it’s ever been anything I really want to talk about, nor had it ever come up at dinner, but it does come up from time to time in general conversation. You see, when I was 15 I was possessed by a demon who claimed to be an imp named Bizmuth Rosea.
Steve to his friends.
How I got in that situation is still pretty murky. Other than a sudden infatuation with 12-tone music nothing much came of it nor did it last very long. One day during 10th-grade English we were paging through Jonathan Livingston Seagull as required reading when all of a sudden I began to sweat, my heart pounded, and my head was buzzing so badly I thought I was going to explode. That’s when I heard a clap of thunder. In the next instant there was Steve right in front of me. He looked like he was in tremendous pain as he was tried to crawl away as quickly as he could. Looking out I saw he made it as far as the curb before the dry heaves set in.
After class I went out to the sidewalk and helped him to get back up on hooves. We had a smoke in the parking lot and that’s when he asked, “What’s next? You have to analyze American Pie?”
No, we’re doing Mrs. Robinson first, then Don McClean’s Starry Night and then American Pie.
Looking way off into the distance he stamped out his cigarette and said he was done with me. He was just going to go back and face whatever his superiors dished out. Despite that he did keep in touch. Over the years he’d drop a line now and then. The last note came in around 1990. He was teaching trigonometry at a Catholic girls school near Des Moines which seemed more like Purgatory to me than Eternal Damnation.
But what do I know?
Where were we?
Oh yeah – Joe DiMaggio.
The 1970s started off so very sincere and earnest that by the end of the decade cynicism became its own art form. Starting on the front end of the decade, teachers really believed that song lyrics (e.g. Mrs.Robinson) could be used as a path to some sort of emotional enlightenment. In this case, we had to examine if people still had heroes and look at the people who were once held in high regard. In this case DiMaggio had a quantifiable record. His employment with the Yankees came with statistics, written records, and film of some of his better moments. Given that we could put pencil to paper and prove that he surpassed others in his line of work made him an acknowledged hero. If we were going to have a reference for who a hero might be then DiMaggio was just as good a place to start as anywhere else. But we forget in all this is that, even as kids, we weren’t very good at identifying the exceptional as that sort of thing had been outsourced to the media decades before we were born. DiMaggio is the exception to the rule in that the media didn’t have to work very hard to identify him as a hero – he did that for himself. This differed from how the media dealt with many people – appointing them to be the icon, or the face, of a given thing.
Which brings us to today’s topics at supper – Bruce Jenner and Andrea Dworkin.
It all began simply enough when Alaska Wolf Joe asked, “When are people going to shut up about Bruce Jenner and why does the media think this has absolutely everything to do with gender issues?”
As parents we had to step in and say- big media has no clue. This is strictly reflex – they are only doing what they’ve always done and done best. Right now that loud rattle you hear at Time magazine’s HQ is the pace maker of some rheumy-eyed old codger who serves as some sort of executive editor who is – right this second – working up a cover with Jenner’s picture on it with a bold-faced caption that reads, “THE NEW FACE OF TRANSGENDERED AMERICA.”
Not that there was an old face of transgendered America, but you know…
Work with me here.
Jenner got to be Jenner partially, like DiMaggio, by demonstrable ability and partially by media appointment. DiMaggio was a clean pick – everybody knows something about baseball. The Olympics are far more complicated and the media has always stepped into to anoint some one as America’s hero. Recently Jenner got elevated again as he is part of one of the last things the old media truly understands – reality tv. That’s kept his mojo going and that’s how he is now the centerpiece of what little the old media understands about transgendered people much less any gender issue. Not that they have to understand much – they just hit the highlights and make some one the face of the movement and move on to the next thing. At that point Andrea Dworkin came into the conversation, first as a side note and then as an example. Alaska Wolf Joe said that he and his ilk have moved on. They’re not waiting for a new Andrea Dworkin to be appointed by the media as the leader when it comes to coming up with thoughts and theories about gender issues. They’ll just run out their own thoughts and theories, thank you, and take their own chances.
That’s not real good news for either the old men at Time or the Baby Boomers. You know, us Boomers like nothing better than easily chewed concepts. We like it that some one stuck their neck out and did a tepid job of gathering up a few facts from the surface of an issue and then calling it good.
We don’t like getting our hands dirty with theory.
We like pictures on the cover of magazines with big bold headlines and cable tv know-it-alls.
Meanwhile at Time the nightmare scenario has happened. What was the artistic fringe is now the mainstream. We’ve gone from this video (WARNING:BAD WURDS!!) made in 1984 where a scant few say they are tired of the cultural hegemony the media. Instead of needing a 14-minute video starring taxidermy poodles and Cesar Romeo we now unconsciously hold a single thought.
We are fully aware that the old media has lost its ability to create cultural signifiers.
That’s not to say that Time is without utility. Last week at the 10-minute oil change place the guy sitting next to me found there was a hole in the bottom of his cup of coffee. He picked up a copy of Time that was lying around and used it as a coaster.
Anyway – the point is that us Boomers are on our own. We have to study trends and sort that kind of things out for oruselves. We are now our own best cultural anthropologists and post modern philosophers. Yes, this has come along late in life, but there is some good news. Us freelance theorists have an unofficial theme song and it’s a toe tapper!