THERE are times when teevee news seems stupid, banal, mendacious, flatulent, perverse, or hopelessly worshipful of the status quo, and there are other times when it seems an elaborate, multi-million-dollar side show designed by some impish god specifically to piss me off. Go ahead and guess which one this weekend was.
It began as I walked into the room to hear a local sub-anchor intone "Major 'oops' on the campaign trail" as a graphic of Hillary Clinton beamed beside her. As you may already know, unless this was all somehow staged just for my benefit, the junior Senator from New Yawk gave a stump speech in front of a screen which spelled it "TOMMORROW". In a land where the President of the United States is a barely-functional illiterate, in a land where that local station's news crawls are a source of endless grammatical malfeasance, in a land where someone who is paid to use words can say "Major Oops" without fear of retaliation, "TOMMORROW" is a major oops. I trust Ms Clinton has resigned by now.
Shortly thereafter, in what remains as the "features" section of the news despite the fact that roughly 95% of local news could now be so described, I learned that Friday was the fortieth anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's. I was to be reminded of this again and again over the weekend. At no time did any of this cause me to care.
That attitude is not in response to enforced cultural nostalgia brought to you by people who have no idea what they're talking about. Fortieth anniversary, fine, run a feature. Instead, I'm just tired, bone-weary, of any story that includes the word "hippie" as intoned by people who might, might possibly remember an older brother or sister splashing on the patchouli to follow Jerry Garcia around the Midwest in the mid-1980s. At some point the Official Culture--roughly around the time that it began asserting the whole country just loved The Gipper--decided, in the words of George W. Bush, that The Beatles were awright until they got all weird an' psychedelic an' stuff, and started telling America's youts to take LSD. This attitude was aided and abetted by an entire generationlet which was somehow forced to listen to nothing but Oldies radio throughout its formative years, and has been holding a grudge ever since. Meanwhile, Elvis, who reigned as King of Rock n' Roll for three years largely on the strength of music he stole from Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup--not "stole" as in "he stole black music", but "stole" as in "kept in indentured servitude in a shack near the Graceland property line"--followed by a two-year Army stint designed to keep his manager from being deported, followed by twenty-five years of eating Eskimo pies, playing Las Fucking Vegas and making movies that David Spade would have turned down, not only gets a free pass on the seventeen major central nervous system depressants in his bloodstream at his demise, he winds up on a fucking stamp.
And I don't give a fuck, in case I haven't said "fuck" enough yet. When times are gone they're not old, they're dead. Sgt. Pepper was never my favorite Beatle album (that would be Rubber Soul). I never listened to it on headphones. I didn't even have a stereo with a headphone jack until seven years later. I was a white suburban punk kid on a Stingray bike in 1967. Two brothers from my block had just gone off the Vietnam. I didn't give a...flip...about the Summer of Love. I don't care. I just wish they'd stop showing that thirty-second Hippies at a Be-In stock footage as though it tells us something about the Sixties, already, and go back to covering American Idol full time.
And please, Aimee Mann: I love you, but if you're gonna write something as patently silly as "Fiona Apple is a better lyricist than Paul McCartney" in a major metropolitan newspaper I'd just as soon remember you the way you were.
This was followed, eventually, by the bottom of the hour recap of Today's Top Story: Another Baggage-Handler Mastermind Foiled in His Attempt To Secure Enough M-80s to Blow Up the East Coast.
Then thanks to the miracle of tape delay, Sunday evening after chores I had just put away trying to figure out how a show featuring Mary Matalin and James Carville, and hosted by Tim Russert, would actually wind up on the air when it was time to start wondering how a round table discussion featuring George Will, Cokie Roberts, and what used to be Sam Donaldson's face could be imagined by anyone, anywhere, inside, outside, or under the Beltway, as bounding the American political debate. Fer cryin' out loud. I'm 53 years old--okay, 53 and a half--and I'm younger than everybody who appeared on the Sundays today except Stephanopoulos. (Face the Nation had Ken Salazar on, and he's a year younger than I, but I didn't tape it, plus combined with Bob Schieffer they total over 200 years old.) Fer chrissakes, out of nine panelists on two major network shows, only three were young enough to be Baby Boomers, and only Carville looks like he'd know how to fill a bong. George Effing Will started on that program when it began, at the beginning of the Reagan administration, as an affirmative action hire to combat the rampant liberalism of the press. That's rampant liberalism, as defined by Sam Donaldson, who was once--no, really, kids, this is the level of reality bending that occurred in those days; it's not a recent invention--considered the bête noir of the White House Press Corps. Donaldson was what Dan Rather was later to become--the inexplicable face of an indefensible conspiracy theory about a Press which was already sitting in Reagan's lap, purring contentedly.
I think I'm gonna leave Mary Matalin's public stupidity alone, on the grounds that she must have suffered a severe head injury she and Carville have kept from the public. She recommended "conservatives" and independents read the latest entry in the ever-popular History as a Series of Moral Lessons for Children, Michael Beschloss' Presidential Courage, which she seems to imagine will resuscitate Bush's reputation, or, at the very least, make everyone wait fifty years before judging the Iraq War disaster to be a disaster.As though the problem with Americans is they're too curious and not credulous enough.
Then FBI Assistant Director John Miller led off This Week, and after Georgie "Kid" Stephanopoulos read the whole litany of things this "Terror Cell" was not--including armed, funded, competent, or connected to al-Qaeda--Miller objected that there were no direct ties to al-Qaeda "as far as we know". Ninety seconds later, in response to a question about the timing of the arrests, he said, "Our primary concern about how long to run the case, when to take it down, was essentially to get all the intelligence out of it--what are the networks involved? What are the connections? Where is the money coming from?"
And yet, Director Miller, you closed it down without knowing for sure there was no al-Qaeda connection? And you now imagine it's sufficient to suggest that anyone, however delusional, who wants to blow shit up is "influenced" by al-Qaeda? Mr. Director, who do you think will be the really big breakout star of this year's Idol finalists?