Tuesday, June 16

Deeply Fried

MY Poor Wife watches CBS Sunday Morning, which is where the old movie house newsreels went to die, and which, incidentally, as CBS's abiding legacy of Charles Kuralt, is the second greatest monument to polygamy in the country. She does this because there is usually a fine arts segment which she tapes to show her classes. I mean she would, if doing so didn't violate copyright laws. (Seriously. She's scrupulous about that; I think you're permitted something like a one-week time-shift, and that's it.) She still tapes 'em.

And it's not like I'm a young man, or like I don't enjoy croquet, word games, and naps, but CBS Sunday Morning is seriously, pointedly, self-consciously wizened. And one of their regular vaudevillians is a guy named BIll Geist, who's like Andy Rooney without the good material. He's the author of several best-selling books, including The Big Five-Oh! Facing, Fearing, And Fighting Fifty. They are the sort of best-selling book which features the author on the cover pulling a face which indicates his basic, decent, regular guy confusion over one or more of life's little foibles. Perhaps you've read one, on a bet.

It's not like I walk down the street purposely destroying any whimsical yard ornament I see. Live, let live, and give terminal suburbanites whose IQs barely exceed their golf handicaps a wide berth, I always say. But then my Poor Wife watches this show, and it's on in the blasted AM of a Sunday, when going outdoors to escape it is frequently out of the question. And this week, apparently under the impression that Injury requires Insult to achieve what they call on Oprah "closure", Bill Geist went to a Politically Incorrect burger joint.

Yeah, a politically-incorrect burger joint, the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, AZ, which specializes in the, let's say, massive, theatrically-presented dosages of fat and grease, lard-dipped, fried, and topped with sufficient cheeselike substance to physically camouflage two-to-four pounds of meat underneath shown above. This is known, in the Business, as schtick. When it is done to the exclusion of, or likely, for want of, actual good ideas the practitioner is known as "Carrot Top".

It is, in other words, the business concept of some guy who figured that the joke was good enough that you'd laugh just as hard the fiftieth time you heard it, and that furthermore there were enough people in, or passing through, the vicinity of Chandler, AZ so dedicated to striking a blow against Health Naziism that they'd spend money on this stuff. In this, the latter, we agree that the evidence suggests he's onto something; we are currently in the twenty-seventh year of the notion that saying something--anything, practically--which "violates" the "rules" of the "PC police" is as high as one need reach on the comedy or punditry scale. Although, for good measure, there's the hydraulically-enhanced waitresses in the Hooker Nurse outfits.

So we are not questioning the business acumen on display here; nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public, as P.T. Barnum, or H. L. Mencken, or Milton Friedman once said. It is, from all appearances, just good old-fashioned hucksterism, and harmless, unless you actually eat the stuff, or care about the aesthetics of the plate, or have reached adulthood. No, rather, we walked into the room just as some culinary yahoo was stuffing parts of one of those treats directly into his gizzard, and were immediately struck with two questions. The first was, "What th' hell happened that the former haunt of Charles "Warm and Fuzzy Americana" Kuralt, the man who drove around the country for twenty-five years, looking for authentic feature stories of the 'Real America', as well as any wives or children he might have stashed somewhere and forgotten?" Do we really find that authentic America in strip malls now, or is it just that they're easier to get to? (The camera work, by the way, and Geist's leering old man knee-slappers, suggested it was, in fact, the nurse outfits.) The second--you may have tumbled onto this--was "How long is pre-packaged 'political incorrectness' going to amuse the easily amused and profoundly shallow?" Hasn't Political Incorrectness pretty much reached the point where it, too, is a series of someone else's strictures imposed on a powerless public at large? If one endures a quarter-century of any and every act which does not further the cause of White Guys Continuing To Run Everything being condemned as "PC", hasn't the mere passage of time set that in stone, too? Unless I eat a stick of bacon-wrapped lard, on a bun, extra cheese, I'm spoiling someone else's fun?

There was one other thing we wondered, namely, "Is Bill Geist gonna say 'You can almost feel your arteries clogging' six more times, or seven?"

Of course the point about "Political Correctness" was always the political; the correctness was pure construct, born of the spurious notion that the nation's colleges and universities were "censoring" "conservative" thought, which, of course, will remain nonsense so long as there are business schools and economics programs, and which, in the particular, was akin to complaining that the nation's symphony orchestras unfairly blacklist the works of Lynnerd Skynnerd. It managed to thrive for some reason, like aerosol cheese, Objectivism, and Chevy Chase, among people who are too lethargic to think things through. It collected petty grievances about warning labels, child-proof caps, and handicapped parking like a serge suit collects lint, and to much the same effect. The Politically Incorrect universe demands you share in the offense of the white male forced to think before he speaks. It has never asked you to share the offense of the people he used to offend with impunity.

Because, of course, it's bullshit. It's a collection of the chips from various right-wing establishment shoulders which happened to click at a time when the Democrats were running around pissing themselves because Ronald Reagan had been named King of America in perpetuity. And because, in all this time, it's those same wingers who are really PC. They're the ones who've talked around what they really wanted to say. Which is why I was amused by the reaction to the Letterman business which accused the Right of "adopting" Political Correctness when it suits them. The fact is that they've been its main practitioners all along, and it's only in the recent, dark days (dark clouds, dim prospects, dusky First Family) they've been driven to abandon it.

But not on a plate.


heydave said...

First, allow me to predict that a stick of bacon-wrapped lard, on a bun, extra cheese should soon be making its way to an Iowa State Fair near you, albeit on a stick.

Second, nice column. Every time I hear "PC" my ass slams shut and I realize its some reactionary cracker I've been speaking to.

the bunny said...

"It collected petty grievances about warning labels, child-proof caps, and handicapped parking ..."
You left off my favorite "low flow toilets."
Apparently, with all that lard in their diets, Republican turds don't go down the hole.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but accusing pharisees of hypocrisy is nothing but political correctness run amok.



John deVille said...


You've deconstructed the right's deep-fried beer batter to reveal their guilty hearts.

Mencken and Poe tip their hats to you.

Uncle Omar said...

At the risk of revealing myself as an horrible person, I would have preferred a photo of "the hydraulically-enhanced waitresses in the Hooker Nurse outfits." to the photo of the lard burger.

TomMil said...

It's spelled Lynyrd Skynyrd for Gods sake.

Anonymous said...

"...was akin to complaining that the nation's symphony orchestras unfairly blacklist the works of Lynnerd Skynnerd."

Particularly funny to me (even with above noted typo), as my son's third grade class recently performed 'Sweet Home Alabama' on the Recorder at a recital.

Outstanding column as usual.