Friday, May 23

Friday Reiterative Redundancy Blogging

1) David Brooks, "I'm A Geek, Dammit, Not A Nerd":
At first, a nerd was a geek with better grades. The word described a high-school or college outcast who was persecuted by the jocks, preps, frat boys and sorority sisters. Nerds had their own heroes (Stan Lee of comic book fame), their own vocations (Dungeons & Dragons), their own religion (supplied by George Lucas and “Star Wars”) and their own skill sets (tech support). But even as “Revenge of the Nerds” was gracing the nation’s movie screens, a different version of nerd-dom was percolating through popular culture. Elvis Costello and The Talking Heads’s David Byrne popularized a cool geek style that’s led to Moby, Weezer, Vampire Weekend and even self-styled “nerdcore” rock and geeksta rappers.

If  you, say, are rehabilitating a surgically-repaired knee, and you experience a bout of pain--acute or chronic--it crosses your mind that it may be the results of working the thing, or it may be some sort of reinjury. And you realize it's a problem you're not going to solve; you either wait it out or you return your wallet to the healthcare industry.

Likewise, over the past eight years I can't tell if I've simply gotten older or people have truly gotten stupider, but even if it's the former I don't think David Brooks is helping matters any. This sort of construction--The Reflection of All Matter In The Universe Is Determined By How I Became Aware Of It--is a goddam pandemic, and not the good kind that eventually raises working class wages, either, but the bad kind that makes everyone dress like something from a John Travolta movie for six months. I'm not going to argue about this "Fonzie popularized 'Nerd' business". Maybe he did, maybe he didn't; I remain as ignorant of that and every other piece of commercial "comedy" tied to Garry Marshall as it's possible to be and still have electricity.  To be sure, the term started spewing like projectile vomit from the lips of every teenybopper and their intellectual cohort at the time, a veritable Where's the Beef? of hilarity; but it was simultaneously denuded of the perfectly expressive meaning it had carried for years, and turned into a sort of medium-purpose insult for the television-addicted witling.  So it's like crediting Lazlo Toth for helping out with The Pietà.  It's bad enough that David Brooks is nearly fifty, on the pages of the Times, and still thinks history is something that flew out of his ass at age eight. And Nostalgia sucks ass, for precisely the reason on view here: it's dominated by people who can't tell the difference between Preston Sturgis and The Three Stooges, or Elvis Costello and The Fonz. But it's Happy Days that makes the damn thing twenty times worse, since it's a matter of people being nostalgic for a piece of manufactured nostalgia too cheesy to qualify as cheese food. This is fine, as a mindless diversion, in a Hey Man Is That Freedom Rock sorta way, provided you're under twenty-six. Thereafter it's just embarrassing.

Like you, I'm sure, I've learned about stuff from all over. It wouldn't occur to me to attribute some insight about the manipulation of the German economy after WWI to postmodernism just because I first read about it in Gravity's Rainbow, and I sincerely hope that the success of Cats has nothing whatever to do with Eliot's fisticuffs with Ezra Pound in "Desolation Row". David Byrne and Elvis Costello are artists, and uncommonly good ones as rock-and-roll goes. Their public images--then--had nothing to do with the rise of Bill Gates, George Eff Will, or David Effing Brooks, just as they do not have anything whatever to do with art.

Sure, the column was a lazy way to take a five-day weekend without missing "work", but what's the distinction between this and believing Ronald Reagan winning the Cold War "felt" "true"?

2) Via Roy, it's the Senator from Arizona we imagined we were done with for the week:
But I am running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. That is the highest privilege in this country, and it imposes the greatest responsibilities.

The President is Commander-in-Chief in time of war, Senator, which I realize you think is now a permanent condition of that America you hope to command, but it ain't. That clearly was the only conception possible in the 18th Century, though even that only lasted until John Adams realized it meant he'd have to climb on a horse and get shot at. Even with the rise of standing armies it remains the case that the President exercises civilian control, except in wartime or, briefly in an emergency.   His Constitutional powers do not trump the system, or aren't intended to; he can command the military for just so long. What you're referring to is the permanent militarization of the country begun by Wilson and cemented in the aftermath of WWII, when we decided we hadn't yet killed everybody we wanted to. It's a situation which has led us into three disastrous major wars in sixty-five years, and it's a situation crying devoutly for complete overhaul before another idiot dick-measurer in the Oval Office tries again. It's too fucking late to try re-wrapping it in the Flag, Senator. It's time to be a real patriot and own up.


Anonymous said...

Riley writes: The President is Commander-in-Chief in time of war, Senator,...

Well, actually, he's Commander-in-Chief any old time, but more importantly, he's Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, not the whole dag-nab United States.

It's an important distinction, and one that is lost on Dubya as well.

I often wonder, given McCain's animosity to care and compensation for veterans, if this didn't have its genesis in the erstwhile prisoner-of-war McCain sulking in his vietnamese oubliette, cursing the army that did not come to rescue him.

Just speculation, I know, but you'd think that this military man would be more a champion of the welfare of the armed forces, wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Of all of your brilliant topics, "English. It Makes a Poor Cudgel." is by far my favorite.

heydave said...

I wish those war vets would quit whining and marry their own goddam rich broads.

More importantly, I really wish Bobo would finally regale us with stories of those swirlie episo

heydave said...

...des that so obviously haunt him still.

Anonymous said...

Mr Riley -- Your cudgel may be poor, but it is grandissimo eloquent. Surely a turn on the "eBay" will raise its value.

You realize the revealing palindrome "leg-duck cudgel" seems strangely a-propos in these circumstances. As may be "Yer ill, Riley" if only yer name was Lirey. Shure now.

His marq-de-combat

Anonymous said...

And BTW can't some clever Geppetto make a howdy-doody marionette out of Brooks's puppet-smile face? It calls out for it so plaintively. Where is that Drew Carey these days?

His damMark agin

Anonymous said...

I think McCain should get his wish and be named to the Most Exalted Office of Commanderissimo in Chief, so he can wear the really big medals just like other junta leaders. (I believe the one just to the left of his navel is the Order of the Cranky Sun, for Meritorious Tantrums in the Service of the Party.

Kathy said...

I wonder if McCain (who's name gives me visions of McDonald's: McMansions and so on)is askeered that the updated GI bill will cause a lot more people to JOIN the military, thereby rendering Blackwater (major Repug Pals) un-needed, and destroying all that sweet sweet graft and bribery. Not to mention the pleasing notion of imposing "Martial Law" on the entire U.S. fading away, as few Military folk would comply.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to David Brooks, it doesn't sound like he said it was history that flew out his ass at age eight. It was nurds that flew out his ass. And calypso singers flew out after, laughing at them while fishermen held flowers.

This stuff about John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and commander-in-chief, well, maybe. The presidents I sort of remember, starting with Truman, never made any big whoop about commander-in-chief. As I remember, all of them, even Nixon, assumed that it was a part of the job that went without saying. Sure, Bonzo liked military reviews and saluting, but I don't remember even his people making a big deal about commander-in-chief. The commander-in-chief thing came into prominence when the right-wing noise generator was firing up in the '90's and somebody had the idea of asking how soldiers could march proudly behind an asthmatic commander-in-chief like Clinton, who couldn't even choke down an honest lung full. All of a sudden it was like, how are we ever going to avenge the Mayaguez without Gerald Ford to march in front of the trombone section and inspire the Troops?

That's part of why they put this chump up against Al Gore in the first place. George W. Bush, a certified sky pilot from the Texas air guard. Maybe we can get some sort of photo op where we land him on an aircraft carrier in a cod-piece and make this nation proud again. Commander-in-chief. I'd re-think these Adams and Wilson angles. It might be a lot simpler than that.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

As you well know, I turn here when Brooks bellows forth just to read you set him straight. But I must respectfully disagree. But just this once.

The president is commander in chief 24/7 whether at war, at peace or at police action. It never stops. And I don't know how it was possible that the founders ever thought it would since the British and the French and the Indians were at us constantly.

But he is a civilian yet he can take control of civilian industries and resources only when he is acting with Congress' declaration of war. But he can as commander in chief send troops anywhere anytime without a declaration of war.

There is no qualifier in the constitution or constitutional law saying when he cannot act as commander in chief--he can act as long as Congress does not occupy the field as they say.

D. Sidhe said...

Clustering, here too late and too drugged to even do what normally passes, when people are generous, for witty. But re: 1) your wife is a lucky woman. Even post-op pain makes you riotously entertaining in a way that makes me want to demand "snark" be retired and "trenchant satire" be resurrected as the description du jour for bloggers.

Re 2) reading about republicans is certain to make me barf some more, so I'm not gonna.

yellojkt said...

A long time ago I blogged about the subtle distinctions between Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks. David Brooks, I believe, is all three.

Kia said...

...too cheesy to qualify as cheese food...

I believe the technical term you seek is cheese food product.

Anonymous said...

I'll let you off the commander in chief comment.

Simply put, nostalgia sells.