July 26, 2004

What a drag it is getting old

* Baffler's Thomas Frank on How the Democrats Lost Kansas. excerpt:

"Sociologists often warn against letting the nation's distribution of wealth become too polarized, as it clearly has in the last few decades. Societies that turn their backs on equality, the professors insist, inevitably meet with a terrible comeuppance. But those sociologists were thinking of an old world in which class anger was a phenomenon of the left. They weren't reckoning with Kansas, with the world we are becoming.

"Behold the political alignment that Kansas is pioneering for us all. The corporate world -- for reasons having a great deal to do with its corporateness -- blankets the nation with a cultural style designed to offend and to pretend-subvert: sassy teens in Skechers flout the Man; hipsters dressed in T-shirts reading 'FCUK' snicker at the suits who just don't get it. It's meant to be offensive, and Kansas is duly offended. The state watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities say stupid things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And when two female rock stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas comes running to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those rock stars' taxes.

"As a social system, the backlash works. The two adversaries feed off of each other in a kind of inverted symbiosis: one mocks the other, and the other heaps even more power on the one. This arrangement should be the envy of every ruling class in the world. Not only can it be pushed much, much farther, but it is fairly certain that it will be so pushed. All the incentives point that way, as do the never-examined cultural requirements of modern capitalism. Why shouldn't our culture just get worse and worse, if making it worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier?"

* If you have not seen How's Your News yet, see it asap. It is the brainchild of Arthur Bradford, the author of the excellent book of short stories, Dogwalker. How's Your News, if you are not aware, is a documentary about a group of disabled folks who go around the country randomly interviewing people.

The film grew out of a workshop Bradford conducted for several years at Camp Jabberwocky, a summer camp for adults with disabilities. The workshop gave participants video cameras, with which they crafted news reports and man-on-the-street interviews about the goings-on at camp. Bradford subsequently got funding (from 'South Park' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker and Cold Spring producer John Pierson) to take five members of the workshop on a cross-country van tour to take the video pulse of the nation.

Great scenes include the gang at a Nashville honky talk, and teaching a Greyhound busload of people on their way to L.A. the very catchy What's Your News theme song.

* Not surprising: Ricky Williams retirement. Surprising: Mick Jagger turns 61 today.

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