Perhaps most accurate metaphor for this war occurs whenever the news runs a feed from an Arabic language station. Our crawl runs in one direction; theirs runs in the other. You almost expect the crawls to twine like DNA and start fighting - and in that case, the English language would lose. Arabic is so spiky. However lovely the poetic sentiments might be, it still looks like knives and swords to me.

Late Sunday afternoon radio: what a graveyard. Repeats and rehashes, or shows that weren’t quite spry enough to make that Saturday afternoon time slot, when the audience is running errands, doing chores. Today I was coming back from the grocery store, and I turned on NPR. The show was “On the Media,” presented by Bob Garfield. You might find him wry and clever; you might find him dry as fine-grit sandpaper and insufferably self-satisfied. Your call. There’s a female co-presenter whose name I didn’t catch, and she was doing a story on Fox’s “24.” Apparently they have a plotline that has to do with terrorism and war and the Middle East - why, what an odd coincidence, eh? Here’s how she introduced the story:

“Life imitates art, if you can call a Fox prime-time TV show ‘art.’”

I think she may have said it another way - “Art, if you can call a Fox prime-time TV show ‘art,’ imitates life?” Same thing. It was a reminder that to some rarified souls “Fox” is a fatal taint, a single syllable that stands in for all that booboisie whee-ha jingo demographic they never meet but read so much about. Yes, “The X-Files” was art, by most definitions, and for a while it was pretty good art at that. And “The Simpsons,” being drawn by hand, is certainly art. But we know what she meant. You know. Fox.

I watch all the news channels, and I have to hand it to Fox: their main war logo is designed to make some people pitch an absolute fit. They use the name of the campaign - Operation Iraqi Freedom - without scare quotes, and as it turns and shines to the sound of horns and snares, a jet flies into the picture AND TURNS INTO AN EAGLE. I imagine they mocked up a few logos, but this one seemed to contain the most Foxitude. Still, the person who signed off on these things wasn't satisfied. He thought for a moment, then said: the eagle needs to scream at the end.

Slapped foreheads all around. Of course! And so the eagle now screams as he leaves the frame. End result: one third of the audience doesn’t notice the screaming eagle. One third of the audience LOVES that screaming eagle. One third of the audience is quietly gratified by the knowledge that the screaming eagle just drives some people nuts. Or would, if they watched Fox.

Fox News! “We’re the network whose anchors can report American combat victories without sounding as if they soaked their underwear in cold water and filled them with sand. Now with thirty percent more predatory birdsong!”

Which brings me to Fox Prime Time. Watched the Simpsons tonight, and it made me imagine the requisite story conference a year ago, when the script was approved.

“You seem to be frowning, bud.”

“Well . . . it’s - it’s . . . “

“Say it, that’s what we’re hear for.”

“Well, it’s not funny overall, and the few amusing details just remind you how unfunny the rest of the show is. Sometimes I think we won’t jump the shark, we’ll just limbo under it. But that’s not my point. It’s this line . . . here. There’s a British interviewer doing a documentary on Springfield Elementary - an idea whose lame execution, incidentally, is not redeemed by the amusing conclusion. He says: 'Bart’s glory has gone the way of England’s masculinity.'”


“Well, I’m just thinking - say we’re at war in a year, with Iraq, okay? Britain would be our closest ally, and it’s quite likely we’ll be hearing all sorts of stories about battlefield valor, as well as casualties. This line is going to look really stupid. I mean, these guys were there for us in the Afghan thing just a few months ago. The Brits love our show. Why kick them in the yarbles they so obviously possess?”

(Other writers: shrugs, yawns.)

“And there’s another thing. Here on page 5, Bart has a website where he has an animated gif - could be Flash, I don’t know - and it shows Principle Skinner lowered into a shredder. And there’s all this blood.”

“So? It’s funny. It’s Itchy-and-Scratchy funny. What’s your point?”

“I don’t know. It’s just - well, let’s say we’re at war with Iraq in a year - “

“Again with the war in a year! What are you, Criswell?”

“Hear me out. Say we’re at war. And say there was a news story about how Saddam’s regime treats dissidents by running through, oh, a plastic shredder, and like everyone on the internet read that story a week before this episode runs. It’s a comedy killer. Nothing that comes afterwards will seem funny, and since what comes afterwards really isn’t funny, it’s damn near fatal.”

“Objection noted and ignored. Okay, everyone, let’s look at the next script. It’s a spec, and it brings back one of the most beloved characters from the show. It’s called ‘Rock and Roll Poochie Koo.’ I’m loving it already.”

Family returns Monday night; it will be nice to resume the normal pace of events. I’ve enjoyed this vacation, though. Saw just a few movies:

“Minority Report” - very good, but I will be glad when Spielberg is done with his Blue Period

“The Producers” - as funny as I remembered it. Dick Shawn’s hippie song is one of the more delightfully cruel parodies of Flower Children ever

“Logan’s Run” - sci-fi never works when the entire cast looks like the Starland Vocal Band

“Signs” - People say M. Night is our new Hitchcock, which is ridiculous; Hitch didn’t write his films, didn’t have Shamalayan’s quiet passion for his characters, or his ability to deliver MOAB-strength twists at the end. Loved it.

“Eye of Vichy” - Just for grins, I watched a two-hour compilation of newsreels from occupied France. Collaboration a go-go. It’s “The Sorrow and the Pity” without the interviews, really. It makes you realize how much the Occupation corrupted the country and defiled the national consciousness. The French narration assures us that this is the version of real life that the Vichy government wanted the population to accept - it wasn’t the true nature of French life during the war. Perhaps. But those crowds that showed up to cheer Petain were quite large and enthusiastic. As were those who showed up to cheer DeGaulle when the war ended, of course.

There were some interesting parallels to modern times - the collaborators all insisted that France had not just a role to play in the New Order of Europe, but a crucial role. A uniquely French role, carried out with French methods and French ideas and French ingenuity. (Specifics not available at press time.) There’s this desperate need to insist not only on France’s relevance in an era dominated by Germany, but France’s indispensability.

Always a bridesmaid. Never a husband.
Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More