Augh. Written in haste, this, and posted late at night; always a recipe for regret. Well.
It unfolds that the gift of soap and shampoo from the International Man of Mystery did not come devoid of strings. There was one – gossamer thin, yea, but a string nonetheless. Apparently he has a request. You know when you sit down with a mumbly man in a tuxedo who did you a favor five years ago, and now, on this day, has called to into his office to ask a request? Like that.
So, tomorrow. Right here. You’re going to have to help me out. Don’t worry. It’ll take six clicks and 27 seconds. Stay tuned.
And then I’ll be in your debt. This never ends. Might as well put a horse in my own bed tonight.
Fine day; shot video at the State Fairgrounds. There was an RV convention. Shot another video while we were there; this one is High Concept. Basically, it’s “let’s make something up while we’re here, so in case it really does happen, we’ll have something in the can.” Afterwards I went home, posted, did some other stuff, picked up the child from the dense, humid mass of people at the school – it’s worse in the morning, with hundreds of people packed into a narrow un-airconditioned hall, and the sense of other people is just oppressive. And everyone just bathed, too.
Tonight: write a column, scan the material for Thursday’s Lance Lawson day at buzz.mn, fix the motel uploads, and do this before getting around to Mad Men. I wonder if I’m imagining the sense of quiet dread the show has sometimes, and how much of that might come from the opening credits music.
Another day in the Land of Inversion, where the obvious is not an option. I heard more interviews with learned politicians informing me that “drilling for oil” will not affect anything, least of all the quantity of oil. We must apparently wait until 2015, when a magic engine that runs on unicorn flatulence is invented. I have to ask: why is anyone investing in unicorn flatulence today, when it won’t make any difference for several years? The answer’s simple: the engine will Appear at the chosen moment, borne from the clouds by starlings, but only if we have repented of our foul ways, and the last of the sinners has left the cul-de-sac to reside in a home located a sustainable distance from his or her place of employment. When the last suburban outlying development is empty, when the homes of whose size we disapprove has been abandoned, when the last citizen has been gathered unto the bosom of the urban center, where his profligate ways are sneered upon and the measure of his yard shall be no greater than the standard lot size decreed in 1902, then shall the magic engine appear. Until then, the wind and the sun will bear us onward.
Honestly, it’s like FDR coming into power promising “bold, persistent experimentation – except for any sort of government involvement in the economy. That’s off the table.”
No, in the Land of Inversion, we’ve decided to do things that run completely counter to human nature – at least to the nature we perceive in our domestic opponents. Don’t give an inch to your domestic foes; they’ll read it as weakness! To everyone else, though, it’s olive branches strewn like ticker-tape at an astronaut parade. In Israel, for example, this horrible prisoner swap - child-killer exchanged for murdered soldiers. The fellow is welcomed home as a hero by Hezbollah and Lebanon’s Prime Minister and President, because in the Land of Inversion, heads of state clear their calendar when child-killers breathe the sweet air of freedom again. It’s all relative, really. One man’s child-killer is another man’s freedom fighter, and if you point out that the “another man” is a Jew-hating idiot fanatic who’d be proud to blow up the Holocaust Museum in DC and take out a busload of Iowa tourists, you’re ignoring the significant impact this exchange had on the Climate of Trust that will lead to peace. I mean, it’s not like the entire cabinet turned out to meet the guy. In the delicate calculations of the region, that counts for something.
The LGF story noted:
Meanwhile, in Germany, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said he was “encouraged by the prisoner swap and hoped that it was the first of many more.”
Oh, it will be. If Eichmann was still around there would be people lobbying for his release. Hadn’t he suffered enough? What’s gained by keeping him in jail, after all? This is the peculiar logic of the Land of Inversion: there’s a certain moral legitimacy that falls lightly on someone’s shoulders if he’s in jail. The crime is soon forgotten, and we’re left with the sad sight of someone languishing – they’re always languishing – in a grim prison. If the reporter who interviews them finds the have a “ready smile” or a “quick wit” or notes that the prisoner discusses his case with “flashes of anger,” well, we’re intrigued: what sort of modern Valjean has society stuck in the Bastille this time?
I didn’t celebrate Bastille Day this year – used to go down to the New French Bar and have bread and garlicky mayo and enjoy the day, but I don’t have the same sort of romantic view of the French Revolution anymore. Nice work deposing the King, guys, but no thanks for the first totalitarian state devoted to remaking society from the ground up. Good morning, citizens. Today we will discuss guillotine production, and choose the new names for the months of the year. How’d that turn out? Empire, then restoration, you say?
Drat the luck.
Meanwhile, over in Blighty: every day brings another story that suggests they could power the lights on the Strand by harnessing the RPMs of Churchill’s corpse. Some I believe; some are almost heartening, such as this story – a fellow got in trouble for taking pictures of his own kids in a park, but the police declined to run him in for violating the Male And Therefore A Likely Perv Act. (Can’t find link, sorry.) Every other day has a story of a man who fights off intruders in his house, and is charged with Making a Fist Instead of Forming a Fetal Ball and Waiting for the Bobbies to Come ‘Round and Pretend To Take Down a Description of the Attackers. I know I’m seeing this all from a distance, filtered through the media, but it ties into my own subjective suspicions, which are based in emotion and therefore unassailable: are you saying my feelings aren’t VALID?
Back up a bit. I think these stories are pinging my brainpan because I've watched too much “Torchwood,” that generally disappointing BBC series I’ve been watching out of interest and creepy fascination. Not with the show itself, but with the culture it seems to suggest. If you haven’t seen it, well, it’s a group of X-Files-style paranormal investigators dealing with the rift-raff, the creatures who come to London through a rip in space. It connects with Dr. Who somehow. The team is balanced for gender and sexual preference, and is notable most for their utter ineptitude. Picture Mulder and Scully with flashlights and no guns, a tendancy to show up late for everything and stand around looking grief-stricken while something bad happens. Then they go back to their batcave and have pizza.
The women, of course, are Strong and Smart and Purposeful; the men are either weak and nerdy, or bitter, undernourished and nerdy, or a cheerfully pansexual immortal American who comes from the future. I suppose it’s good that the American is the strongest and most Yankee-can-do sort of character on the show, but he doesn’t do anything, either. Anyway: in the last episode I saw, they encountered three people who’d come to the future from 1952. one of them was depressed about landing in 2007, what with his son in a loony bin with Alzheimer’s and all, so he tried to off himself in a car by running the car in the garage. Our Yank hero interrupted him – but he heard the fellow out, saw his point, and sat with him in the car until the fumes killed him.
There’s something a bit off when the hero performs a compassionate act of assisted suicide because someone can’t adjust to the 21st century after a week. I don’t know how quite to explain it, but it’s like a show from a culture with nothing underneath it anymore.
I know it’s simplistic to expect a character to say “chin up, old sport! That’s the ticket! We’ll muddle through, I say, and bully for tomorrow, what?” But there was just something telling about watching this Briton from ’52 kill himself because the modern world had nothing to offer him. The show didn’t seem to even realize what the character might have found lacking in the England of 2007.
Before he died, the Yank gave him a lecture about the afterlife: there isn’t one. You don’t see your loved ones. It’s just black. Cheers, mate.
He would probably be seconded on that point by this fellow, who I expect will name an atheist as his successor, as part of an outreach program to attract people uncomfortable with the whole “God” part of religion. There really isn’t any reason to set the bar that high, you know. In his latest missive, he has acknowledged that parts of Christianity may “offend” Muslims, which is a fascinating choice of words. It puts doctrinal differences into the realm of emotional reaction, and as we all know “offence” must be followed with apologies and seminars and outreach and an hour of steady banging of the head on the hard marble floor. No one has the right to give offense, but everyone has the right – indeed, the obligation – to be offended by something.
Given the Islamic belief that Christ did not die on the cross, it’s only a matter of time before the Church of England mandates small step-ladders beneath every crucifix. You can believe he got down and walked away, if you like. We’re not saying he did, but we wouldn’t want to offend anyone who insisted he did.
After that, they will call in acoustical engineers to retrofit the churches, because there’s just a terrible echo when the padre speaks.
I love this part:
Dr Williams added: 'It is all the more important for the sake of open and careful dialogue that we try to clarify what we do and do not mean by it, and so I trust that what follows will be read in this spirit.
What we do and do not mean by it. Meaning, We believe that you believe we are wrong, and we believe that our being wrong offends you.
It’s the natural end result of elevating tolerance above all else: eventually you are intolerant of the things in which you once believed, because they are theoretically offensive to those who have no interest in the maintenance of your traditions. In the end, traditions are just social constructs used to impose social order; best if we do away with them anyway. Something better always fills a void, right?
The article is just rife with delicious nuggets:
'Religious identity has often been confused with cultural or national integrity, with structures of social control, with class and regional identities, with empire: and it has been imposed in the interest of all these and other forms of power,' he said.
History is a sin for which we must constantly beg absolution. We’ll go first in the merry abasement race; you guys follow.
Guys? C’mon, guys?
Imagine that, though: religious identity has often been “confused” with cultural integrity. Those strange, disparate elements have managed to intertwine for some peculiar reason. How does that happen? Well, people tend to identify with their own culture, for the most part – unless they’re American post-war kids brought up in the hell of Levittown – and you’d think this would be a natural fact embraced by the precepts of multiculturalism. If a people wish to include religious concepts in their cultural self-definition, isn’t this their right? Are we suggesting now that that the two should be separated, lest one lend unearned authority to the other? You could see this is a criticism of some elements of the immigrant community, after all, and that's not up for discussion: cultural chauvinism of the worst sort. You could argue that irreligiousness, the current state of Europe, is a part of their modern cultural integrity; that is a form of religious identit, in a way. But saying “we have managed to cut the cord, and so should you” will not impress people who have neither the intention nor the ideological means to separate one from the other. It just looks irresolute and smells sick and gives the impression of an old beast, with a limp.
It wouldn’t sound odd coming from a Marxist critic of religion, but it does sound peculiar coming from the head of a church. As for the imposition of religious identity to serve the interest of empire, at least we know now why India turned into a totally Christian nation in the 19th century. That one has bothered me for a long time.
It gets better, and the honored gentleman gives away the game here:
“The Archbishop said that faiths which reject the use of violence should learn to defend each other in their mutual interest.
'If we are in the habit of defending each other, we ought to be able to learn to defend other groups and communities as well,' he said.
'We can together speak for those who have no voice or leverage in society - for the poorest, the most despised, the least powerful, for women and children, for migrants and minorities; and even to speak together for the great encompassing reality that has no voice of its own, our injured and abused material environment.”
There you have it. Humans are just supporting characters in an argument that ends with a plea for the health of our Common Rock. To sum it all up: sorry about that whole Christ-died-for-your-sins thing; we’ll try to keep it down. Can you join us to work for a ban on plastic grocery store bags?
This works with reasonable people, for only for so long. The reasonable people on both sides end up in the tumbrel. Not the first wave, or the second, but they get around to them eventually. The Land of Inversion has its own definition of reasonable. It's full of people who regard your denunciation of your history and culture and tradition and beliefs with amusement, and say: that's a good start. Now let's go through this again.
Enough humid blather: let's look at some old motel signs from the glory days of the open road. Start here, and go until the interface changes. (I think that's where the new stuff begins; may be wrong. Apologies if the first few pages are a retread.) New Minnesota sites, with embedded maps. Enjoy! Lance Lawson Thursday at buzz.mn; updates on my twitter site as well. See you tomorrow.