Friday, April 26, 2002

Coming soon to a toy store near you




Action figures of President George W. Bush and Islamic militant Osama bin Laden are part of a group of new action figure designs by Herobuilders. The Connecticut toy maker is selling 'life-like action figures' based on major figures tied to the Sept. 11 attacks, including Bush, bin Laden, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Vicale Corporation via Reuters)

Photo and caption snagged from Yahoo. Company here. Thanks to alert reader Ximena Quiroz for the tip.

A very long post about very little

As readers of this space, you are undoubtedly informed and concerned, aware of all that is going on in our troubled world today and eager for new insight, insight which enriches your understanding and challenges your preconceptions, bringing that which only scant moments before seemed inchoate and incomprehensible into sudden and sharp focus, like that moment when the Nude Descending a Staircase peers out at you from a canvas of random, angular brushwork and gives you a saucy wink before continuing on her perpetually frozen journey.

Yes, there are many things of which to speak, of ships and shoes and sealing wax, and whether pigs have wings--though of course, that's one of those great misused quotations, by which the writer graciously invites the reader to join him on a grand journey of discovery, leaving aside that the Walrus is speaking to the Oysters, whom he plans soon to eat for lunch. Pray join me, gentle reader, says the writer and then cackles maniacally--bwaah ha ha ha ha!

(Peripherally related to this is the bumper sticker which reads, "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers--William Shakespeare," as if the Bard himself were advocating the mass extermination of the legal profession. And don't even get me started on that Star Trek movie in which the Klingon Chancellor raises a toast to "the undiscovered country...the future!"--as if Hamlet's soliloquy is, in fact, an optimistic meditation on the glorious if unknowable days which lay ahead for us all, and not a contemplation of suicide.)

Ah, but we seem to have lost our way on this morning's winding path , as we make our way toward our ultimate destination--our own undiscovered country, if you will--the topic of gravity and importance we will contemplate together, in this shared journey of ours, before settling down on the beach for a well deserved lunch break.

I refer, of course, to The Bachelor.

(That grinding sound you hear is the abrupt switching of gears; pay it no mind. I really need to get someone to look at that clutch soon.)

Have you seen this show? Twenty five women compete over the course of five or six weeks for the attention of America's Most Eligible Bachelor, vying for the game's ultimate prize--a wedding proposal! Who is this Bachelor, you may ask, and what makes him so darned desirable that 25 young attractive women are willing to humiliate themselves on national tv in their pursuit of him? Well, according to his official biography, he is a 31 year old management consultant with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, whose favorite beverages are root beer and orange juice, whose favorite snack is a Balance Bar, and who enjoys The Economist, Forbes, The Onion, and The Simpsons.

And if that doesn't seem like much to go on, remember that these women didn't even know that much when they signed up for the show.

So think about this. They heard about a new reality show, in which they would spend a little over a month vying for the chance to marry a complete stranger, and said, hey! what a great way to meet the man of my dreams! So they read the disclaimer ("Applicants acknowledge, understand, and agree that Companies use or revelation of Personal Information and Recordings as defined in these Eligibility Requirements may be embarrassing, unfavorable, humiliating, derogatory and/or portray The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorettes in a false light...."), and they filled out the application, answering questions such as "Are you genuinely looking to get married?" and "Why would you want to try to find your husband on our tv show?" (they're given three lines to answer that one), and they went through the interviews and the background checks (you can explore all of this for yourself by clicking here and poking through the "casting call" section), and then...there they were, competing with twenty four other women for eternal and undying love of The Bachelor.

Heather Havrilesky's essay on "wedding porn" on Salon today details the mindset of these women as the show progressed and their numbers were culled, like hapless gazelle on the African plains:

The pretty contestants on "The Bachelor" reflect their desire for a faceless hero repeatedly. One particularly deluded contestant, Rhonda, performs a face-plant on a bed, lamenting the fact that she and Alex are perfect for each other. Sure, she met him two days ago, but she can just tell! "I wish we had met in different circumstances!" she cries, sounding about as realistic as a drunk at a topless bar who's convinced that each dancer on stage is hot for him.

I will admit, proudly and without shame, that I have seen a few episodes of the show, including the grand finale last night, in which The Bachelor at last made his decision between the pentultimate contestants. The most bizarre thing, for me, is when the various permutations of this Happy-Young-Couple-to-be have gone to meet the parents, of the respective young women, and last night, of The Bachelor himself. In the latter case, you could almost hear the construct of the show collapsing as "reality" collided with reality, as his parents sat with frozen smiles on their faces, clearly not entirely at ease with the notion that their son is about to make one of the most important life's choices a person can make within the parameters of what is, effectively, a television game show.

The parents of the various Bachelorettes, at least those I happened to see, seemed to play along much more enthusiastically, ignoring the microphones tucked into their clothing and the wireless transmitters tucked under their shirts, and the men with cameras crouching in their living rooms, recording their every word, pretending that they were just having a nice evening with their daughter and this pleasant young man she's involved with. (And it is a bizarre game to play, and I can attest to this as one who once played it--I was living in San Francisco when The Real World filmed there one year, and one of the participants in that strange little drama was a would-be cartoonist who was pitching his stuff around town. If you watch the re-runs closely, there's a twenty- or thirty-second segment in one of them in which Dave Eggers and I have dinner with him, both of us gamely playing along, ignoring the mics and cameras and so on. We talked beforehand of staging a huge argument which would lead to a fistfight, with tables scattered and food strewn about the restaraunt, and it is one of my few real regrets that we did not follow through on our little fantasy, though both of us are, I think, much too reticent to have ever actually done so.)

* * *

Here's the thing: the real value of The Bachelor is that others value him. The women want to be chosen, to have their value affirmed, because others are in competition for the same goal. It's capitalism made e-z. The value of an object is determined by the value others place on that object. But the thing is, we're talking about marriage here--or at least engagement, but for the purposes of discussion we shall glide past such finer distinctions. Because-- I don't know how to say this without sounding hopelessly naive, but marriage should be more important than that. It shouldn't be a goal, a prize on a tv game show, entertainment for the masses.

* * *

So. Ahem. Shifts in chair uncomfortably, realizes he has written himself into a corner.

But this is where the freedom of the blog comes in, because if I were writing this professionally, then at this point, I would have to come up with a closing statement, a grand conclusion tying it all together, perhaps an overarching denunication of All That is Wrong in Our Culture, or something about the willingness of citizens therein to make complete jackasses of themselves, just to be on tv.

But I'll spare you. Because what this whole post really boils down to is just:

That shit is wack, yo.


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Thursday, April 25, 2002

Oh, this is going to help

You're living in the middle of a powder keg, with passions heated to homicidal intensity. So what do you do? Well, if you're a right wing Israeli determined to settle Jews in the Arab sections of Jerusalem, you evict several dozen Palestinians from their homes, leaving many of them sleeping in tents outside their former apartment building.

Gosh, what a good idea. What a useful action to take at this particular moment in history.

(Login required on this one, but it's probably not a bad idea for regular readers of this space to register, given that links to New York Times stories tend to show up here with some regularity.)

* * *

We've been on Blog Lite mode this week, in case you haven't noticed. Same old story--too much work, too little time. This space apologizes for shirking its duties, and promises to try to do better soon.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2002

They can dish it out, but...

For years on the shouting head shows, the usual lineup has been a snarling, red-meat conservative opposite some mild, bespeckled liberal. Ragin' Pat Buchanan takes on Mike "The Professor" Kinsley! Howlin' Hannity feeds Cautious Colmes a jumbo size helping of Whup Ass! Like the WWF, except even more rigged, and with neckties.

But now, Crossfire has a couple of professional Democratic pit bulls--Paul Begala and James Carville--on what we laughingly refer to as the "left" side of the debate, and apparently they're actually giving the show's Republican guests a hard time for a change. (Which, I would guess without having seen the show's new lineup, means that they are vociferously defending the middle of the road, but these days, you kind of have to take what you can get.) And what do you know--the fierce and mighty warriors of the GOP are pouting and refusing to play, according to US News & World Report.

The GOP whisper campaign to boycott CNN's political show Crossfire has become official policy. Top leaders have told members not to go on the show because they feel cohosts and Democratic activists James Carville and Paul Begala are unfair to them and their views. (Last item on page.)

Unfair to their views. On a cable news shouting show. Imagine that.

By the way

I haven't had enough spare time this week to sort through all your generous offers of assistance on the Tick tapes, let alone thank everyone individually, so let me just say thanks here to everyone who wrote in.

The law of unintended consequences

One of the airline safety measures which has been proposed by the Bush Administration is a system by which ground controllers could take control of a hijacked plane and land it by way of a high-tech remote control system.

Just one quick thought on this: what if the bad guys learn how to hack into this system?

Think about it.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Deadlines...

...are once again keeping me busy. Will update this thing when I can.

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