I thought that when I started this whole, “examine Digg for subconscious insight into America’s nervous breakdown,” that there might actually be some valuable information in the weekly popular choices of web content that are made. While I see some evidence in support of my original thesis, I want to believe that there is some “non-random” manipulation in the Digg rankings because the only “insight” that pervades these weekly coiffs has been the compulsive drive to escape from the meaning of it all. In decades of schooling, what the “intellectuals” had always insisted on telling me, repeatedly, was something akin to Viktor Frankl’s search for meaning. And why would they not promote this particular perspective? It so clearly clashes with the evidence, requiring an even deeper rationalization of the facts and ever more soaring rhetoric to justify the expense of their field of study. In short, a total scam – a confidence game. Amway with a track team, as Richard Jeni once opined. In five weeks of looking I have seen no evidence of a uniform thirst for meaning in the web’s popular culture. What I have seen, and suspect will see, have been the machinations of a popular culture driven to distraction and committed to distraction’s search. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous on my part and yet another veiled attempt by an alleged intellectual to establish hegemony for wit — hegemony for the sheer numbers having long since been decided.
Of course I do not include us in my gross generalization, gentle reader; that you have endured these weekly trips to Life’s barbershop for a trim suggests an intelligence well above average, and a fastidious attention to detail. And yet we must still find a way to reconcile our place in a world where we are outnumbered and overwhelmed on almost every front by the Kafkaesque, if not the moronic.
I call your kind attention to last week’s number one Digg submission, five days old, informing the world that a cartoon called, “Futurama,” is coming back to television network “Comedy Central,” per producer Twentieth Century Fox. At some point. We know not when. But the question from Captain Obvious is, “who gives a shit?”
Futurama fans, of course, who represent a tiny little niche struggling for hegemony and notoriety in a rolling sea of Fox Studios’ effluent. Fox and its “Videodrome” infected staffers produce mental junk food best complimented with purple Indica and bowl after bowl of Fruit Loops, preferably soaked in Skim Milk. I’ve watched in horror over the years as Fox has turned our brains – individually and collectively – into a mush that would make Hannibal Lecter drool. If it’s not the blathering bad mouth Bill O’Reilly hocking his anti-persona persona and polluting the public’s airwaves, we have the addictive and unbelievably cunning machinations of Vic Mackey on, “The Shield.” Or, we can watch Dennis Leary as a firefighter, rather than just a comedian, traumatized by the 9/11 WTC attacks in, “Rescue Me.” If Futurama is anywhere as well constructed and focus-group-tested as, “Rescue Me,” or, “The Shield,” viewers can just relax into the future foretold by the movie, “Wall-E.” Your consumption is all that will be required.
Frankly, I’ve mainlined enough “Rescue Me” and “The Shield” episodes to know that I can’t afford another trip to rehab and detox. I’ll take the word of Futurama fans from the TV Squad website, they’re hooked and it’s pretty hopeless. Admitting you’re powerlessness, Dear John, is the essence of the first step in recovery. That would be before, or long after, you have put away the Puerto Rican rum and all that it means to you.
“Pathetic,” were the first words out of my mouth when I clicked on this week’s number two contribution from website Flickr.com. Apparently, Facebook user “Jared,” found out that his mother, Facebook user, “Janice,” was getting divorced from Jared’s father via said mother’s Facebook status update. I know that people get busy – forget to write, forget to call – but the deterioration of modern relationships could never be made more clear than in this uncommented vignette between a mother and her son viz. Web 2.0’s Facebook.
“Tragic” would be another word that comes to mind.
I could analyze this one to death – but, no. Let this entry soak in past the profound skin that heralds the separation between each of us. Sometimes silence does a better job of educating and informing than all the words ever written on a subject in all the libraries of the world.
Now that I have doused the buzzed heads of a few cocktail satellites in a bucketful of ice water, we can now turn our attention to this week’s third cut to the back of the nation’s lathered neck, its age of five days meaning the cold steel blade will leave the flesh raw and tender. A good barber would never do such a thing, unless he cared more for freeing his chair of an unwelcome client than he did for protocol or duty.
Perhaps if this week’s number three had fallen elsewhere in the rankings I could see keeping it as wonderfully mundane as the commenters from Flickr wanted to see it. But sometimes the tension in the barbershop comes not from any one patron, save the toxic chemistry of their combination.
So why Darth Vader? Why light sabers? What motivated an obvious wife captivated by the effect “Dad” had on her son’s birthday party to snap this picture and then seek to promote it? Why is it that women always get a free pass on Oprah when it comes time to fix blame on one gender over another in the “who’s the most violent, disruptive gender,” sweepstakes? It’s simply not fair – not in light of this week’s number two entry.
Scraping the skin with a not-too-sharp razor can leave a nasty wound, a wound hard to clean even after the patron’s blood clots and all those waiting in line for their turn have finished studying a barber’s every move with an anxious gravity. Mistakes can happen even in the best of barbershops; but when it happens to a specific patron that everyone gathered knows does not belong, one has to wonder why they still sit quietly reading their portion of the daily paper as the bloodletting continues unabated. If everyone gathered for the day continues in their stoic reticence, the patron may well be filleted alive before he has a chance to pay for the cut he had intended to receive.
And so it is with this week’s number four.
On the very day this number four submission made it to the hallowed cyber halls of Digg, Officer Stephen T. “Big John” Johns was gunned down by James von Brunn – an 88-year-old white supremacist with an appetite for child pornography – at the Washington, D.C. Holocaust Museum. Johns was an employee of Wackenhut and a man whose union had tried to negotiate for the provision of bulletproof vests for all of its officers at the museum to no avail in the prior contract period. Johns was hit in the upper left torso by a .22 caliber Long Rifle slug. That slug likely went right through Johns and could have easily killed others at the museum that day. Thanks for the clip, Wackenhut.
The part that bothers me most about this “action” shot of our President, Barak Obama, is that while millions have been laid off or otherwise unemployed during the first 100 days of this President’s tenure, he has found it necessary to bail out his Wall Street bankster friends for an amount of money so obscene that he could have just as easily given every middle-class taxpayer in the United States one million dollars in cash. Each. Think about what such largesse might have done for our economy versus what has transpired: it is as if we had poured tens of trillions of dollars into a very cold, very dark place never to be seen again. And yet this sun-tanned version of “Slick Willy” finds the time to engage a group of very casually dressed staff in a very casual, almost subordinate, manner the very day an armed lunatic ran amok inside this President’s keep.
To be fair, Michael Moore’s capture and rebroadcast of our former “El Presidente” giving a disturbingly flip answer to a reporter’s sincere question right before he ended the interview with, “now, watch this drive,” was a similar affront to sensibility. That Barbara Bushes’ beloved son swatted his golf ball down the fairway and away from all those gnat-like questioners behind the security perimeter was just a side benefit. I suppose the key difference between these two Presidents might be that one of them is still amused by the candor of his remarks, while the other is now becoming keenly aware that he is being set-up to be taken down – politically, of course — south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Someone needs to remind our current President about the importance of being a good patron in a well-chosen barbershop. The razors can be sharp wherever one chooses to go. Care and prudence in choosing one’s surroundings guarantees a good cut made by a steady hand.
I’ve been thinking about this past week’s number five submission, but I can’t seem to work it into the mix. In the first place, the submitter of the entry has submitted top 5 entries to Digg on multiple occasions. In the second, we began our fixation with the American way of hair-care using only the top four Digg entries. So symmetry might well demand that we end this phase of our journey using only this week’s top four. And so it shall be.
But where might we go from here? What conclusions might be drawn useful to a further search?
As Anthony Giddens might suggest, per Structuration Theory, we need to look at the creases in society, at those places where tangible structures or tried-and-true rules collide with differing beliefs and values producing contradiction, dissonance and confusion. Once there, we might look at the forces pulling individuals in one direction versus the forces pulling individuals in a different direction. In any case, it will be in these creases, Giddens suggests, that we will see the future of our world unfolding before our very eyes.
If these five weeks together have taught us nothing, they have taught me that overlooking the obvious results in missed opportunity and misinterpretation. If the past few days of having a seven year-old grandchild scampering about teaches this adult anything, it teaches me the absolute authority of complete innocence in the discovery of things obvious and taken for granted. What seems to me hackneyed and worn, jumps out as shiny and bright to the eyes of a child. So either I am old and wise or this kid is living in a perpetual mushroom fry. Or both. In any event, in the next several weeks I will adopt the assistance of an oracle, a Captain Obvious, if you will, who has been speaking to me through this grandchild and directing me to rediscover and reinterpret my old beliefs and values.