Hot Air


This just occurred to me as I sip my life-giving drug at Hopscotch Coffee. Twenty or twenty five years ago, back when coffeehouses were making their initial comeback in the most avant-garde quarters of big cities — they’re now, natch, as common in Anytown, USA as fire hydrants — baristas had a well-earned rep as snotty-assed punks. Their manner and attitude was only a touch more civil than that of chained curs.

In fact, for many years coffeehouses played on that stereotype. No one hep to the ways of the urban pioneer world would expect a barista to be pleasant.

Now, though, things seem to have swung around 180º. Baristas still wear tattoos from head to toe as well as piercings, ear plugs and tunnels, stocking caps and all the accoutrements of their trade that’ve been in vogue for a quarter of a century, but…, well, they’re nice people now. Imagine that!


Now, Nice

Speaking of piercings, when exactly did tongue piercings go out of style? Every cool female in every cutting edge ad agency around had a pierced tongue, circa, 1994. Now…, well, y’know.

Further speaking of things that are passe, when and why did Sandra Bernhardt become a ghost? *

See, I have questions this AM.

[ * MG Note: The answer — SB had a kid in 1998 and apparently elected to do standup in smaller venues and not be part of the recording industry’s assembvly line system. She’s been appearing on a sitcom called Switched at Birth (search me; I don’t have b-cast or cable TV) which starts its final season in January. So there.]


My old WFHB colleague Drew Daudelin — who, BTW, has reached the big leagues with the Indy NPR affiliate, WFYI; congrats, dude — commented recently about movies. Someone had put forth a review of the film, Whiplash, and, apparently echoed the general feeling that the movie doesn’t precisely re-create real life. Drew’s response came from right out of my head:

I’ve seen musicians complain about the lack of realism in that movie and it remains baffling to me. It’s intentionally heightened. Most movies are, to varying degrees, and they should be. I don’t undertsand this weird desire some people seemingly have for movies, or any art, to above all represent the average experience of real people….

He’s right. We demand absolute realism in our movies and TV shows. When a guy gets shot in the head, we have to see the blood and brain stuff spray out the back of his skull. Old movies used to show guys getting shot and there’d be no blood stains on their clothes, no goo on the wall behind them, no gaping hole in their body. Yet we still felt sadness or disgust or whatever the actors and directors intended. That’s why they called it acting and directing.

Actors playing cops have to ride along with real cops for what seem years, “preparing” for their roles. And as far back as 1980, director Michael Cimino entered Hollywood lore when he spent gobs of dough actually building and rebuilding a fictional Wyoming town in the epic Western flop, Heaven’s Gate. The movie’s cost overruns were so enormous that the production bankrupted its studio, the venerable United Artists. That’s how important verisimilitude was to Cimino.

Yet Hollywood’s visual reality fetishists really don’t give a good goddamn about factual reality.

I’ve screeched about movies jiggering historical facts time and again in this space. I find history fascinating. It is people and events and relationships, with dashes of drama and surprise mixed in. A good history book or biography is as compelling to me as the most imaginative novel there is. Yet the movie-going audience and TV-watching sofa monkeys demand the stories of presidents and generals, revolutionaries and star-crossed lovers, be altered to fit some weird template of story arc and archetypical characters as laid out in the screenwriters’ bible.

The people’s demand for hyper-realism in our entertainment is ironic because we really don’t give a shit anymore for facts and truths in real life. Candidates for political office can say what in the hell ever they want, with little or no concern that their pronouncements are even within the general vicinity of rectitude. Our social media friends post outlandish claims and memes and we eat them up, so long as they reinforce our preconceived notions.

Hillary Clinton killed a guy? Why, of course she did! She’s the most corrupt candidate for president ever. Dick Cheney coordinated the 9/11 attacks? You bet, baby. He’s Satan incarnate.

No amount of lawyerly arguing will convince us otherwise. Marching out the ghosts of Socrates, Newton and Einstein, along with Hawking in his wheelchair to rebut this blather or that would be as effective as tap dancing to the tune of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” in changing a credulous soul’s mind.

Don’t tell me about the truth, people say, I’m entitled to my own reality.

The world we live in doesn’t have to be real anymore but our fantasy world had damned well better be.


I mentioned yesterday in another context how I was thumbing through the May issue of Sports Illustrated while waiting to be called for my PET scan. Another story therein caught my eye. Curt Schilling is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who retired and went on to become a color man on ESPN’s gamecasts. He’s notoriously outspoken and is a big Fox News-y, Right-leaner. He got fired from ESPN after spouting, among other things, that Muslims are pretty much the same as Nazis and letting transgender people share your daughter’s public restroom  will cause the collapse of civilization — I exaggerate, but not by terribly much.

Anyway, SI columnist Dan Patrick interviewed Schilling after his axing. Schilling, natch, bawled that life was unfair, that ESPN lets its anchors and show hosts propagandize for the Left but the poor Right must zip its lips. Said he:

They send out memos [saying] we want our sports people and talent to stick to sports and stay away from politics and all the other stuff. But then [ESPN’s] Stephen A. [Smith] tells people that [the NFL’s] Robert Griffin can’t play quarterback because he’s black, not because he sucks. You had… Tony Kornheiser comparing the Tea Party to ISIS. So what I think the memo meant to say was, If you’re not liberal and you’re not a Democrat, do not stray from sports.

Let’s leave aside the fact that no one can whine about life’s unfairness like a Right Winger. The truth is, Schilling’s sorta right (as in, correct)!

People in all walks of public and media life can sermonize all day long about issues dear to the Left. A sitcom star might say blacks get the raw end of the American deal, a female sportscaster can say her sisteren face a glass ceiling, and a celebrity spokesperson for this product or that can wring her/his hands publicly about climate change and the odds any of them’ll get canned are slim and none.

There’s a license given to those who espouse liberal or progressive stances. Now, that’s fine by me, considering I’m Lefty. But it’s really part of a deal we’ve made with the devil.

Frankly, I don’t give a good goddamn what nonsense pours out of Curt Schilling’s trap so long as he adequately explains why the pitcher threw a curveball in a certain situation when I’d figured he’d throw a fastball. I don’t expect my sports commentators to be students of Cornell West. After L’il Duce won the Electoral College vote last month, Jake Arrieta, pitcher for my beloved Chicago Cubs tweeted some snarky stuff about how all the Hollywood actors could move out of the country now. It didn’t offend me because I never expected him to quote Noam Chomsky on Twitter. I expect him to get the Cardinals out in order in the next inning.

That said, Schilling’s plaint tells us a deeper truth than the one he intended to convey.

See, whoever’s in charge of this whole mess we call democracy has figured The People will be happy with control over language. American society has deigned that it’s a mortal sin to utter the word nigger in public — yet, it’s fine for us to educate blacks in inferior schools, to keep them out of corporate boardrooms, and for our cops to shoot them dead at the mere hint of danger even if that hint is purely imaginary.

We’re pilloried for calling women girls, but let a tough, accomplished female run for president and watch us tear her to shreds.

Public figures are punished for making look-ist, fat-shaming comments, yet we still sell clothing to women that’s too often uncomfortable and impractical for anyone but the slimmest sylph.

We can’t call homosexuals faggots but our vice president-elect espouses conversion therapy for them.

It’s the deal we’ve made — and it’s a bad one.

Sure, Curt Schilling and his political spectrum brethren are full of shit. But so are we.

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