Sunday, March 21, 1999

The New Devil's Dictionary

The New Devil's Dictionary of Modern American Usage
(with apologies to Ambrose Bierce)

Government, Politics & Civil Order

Armed forces: A government make-work program in which unemployable, unskilled young men and women from the lower strata of society emerge from their term of service with a high degree of skill in shooting people and blowing things up.

War on drugs: A conflict in which the government attempts to shoot and blow up the highly-skilled, underclass people who are shooting and blowing each other up in their efforts to sell the drugs which the government has previously sold them.

Drugs: Mind-altering substances which people, either rich or poor, take so they don't have to think about the depressing shit I'm talking about here.

Illegal Drugs: Untaxed drugs.

Drug treatment: Treatment for rich people can be very expensive, involving rehabilitation clinics and highly trained medical professionals. Treatment for poor people is even more expensive and involves prison, vicious beatings and buggery.

Human rights abuse: An outrage perpetrated by a country or political faction I disagree with.

Free enterprise: Socialism for the rich.

Socialism: Capitalism for the nomenklatura.

Pork: Government money that someone else got.

Religious tax exemption: A means by which the government subsidizes religious institutions with successful building programs.

Insurance: A subsidy for the stupid, risk-taking behavior of rich people paid for by poor and working class people.

Foreign policy: This consists of sending poor and working class people to various foreign countries to shoot angry brown people as a way of subsidizing the wealthier percentage of the population with jobs in the defense industry.

United States energy policy: Shooting Arabs until the Middle East runs out of oil.

Public education: Jails for children which allow their parents to go to work. Also, educational institutions. (archaic)

Private education: Institutions by which the natural arrogance and cruelty of the upper classes is refined. They also teach Latin and Rugby.

Weapons development: An ongoing process in which the defense industry makes military technology increasingly complicated, unreliable, expensive and harder to use. (See upgrade.)

War: An ongoing miniseries in which the American military kicks the shit out of various dirtbag countries in order to get free photo-ops for their latest weapons systems on CNN.

PAC: An acronym for "Political Action Committee." An organization which prevents political action.

Republican: Somebody with money who thinks the government should write his corporation big checks. Believes in the principle of borrow and spend.

Democrat: Somebody without money who thinks the government should write him big checks. Believes in the principle of tax and spend.

Libertarian: Republican who smokes pot and doesn't want any government checks.

Religion and Philosophy

Religion: A multilevel marketing scheme combining a belief in the supernatural with a successful building program.

Cult: A multilevel marketing scheme combining a belief in the supernatural with an unsuccessful building program.

Scientology: Former cult now boasting a successful building program, airhead Hollywood spokespeople and numerous unmarked graves.

UFO Cult: A belief system which holds advanced extraterrestrial civilizations developed faster-than-light travel as a means of crossing the universe and sticking things up people's butts.

Moral highground: A convenient place for crucifixtions.

New Age Thought: Neither thought nor new.

Free Speech, Art & Popular Culture

Popular Culture: Fads stolen from the real culture of black people and sold to white people.

Free Speech: When I call you a dickhead.

Hate Speech: When you call me a dickhead.

Libel/Slander: When I sue you for calling me a dickhead.

News: Advertiser press releases rewritten in the third person.

Freedom of Speech: The inalienable right to print whatever the advertiser tells you.

Investigative reporting: Negative articles about businesses and individuals who don't advertise.

Political reporting: Occasional filler between articles about advertisers.

Intellectual property: Ideas, music and images stolen from black people without good lawyers.

Post-modernism: A literary & philosophical movement whose adherents have cast off the mind-forged manacles that prevented them from being longwinded, unclear and dull.

Appropriate: A post-modernist term for plagarism.

Eclectic Art: Bad art. A term used by art critics who don't want to say "bad art." (See Eclectic Artist)

Avant-garde: That percentage of the population dressing like it was Greenwich Village in 1955 or Paris in 1870.

Alternative: Teenagers and people in their early twenties who dress like each other.

Hippie: A popular subculture of the late 60s-mid 70s denoted by bad frayed clothing in combinations of earth tones and cotton and the use of mellowing, mood-altering drugs.

Punk: A popular subculture of the late 70s-mid 80s denoted by bad ripped clothing in combinations of black and leather and the use of stimulating, mind-altering drugs.

Goth: A popular subculture of the 90s, similar to punk but 10 years younger and more catatonic.

Left-wing intellectual: Somebody who swallows his or her opinions whole from "Mother Jones."

Right-wing intellectual: Somebody who swallows his or her opinions whole from "National Review" and the "Weekly Standard."

Rational discourse: Left-wing and right wing intellectuals screaming at each other in scripted dustups with all the spontaneity of championship wrestling.

Professions & Gainful Employment

Eclectic Artist: Bad artist.

Naive Artist: Not-so-naive artist who pretends to be bad because crappy art sells.

Art Director: A bad artist who, in sympathy to other bad artists, fills their publication with bad art.

Performance Artist: A stand-up comedian who isn't funny.

Ad Agent: The only human being capable of bending over and kissing his or her own privates.

Politician: The only human being capable of being over and kissing his or her own anus.

Spin Doctor: A cross between a politician and an ad agent. Can spin around and kiss anything.

Journalist: A j-school graduate trained to do search and replace in advertiser press releases. (see Newspaper.)

Fiction writer: A writer who believes in the fiction of a successful career as a fiction writer.

Sex Worker: Honest whore.

Golddigger: Dishonest whore.

White House Intern: Honest political whore.

Lobbyist: Dishonest political whore

Fashion industry: A form of employment for gay men with design skills and young women with eating disorders.

Advertising Agency: A place giving employment to either failed or aspiring writers and visual artists willing to suck their own privates or anybody elses.

Restaurant: A place giving employment to failed or aspiring actors and directors.

Newspaper: An advertising agency employing writers and visual artists too ashamed to admit they're in the advertising business. (See News.)

Editorial Department: As distinct from the advertising department. That portion of the newspaper staff devoted to up-to-the-minute interviews, articles and reporting concerning the advertisers.

University: A place providing employment to actors and directors too clumsy to work in restaurants and writers who can't get work at ad agencies and newspapers because they can't write. As of this writing, continued funding for university positions for bad photographers and visual artists who can't paint or draw remains in doubt.

English Department: That subsection of the humanities department in which English teachers, when they aren't drinking or smoking pot, teach their students to be English teachers in order to teach the next generation of English Teachers, and so on.

Government: An entity providing employment for right wing firebrands attempting to eliminate government.

Walt Disney Corporation: A hellish realm where writers, voice character actors and visual artists cursed with too much talent are forced to begger and bugger themselves to Satan on a daily basis. A constant source of wholesome entertainment for kids of all ages.

Science & Industry

Leading Edge Technology: Stuff that doesn't work yet.

Product Development: Originally, corporations designing and testing products until they work. Now, convincing people to buy shit that doesn't work so they can keep paying the engineers until somebody figures out who fucked up. Eventually, this results in products which work -- after which the product line or industry standard is discontinued.

Product Support: A means by which corporations charge you money to fix their mistakes.

Product Help Line: A person from India you can't talk to who doesn't help.

Upgrade: When software developers improve their products by making them worse.


Asshole: Metaphorically, a term for any other driver who drives the way you do.

© March 1999-February 2000

Friday, March 12, 1999

'The Prisoner' explained

OK, kids. Here's the secret of The Prisoner.

Most of you nerds know the show inside-out. In case you’ve been wasting your time making money instead of watching old TV shows, here’s the basic premise:

Sometime in the late 1960s, a high-level secret agent (not to be confused with Secret Agent) resigns from MI5 in Great Britain. He doesn't say why. When he gets home, unidentified bad guys fill his flat with knockout gas, capture him and bring him to an unidentified “Village.” The place is a creepy holiday camp where Muzak fills the air and the brainwashed residents have numbers instead of names. If you try to escape, a wicked, self-motivating, white spheroid (aka “Rover”) either eats you, amoeba-style, or herds you back.

A headmaster-like authority figure calls the Prisoner into his office. He’s Number Two. (Numero Uno is never seen.) They talk. The show’s two big questions emerge.

Why did the Prisoner resign?
Who's running the Village?

The Prisoner refuses to say why he resigned. Number Two refuses to say which side is running the Village. (The show is set in the Cold War era. It’s either the Commies or the West.) So, the Prisoner tries to escape; the Village tries to make him talk. A game of cat and mouse goes on for 17 episodes. The show continues to tease you with those two big questions:

Why did the Prisoner resign?
Who's running the Village?

You never find out until the last episode — Fall Out. Actually, you don't find out then, either. What you get is a goofy, surreal, allegorical, bad acid trip. McGoohan (the show’s lead actor, producer, frequent screenwriter and all-time Jr. God) fills your brain with trippy imagery then pisses on your head. He leaves the big questions hanging. Big joke. Because the big answer hides in plain sight.

Take The Prisoner on its own terms.

Supposedly, the Village is a prettified internment camp for spies and people who know too much. It’s designed to protect or extract information and test new brainwashing techniques. The world power behind it wishes to remain anonymous.

Realistically, what would a place like that look like?

First, they’d rotate the nationality of the man in the big chair. There’d be a Russian Number Two. They’d be followed by an American Number Two. Then Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, and so on. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s how it’s done.

Second, a village of spies wouldn’t be a village of sheep. Spies are the least sheeplike people imaginable. They’re cunning, inner-directed, analytical chess-players who get in other people's heads. They wouldn't be bossed around so easily. The Prisoner wouldn’t be the only rebel.

But that’s not what it looks like.

The Prisoner isn’t a realistic scenario. As anyone remotely familiar with the show knows, it’s an allegory. OK. An allegory of what? Individualism vs. conformity. Sure, but that’s far too general. The allegory has a far more specific target.

Consider the picture it paints …

The Village pretends to be a democratically elected government. The people in charge are really thugs. Behind its techno cleverness, the Village's default solution to people problems is a punch to the gut, a kick to the head or a lobotomy. The rulers rule by force and tell the people they’re free.

The Villagers believe them. Because they want to.

The Villagers are a herd of mindless conformists. They shout slogans, twirl umbrellas, march in parades, discourage “un-mutualness,” trust their leaders and think they're living in a democracy.

Some prisoners are actually jailers in disguise. The Village is a village of finks. And many CCTV cameras. An Orwellian nightmare with pseudo-Italianate architecture.

The leaders have a superior attitude. They feel entitled to grab you out of your home, plop you into their system and tell you want to do and how to think.

And all of the leaders are British. Every last one of them.

Yes, there’s some half-hearted misdirection involving foreign languages. But every bloody Number Two is obviously from Great Britain. British, British, British. On it goes, for all 17 episodes.

The Number Twos are not simply British. They exude the smug, preppy, upper-class, Cambridge/Oxford, old boy arrogance of Britain's ruling class. (With the working class exception of Leo McKern's Number Two, who'd been forced into the job — and ultimately helps bring the system down.)

The Village = an allegory of Great Britain.


Yep. Patrick McGoohan, with his fiery Irish background, has given us a satire of Great Britain. The Village = the UK. From an Irishman's perspective, it's an ugly caricature of the vast hypocrisy of British democracy that, coincidentally, aired about the time of the "Troubles."

Case closed.