Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dream a little dream of Treme.

OK, kids. Just finished the third season of Treme. Some thoughts bubbled up in my brain. If you've got nothing better to do, I'll share 'em with you. First big thought ...
The philosophy of Treme is at war with its dramatic logic.
By which I mean the philosophy of Treme's co-creator, David Simon. Yeah, I'm making assumptions here. Sue me.
Simon, of course, was the brains behind The Wire. I think I know how he thinks.
Specifically ...
We know in part and we prophecy in part. If you like that, you'll love ... We see through a glass darkly. So the Bible says and it still is news.
Our awareness is wrapped up in skin. The eyes and ears of the specific human beast we are. We do not see as God sees. We do not get the whole picture. We are each locked up in our own point of view.
Ah, but to see the whole picture ...
This is what Simon delivered on The Wire and Treme. Not Godlike omniscience, of course. But a simulacrum thereof. An approximation of the big picture, courtesy the human imagination. The closest we'll ever get, kids.
Here, Simon returns to what Tom Wolfe defined as the essence of the novel -- namely journalism. A grasp of things as they are, happening now. The Wire and Treme are novels on the tube. But novels they are.
The Wire gave us slices of life in school, the drug underground, the newspaper, the unions and so forth in Baltimore. Treme lets us play voyeur on musicians, politicians, cops, activists, restaurateurs and roues in New Orleans -- in the period right after Katrina. 
Thinking like a journalist, Simon is obsessed with the particulars of things. What goes on in a restaurant. The machinations of the Second Line. The bad karma of cops.
So, he develops parallel storylines. Ten or so characters in search of redemption or a paycheck. All very rooted in research and reality, specific use of language, micro-cultures, subcultures and neighborhoods. All drenched in history and authenticity. As if Simon lives in fear some New Orleansean will call him for some inaccuracy.
In a drama invented from wholecloth, the storylines of these characters would converge on some shattering revelation. The season would end with a cliffhanger. Someone would die, something would be discovered, a maguffin would emerge. Things would change
But that's not what really happens in New Orleans, is it?
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
All righty then.
Simon ends Treme's season with a montage to this effect. It's perfectly consistent with his philosophy. Perfectly in line with his journalistic assessment of New Orleans. Nothing ever changes. Righty-right. Philosophically pure.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

That oughta hold the little bastards dept.

Too much reality creates unreality. Ubiquitous surveillance, via smart phones and YouTube all the Little Brothers out there. Used to be, only the rich and famous had to fake their faces for TV. Romney said he was “brainwashed” in Vietnam. End of Presidential bid. Muskie cried. End of his bid. The unforgiving camera saw all but ignored context. Ordinary slobs didn’t have to worry about it. Even low-level media types. Who's watching them? Even if they are, who remembers?

Now, the ordinary slobs are watching each other and every gaffe is recorded. Forever. Some newsman says “Let’s get the !@!# out of here.” It goes viral, and he goes looking for another job.

So, when in doubt, act like a politician. Censor, suck it back, don’t say what you’re thinking, stick to the bullet points, and above all never be real.

While you’re at it …

Smile for the camera.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Santa and God

Ho-ho-holy night.

Well, it's that time of year once again. The celebration of Christ's birth and a mysterious fat man in a red suit who flies through the sky in a magic sled distributing presents.

Consider that an introduction to ...

The Theology of Santa.

Santaology, for short.

Now, Santa as folklore, cool. Santa as an insidious mind-bending delusion imposed on ignorant childish minds? Not cool.

Evidently there are mailing services that will (for a fee) mail your kid a personalized letter from Santa postmarked from the North Pole, Alaska. Seriously.

Ho-ho-ho TIMMY, 
You've been a naughty boy.
I notice you've been masturbating.
No presents for you, TIMMY.
your omniscient pal,

No, I kid, I kid. Pseudo Santa's personalized letters are uniformly positive. But that begs a question ...

Is Timmy an idiot?

Indeed, a valid question. But I was thinking of ...

Why go to all this trouble to delude Timmy into thinking Santa exists?

Which conspiracy kinda sorta brings God into the picture.

Now, checking my own theology at the door, here. Just saying ...

I recall my own parents introducing me to the iconography of Santa. The reindeer hooves on the roof. The fatman sliding down the chimney. Since we lived in Florida, the flue to our furnace was approximately 3" in diameter. Thus, straining plausibility. But no matter ...

I was a logical little child. I thought the damn thing through.

Santa clearly had magic powers. He could be in several places at once. Either that, or he had super-speed powers, like The Flash. Not to mention his sees-you-when-you're-sleeping vision. Only one conclusion could be reached. Santa worked for God! Jesus had given him miraculous eternal life and set him up with a toy factory in the North Pole, complete with a staff of elves and magic, flying reindeer.

Said theological hypothesis made my Mother nervous. She didn't want to say Santa worked for God. But Santa's real, right? Uh...right. So? What other possible explanation could there be? My Mother let the subject drop, but implied consent with silence.

So, shortly thereafter, I recall urinating in the boy's bathroom at Alta Vista Elementary. I asked my fellow urinators, "What's Santa getting you for Christmas?" This earned laughter and scorn. Haw-haw-haw! You still believe in Santa Claus? No. I was just kidding. No you weren't. Yeah, I was! Bullshit. I'm joking, OK? There's no such thing as !@$# Santa! Hot tears fell down my cheeks. Outside, a rooster crowed. Three times.

There was no such thing as Santa Claus.

Right then, I knew.

The little bastards were right.

And the next thought that hit me ...

Shit. They lied to me about Santa.

What about God?