Monday, March 4, 2013

The Oscars, Sequestration, and The Age of Snark

Mercury is retrograde again. This is not good; Mercury is my ruling planet. Fleet footed messenger indeed. Harbinger of electronic frustration and disaster is more like it. One of my external hardrives has crashed with a loss of some data. An update to the Chrome browser to make it more secure has rendered it nearly useless. Yup, Mercury is retrograde. It's not that I'm a follower of things astrological. I'm not. I'm much too much of a Virgo for that.

If that comment came off as a little snarky, then I have accomplished at least one goal today. We are, after all, living in the Age of Snark.

The word "snark" is supposed to derive from the combination of "snide" and "remark". In other words, the intent is a sarcastic comment. i.e., one "marked by or given to using irony in order to mock or convey contempt" , "biting", "acrimonious", "snide". The key word is "irony" or "ironic". This implies that there is substance and thought behind the use of a snarky comment. Sadly, in the current practice of snark, there is very little thought or substance to be found. It is cynicism without experience or reason, used in an attempt to be "cool".

This year's Oscars strived to be different.
A perfect example would be last week's Academy Awards. The host was a properly handsome and multi-talented young man whose name already escapes me; I had to look it up. Seth MacFarlane is the man behind a couple of animated tv shows known for wiseacre characters who make pithy comments about modern life, which includes a talking baby genius of snark. And he was the creator of a top grossing movie in which a main character was the adult hero's hilariously potty mouthed teddy bear. I haven't seen the tv shows or the movie, but even without a working familiarity with them it was obvious that this guy wasn't going to be your average Oscar host. This year's show was produced by the guys from Storyline Entertainment. Storyline's mainstay is Craig Zadan who is an openly gay producer of Broadway, film and tv musicals such as the original "Footloose", and the movie musicals of "Chicago", and "Hairspray". With these folks behind the show, it amazes me that people were shocked at the occasionally infantile humor and inclusion of musical numbers. Why did they think these guys were hired?

Seth MacFarlane
In the entertaining, occasionally funny, but too long opening segment, MacFarlane had a song and dance routine tribute to the allure of the movies whose main refrain was "we saw your boobs". The song named names and films. There were reaction shots of many of the women who were named. Anyone paying attention would have noted that the reactions were previously recorded - some weren't even wearing the same clothes as in the live shots. The ladies were in on the joke, lame as it was. The number's finale included the Los Angeles Gay Men's chorus. Paid commentators, and a great host of tweeters, bloggers, and Facebookers went berserk. Negative commentary was literally flying with the speed of light, or at least dsl. The number was instantly denounced as sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, crude and so on and so forth. Excuse me, but what did you folks expect? First off, we're talking the Oscars here - a show famous in modern times for pairing Rob Lowe, just off a major sex scandal, with Snow White for a song and dance. The "boobs" number was as much a commentary on the attitudes of male moviegoers and the selling of an entertainment product by use of nudity as it was an exploitation. It was snark with something behind it. The response was an attempt to be snarky about it all, each writer trying to top the other and so find their fleeting moment of internet fame in what was basically humorless name calling.

The Oscar folks did what they were hired to do. They got the best ratings in years, and MacFarlane's presence brought in a younger demographic for the advertisers.

For anyone who is a reader, the word 'snark' references a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, "The Hunting of the Snark" which is told in eight "fits". Varieties of snark are named. Some bite, some scratch. And one, the boojum, can cause someone to vanish away, never to be seen again. It has always been my suspicion that the boojum exists. It is the third named snark. As stated in the poem's preface, "what I tell you three times is true". The boojum does, in fact, make a baker disappear, and drives a banker quite mad. In the poem's original publication as a book in 1876, illustrations by artist Henry Holiday were included. In a moment of prophecy (and modern day snark), the banker bears a stunning resemblance to Republican puppet master Karl Rove. Rove famously engineered the two elections of George W. Bush to the US Presidency by the use of gerrymandering, voter suppression, distortion, misrepresentation, political action committees, and outright lies. In the most recent election, Rove was reduced to the madness of babbling idiocy on Fox News when election returns declared Obama the winner.

Babbling idiocy is very popular just now. It is especially apparent in the reactions to what is being called "sequestration". Technically, sequestration is a legal maneuver in which property is held by a court to prevent it from being disposed of before its proper ownership is resolved. The current use refers to a government policy intended to reduce the government's budget deficit by having the treasury hold back from spending an amount based on a formula set by Congress. We have been told by the commentators, tweeters, Facebookers, and bloggers that there was a political failure engendered by hard-nosed Tea Partiers and Republicans who refuse to budge on the issue of raising taxes, and Democratic ideologues who refuse to budge on issues of entitlement reform and social program spending. They have missed the point. It is all a nonsense poem.

All political sides owe their financial existence to sometimes different, sometimes the same, corporations and their financial aristocrat stockholders. There was no agreement to stave off the latest crisis because there wasn't intended to be one. These folks did the job they were hired to do. The rich are taking what they deem to be theirs. Even the financial publication Bloomberg News has been so appalled by all of this nonsense that they pointed out that the amount of the sequester (i.e. cuts in government programs) is strangely equal to the amount of financial bailouts given this year to the top Wall Street banks. That amount also happens to be the same as the amount of profit those banks are showing. (We're talking roughly $88 Billion here.) Ah, a co-incidence. Like the right horse coming in at the right time on the right track.

Of course, all this is slight of hand. The sequester is a snark. The money, like the 18 Billion cash that got lost from the books during the Iraq invasion, is a snark. "For the snark was a boojum, you see".

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