I know you guys are probably sick of Sarah Palin, particularly since our media-industrial complex—of which Combat! blog is now officially a part, with the addition of ads touting anti-health car propaganda and krav maga—has recently devoted itself to covering her full-time. But I remain fascinated by her, in part because it’s either that or the bafflingly long-legged story about the changes in mammogram recommendations, and in part because she is so aggressively stupid and yet so amazingly popular that she must be important. You know, like Uggs. The vague feeling that Sarah Palin signifies something, combined with the frustrating inability to articulate exactly what that something is, isn’t a phenomenon limited to her detractors. It also turns out to be a major impetus for her fans, who—at least until she announces for 2012 and the entire national cackles, half of us with sardonic glee—can’t be called “supporters” anymore. Palin is a politician now in the same sense that OJ Simpson is an athlete. She is an entity in the mediasphere, gossamer but still strangely endowed with the power to affect the material plane, and her fans don’t understand what Sarah Palin means any more than we do. Video evidence after the jump.
The enormous pink jacket industry received a windfall this week, as representatives from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance lobbied Congress for a public health care option that would not consider excess weight a pre-existing condition. It turns out that when a bill is going around the House, it really goes around the House. Hey-o! Seriously, though, there really is a fat acceptance community, and according to the New York Times, they really do think that fat people are being unfairly scapegoated in the national debate over health care reform. Certainly, there’s no question that fat people get used as scapegoats. Every time a diving board breaks or one end of a park bench shoots straight up in the air, we look around for the fat person. The question is whether this scapegoating is unfair.
If you’ve recently been to a movie targeted at 18- to 34-year-olds—Zombieland, say, or Couples Retreat, which are basically the same movie when you think about it—you’ve probably seen thew new “Go Forth” line of Levi’s commercials. The campaign involves a variety of spots for film, print and television, but the one I like best opens on a flickering neon sign half-submerged in floodwater. The sign reads, of course, “America,” and the ad proceeds—over a wax-cylinder recording of Walt Whitman reading his famous poem of the same name—to show us a series of slums, riots and scenes of rural poverty, intercut with shots of dirty children/manchildren running around in blue jeans, ending with the gunshot crack of fireworks and the admonition, “Go forth.” As usual, by “like best” I mean “am most disturbed by.” Video after the break:
The copy of a screenshot of the virtual version of a person at right is Angie Mornington, host of a weekly fashion show on Treet TV, the television station of the avatar-driven social networking platform Second Life. I find that sentence confusing, too. If you want to depress yourself, think about how 15,000 people a week use their fantasy lives in a 3-D computer world to watch television—and the virtual television equivalent of The Home Shopping Network, at that. If you want to depress me, point out how that’s about 300 times the readership of my blog.
All this information—okay, not the last sentence—comes from a trend piece in today’s Times about luxury spending in virtual worlds like Second Life, There.com and IMVU. For those of you unfamiliar with the ever-narrowing canyon between geek and sexual fetish culture that is Second Life, it’s a free-form, virtual world in which players own land and consumer goods, run businesses, interact socially and live out lies of computer-modeled desperation through their avatars, which are invariably both disturbing and attractive in roughly the same way as Angelina Jolie. Membership in these sites is free, but the money you spend there—Lindens in Second Life, Therebucks in There—has to be purchased with actual United States or foreign currency. Which—especially after you hear that such virtual worlds enjoy economies whose “avatar-to-avatar transactions [are] estimated at between $1 billion and $2 billion a year in real dollars,”—begs a question: Why?
Liking The Hold Steady is not going to get you laid. All the indie vampires consider them passé or, worse, a novelty band, and girls in Kings of Leon hoodies have not heard of them. You can put on “The Swish” at a party, but someone will hit skip when it becomes evident that it doesn’t have a chorus, at which point two dudes in the corner will go “Aww!” They will be the oldest guys at the party. The Hold Steady is late-twenties music, about weird keggers and not going to certain clubs anymore and the uncertainty that starts to creep into a life spent listening to bands like The Hold Steady. It is for people who have already been through a Xanax thing. It is for guys who know where to get High Life in cans and will bring the High Life in cans to your party and drink it on the porch while wearing metal shirts, despite the fact that they are totally like 30. In other words, The Hold Steady is for people who have not yet given up on life. They’re for people who like rock, not because it’s cool—since it really isn’t anymore, given how old it is and how old we are—but because it rocks. Last night they brought their yelling, guitar soloing, whoa-ing show to The Filling Station in Bozeman, Montana, and 50 college kids came out to see them, plus 300 people who were suspiciously old to be drinking on a Tuesday night.