Combat! blog has tended inexorably toward politics during the last year, since that is where the worst habits of the age are inflated to grotesques. In our fixation on all things governmental, it’s easy to forget that politics is only one subset of a larger world, and a subset whose lineaments exist only in our understanding, at that. In fact, politics and popular culture and bears and ethnomusicology are all names we have given to elements of one seamless, coherent whole, and that whole is just as stupid and baffling as everything else, which is nothing. This Friday’s linktacular is largely about popular culture, and if you think politics are dispiriting, have a look at those portions of society run by people who are too lazy to keep up with politics. It’s Friday; the week is almost end; up is down; wrong is right and things that should make us angry give us strange pleasure. Unbuckle your seat belt and rest your teeth gently on the dashboard, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
When it comes to combining the violently absurd with the absurdly violent, America has noting on the Philippines. The New York Times reports that a large number of murders in that country are over karaoke renditions of “My Way”—so many that local media outlets refer to them as “My Way Killings.”* Norimitsu Onishi, who completely failed to resist the temptation to incorporate “strikes a chord” into his headline, says the phenomenon is so well known that many karaoke establishments have removed the song from their catalogs. We here at Combat! blog have often argued that just because something is reported in the New York Times does not mean that it is strictly happening, but here’s how you know this thing’s real: people are arguing that it’s just a function of probability. As Onishi puts it: “Because it is sung more often than most songs, the thinking goes, karaoke-related violence is more likely to occur while people are singing it.” The Philippines are a place where you can take as a postulate of your argument that karaoke violence is going to occur, and a fairly constant level.
Karaoke isn’t the only source of violence in the world, though. There’s also Dungeons & Dragons, which—as we have discussed previously—was once regarded as the last thing in the world to incite young men to acts of physical dominance. If you thought Norimitsu Onishi’s headline writing was lazy, enjoy the work of Stephen Johnson, who submits Sorry Criminals: You Can’t Play Dungeons & Dragons in Prison. Johnson’s approach yields a promising template for future headlines—Sorry, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Health Care Bill Returns to Committee and Sorry, Children: Structure Fire at 308 Maple Street—but sacrifices factual information in favor of a series of nerd jokes. Meanwhile, certain of us who plan to commit crimes in Wisconsin are dying to know. A circuit judge has apparently ruled that the warden’s confiscation of a convicted murderer’s D&D materials did not violate his first amendment rights, since the game might lead to gang activity. I say again: the debate over Dungeons & Dragons must someday include someone who has played Dungeons & Dragons.
That is not to say that spending extended periods of time in a fantasy world won’t warp your perception of reality. This week, the Onion AV Club presents 24 characters in romantic comedies who would in no way deserve love in real life. I’m a big fan of the AV Club, and pieces like this are why. It executes a piece that has become a cliché of lifestyle sites—content in the worst sense of the word—in such a way as to make the form nearly unnoticeable. It’s a subject they’ve examined before, and the gap between our renditions of the world and what we know to be true is where The Onion lives. On a note completely unrelated to this line of thought or the manner in which I articulated it, I will be spending Valentine’s Day alone.
Speaking of the enormous space between what we want and what is true, I got my first Tea Party Nation email newsletter today, and goddamn, is it wonderful. The headline on their story about last week’s first national Tea Party convention and the controversy surrounding it is “First National Tea Party Convention Exceeds TPN Organizers Expectations, Praised by Attendees.” Apparently “Tea Party Convention Undoes Injustices of History; Birds Speak Spanish and Pour Sugar On Our Dicks” wouldn’t fit. TPN is the only Tea Party newsletter I get, but assume other organizations in the movement take a similar attitude to what journalistic entities they’ve developed. The presence of propaganda newsletters—which have to be written by somebody, and somebody has to decide what they’re going to say about what really happened—is the first sure sign that power structures are coalescing in the Tea Party, and its metastasis into a real political party is only a matter of time. How do you think this populist anti-government movement will manage the transition from grassroots coalition to organized political machine? Yes, you in the back, next to Mr. Trotsky.
You have surely seen this by now, but it won’t hurt anyone for you to watch it again:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Sarah Palin Uses a Hand-O-Prompter|
God bless Steven Colbert, and god bless Sarah Palin, and god bless her developmentally disable baby that we call can’t stop thinking about for some reason. Heck, god bless Rush Limbaugh, too. Admit it: you love the whole lot of them, and the patriotic, overnourished 17% or so of the nation that follows in their wake. Love them like a shark loves a school of fish, dear reader, or like Meg Ryan loves Male Lead To Be Cast. Love them like I loved having the girl at the bakery write “so old” on the conversation heart cookie I ate alone yesterday. Love them like the weekend, so vast and stupid and awesome and then gone.