If I see a bicycle and a ramp on my computer screen, I know someone is going to get hurt. Certain forms create their own expectations, and the internet video is one of them. So is the school board meeting, the science fiction book, the episode of MTV Cribs. But what about more organic forms, like the parent-child relationship of the presidential campaign? Once you start thinking this way, anything can be a form, and events within them take on a strangely concocted quality, as they shift from the realm of ontology to aesthetics. Not Combat! blog, though—we will never succumb to formal expectations. Today is Friday, and it’s hard to realize what you’re doing from the inside. Won’t you satisfy the conventions of the form with me?
First, the good new: presumptive Republican presidential nominee Rand Paul has secured the domain name RandPaul.com for a mere $100,000. Somewhere, a domain speculator is cackling his sweaty ass off. That’s a lot of money for a campaign to spend on that, especially considering Paul already owned RandPaul2016.com. But you don’t want the first URL people type in to send them somewhere else. Ask Ted Cruz, owner of TedCruz.org, which sends a message more congenial to his platform than TedCruz.com.
And don’t worry about Rand Paul. No matter how rough things get on the campaign trail, he’ll have his father by his side, helping him plan strategy, pointing out what he could have said in response to difficult questions, fixing his collar so it covers up his tie, saying he doesn’t want fries and then eating like half of Rand’s, et cetera. You know what? Maybe that’s not helping. Over at Commentary, Joseph Epstein compares his father’s parenting style to his own and that of his children. Once you get through the first paragraph, it’s good. It also suggests that the right approach to parenting has more to do with fashion that with anything we might actually know. And it contains this burst of pure invective:
“Under the regime of parenting, raising children became a top priority, an occupation before which all else must yield. The status of children inflated greatly. Much forethought went into giving children those piss-elegant names still turning up everywhere: all those Brandys and Brandons and Bradys; Hunters, Taylors, and Tylers; Coopers, Porters, and Madisons; Britannys, Tiffanys, and Kimberlys; and the rest.”
I’m not sure what “piss-elegant” means, but I like it. Meanwhile, because parenting your own children is not enough, parents in Coeur D’Alene and Asheville are trying to remove Of Mice and Men and The Kite Runner, respectively, from high school classrooms. I wouldn’t mind seeing The Kite Runner removed from the space-time continuum, so let’s talk about Mice and Men. Mary Jo Finney, who has tried to pull other books in the past, complained that the Steinbeck classic is “neither a quality story nor a page turner.” Along with other members of her parental advisory committee, she objects to language such as “bastard” and “god damn,” and considers the novel “too negative and dark.”
In a just society, the fearsome headmaster of her child’s school would explain to Mary Jo Finney that she doesn’t know a goddamn thing about classic novels, and therefore her opinion is not useful, and would she please go back to reading The Kite Runner so the rest of us could try to educate her bastard kids? In this world, however, everyone’s opinion of a book is as good as anyone else’s—even the authors. Cracked, of all places, has run this fascinating article on six widespread misinterpretations of books. Fahrenheit 451, for example, is not about censorship. Bradbury himself said it was about TV and the rise of passive entertainment. But everyone knows it’s really an allegory for how dangerous state-sponsored book burning can be. Quote:
“What probably pissed Bradbury off more than anything was that people completely disregarded his interpretation of his own book. In fact, when Bradbury was a guest lecturer in a class at UCLA, students flat-out told him to his face that he was mistaken and that his book is really about censorship. He walked out.”
I believe it was another science-fiction author who worried that too many people believed democracy means my ignorance is as good as your knowledge. But American culture is hard to figure. Consider the Redman episode of MTV Cribs. The heartless click-mongers at Thrillist have compiled this oral history of what many consider the best Cribs of all time. Once you’ve seen Master P’s backup swimming pool, there is something transcendent about a walkthrough of Redman’s two-bedroom duplex in Staten Island. It’s an investment property. There is literally nothing on the walls. But the home studio is tight. That, my friends, is the way.