I like and admire Jeff Jarvis, because he’s a smart guy, unsparing in his evaluation of modern media failure, and uncommonly perspicacious about the future of media. A rare old-media guy who got it early on and managed to build a name as an evangelizer without sounding like someone who got eased out the corner office and spent his time on steepled-finger ruminations delivered to executives who wanted to know everything was going to be okay. I had lunch with him a few years ago, and it was a race to see who could talk faster. I think I had three strokes before dessert came.
That said, this business about mainstreaming the effenheimer in political discourse is just juvenile. The whole *f***youwashington hashtag. Please. As satisfying as it may be to vent, to use the naughty words and thrill to the transgressive power of objecting words that make nuns sad into the political discourse, there’s no stopping this. Eventually the failure to use the naughty words becomes a sign of inauthenticity, not restraint. Eventually the politician who unloads an eff-bomb in a public speech is applauded for speaking the Language of the People. Eventually the ante gets upped. Mainstream the effenheimer, and there’s a long line of words itching for a shot in the spotlight.
I don’t see the point. I don’t see the good in it. As I’ve said for a long time, I expect some day I’ll see the king-hell naughty words on a billboard. But it’s just a word, man; it’s only our fear of it that gives it power. Fine. Craft the most ornate, baroque, string of foul language you can conceive, and tell it to your child, your mother, your priest – or a stranger. Pity them if they don’t understand that they’re just words. It always surprises me that people who make their living with words, people who prize the preciseness of language, people who hone their skill with the scapel, choose to cheer the brickbat. The crass demotic in the hands of a skilled writer has great power, but only if it’s doled out with eyedroppers, not beer barrels.
Yes, yes, it’s hypocritical – why, the word is used in private; why not in public? That’s like saying a fellow handles his John Thomas in the loo, so why shouldn’t he wave it about on the street corner? If you think it’s just words, just sounds, phonemes in need of demystification, imagine you’re with your kid, and some fellow wanders up, says well Eff me, you’re effing such and such, is this your effing kid? You’re an effing cute one, you little effer. Call me Effing Bob. Go on, say it; just words, after all.
Do you prod your kid to be polite? Go on, say it, call him Effing Bob. It’s just words.
One more thing, Jeff: if you’re going to be a new media guru, change your effing website so it doesn’t look like a 2000-effing-five blogger template. Learn Photoshop, for eff’s sake.
For all that, his remarks about the nature of the hashtag are, as I might expect, spot on.
The beauty of a hashtag is that no one can control it.
A hashtag is not like a marketing, media, or political message, whose creator thinks it can be created and controlled. It is not like the namespace in domains, on Facebook and Google+, or in trademarks, for anyone can use a hashtag without permission or payment. It’s not like a dictionary with one definition. It’s not like a word on an FCC list that prohibits or chills its use.
A hashtag is open and profoundly democratic. People gather around a hashtag. They salute it and spread it or ignore it and let it wither. They imbue it with their own meaning. The creator quickly and inevitably loses control of it.
All true. What the #f***youwashington hashtag accomplished, I can’t tell. From what I read it was like a hundred thousand shaken soda bottles opened. Lots of fizz. Things got wet and sticky. It’s possible someone burst into the President’s office and said “sir, this hashtag is trending. I think you should take a look at this.” But last time I looked, #rejectedluckycharmsmarshmallowshapes had more action. I don’t think the House’s debt-ceiling bill addresses the issue.
Tweeted something the other day: preferred Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Twilight Zone. Can o’ worms, that. Both are good. Yes. But perhaps a few like the latter because they have memories of discovering the show, and being entranced with the music, Serling himself, the downbeat messages, the sci-fi twists. All good, but the things that endeared the show to a teen geek are the things that curdled so many of its stories. Misanthropy, fatalism, pessimism, and straw-man archetypes stuffed into the armor of recognizable stereotypes. Hitchcock is much more subtle; it handled humor much better, and it dealt with grown-ups, not comic-book conceptions. It may have been the best anthology show of them all.
Everyone knows the opening music, Funeral for a Marionette – mocking, lurching, grotesque. But it’s the title music for the episodes that always gave a me a chill: a chord of dread on the strings, muffled timpani, a barbed stab of a trumpet.
Things I didn’t know, from wikipedia:
At least two versions of the opening were shot for every episode. A version intended for the American audience would often spoof a recent popular commercial or poke fun at the sponsor, leading into the commercial. An alternative version for European audiences would instead include jokes at the expense of Americans in general. For later seasons, opening remarks were also filmed with Hitchcock speaking in French and German for the show’s international presentations, reflecting his real-life fluency in both languages.
Hitchcock’s digs at the sponsors were far more subversive than anything the Twilight Zone ever did.
Kid had a doctor’s appointment today. I was pretty sure it would be a Shot Appointment,
since it had been a few years since the last jab, and she’s due for a tetanus shot. The prospect of a Shot looms over every one of these things when you’re a kid. I remember one hellacious session of pokery with inch-wide serrated needles, or so it seemed; the nurse tried to take my mind off it by telling me to look into a little box, and telling me when the colors changed. They were blue and then they were OUCH red. Told daughter this tale, and she laughed at the crudeness of it all. Like anything could take your mind off a SHOT.
When we got to the doctor’s office I was handed a sheaf of papers: a pamphlet about Growing from A Girl Into a Woman, or something like that; I’m sure the actual wording wasn’t so parasitical. It had 80s clip art on the front and medical illustrations of the inner naughty bits, including the female parts that always look like some strange creature with its arms outstretched in flight. She read it with gathering horror. The rest of the papers concerned allergic reactions to shots, which vary from Mild to Seizures That Can Wear Right Through the Carpet, and I realized there would be many shots today.
The first was nothing; over before she knew it. When the second was being prepared, I got out my iPhone, which caused her to shift to tween annoyance: a picture? Of this you’re going to take a picture? JAB OUCH but it was mild. I flipped the camera around so she could see herself in the screen, and said “here’s what you look like getting a shot,” and pushed the screen-capture buttons so the screen flashed for a second. JAB.
On the way out of the doctor’s office she asked if she could see the picture, and I said sure. Know why I did that? “So I could see myself getting a shot.” No. It was like looking into the box to see when the color changed.
She grinned. Oh. Right.
Off to Target to get something as a reward. C’mon, it’s the deal. You’re a kid, you get a shot, there’s compensation – mainly because you promised it before, as something to salve the dread. We went to the toy aisle, where once again I protested the lack of Acer in die-cast form. You know:
Yes, I bought it on Amazon. Every Pacer owner loves the fact that there’s a Pacer in Cars 2. There was also a new version of Jesse from Toy Story, Stoner Jesse:
She got a Pokemon figurine, and at the checkout she found some sugar-free gum: Apple Pie Flavor. We had a stick and pronounced it spectacular and quite lifelike, really. Walking out into the late afternoon of a late July day, enjoying our gum, shots over, together: you never think these will be the best moments of your life, but they are.
And we talked about gum all the way home. Well, I did. How there used to be only a few flavors, like Spearmint and Doublemint, Clove, Black Jack, Scented Gum (yes, Scented Gum; a thirties product, still around.
In my childhood there was Juicy Fruit, noted for its quick fade into cudhood, and the novelty of Stripe, which came in fruit flavors, and was, indeed, striped. Also known for breaking into shards in your mouth right away. Bazooka Joe was popular, partly because it had comics of a kid who’d lost an eye, but true gum enthusiasts knew the delicate charms of Fleer, the Filet Mignon of pink bubble gum. And so we chattered on until home.
Couldn’t wait to tell Mom she got three shots.
Interesting point: she identified one of the characters on the bandage as “Woodstock,” even though I figured she’d had little exposure to Peanuts – or “Snoopy,” as she called the strip. (My dad called the strip “Charlie Brown.”) She said she read him in the comics, and I remembered she’s been reading the comics for a while now, with the same expression everyone has:
Rote joyless obligation.
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