Hello! Happy Monday. Thank you for joining me on another week of the Bleat. I hope it will reward your patronage.
If you try to stay engaged with the times, with the main strong flow of current events as well as the swirls and eddies in the backwaters and the flotsam bobbing in the tributaries, you usually think you are living through momentous times. I suppose they’re all momentous, in retrospect. The quotidian daily events get hoses away like cotton candy, and all that’s left is the big events, the big names. The tentpoles that rise above the cotton candy over the river.
I seem to have overdone the figures of speech.
Well, you know what I mean. All times seem momentous if you’re paying attention, but some times seem like real, distinct, fractures from what came before. This is one of those and I’ve never quite experienced anything like it. The evidence is substantial, and you can find it in the big things and the small things. This is not a case of applying my generational standards to the contemporary era. This is not a case of being dismayed because the road is being rerouted as much as it’s a case of being alarmed because they routed it through the mountains and removed the guardrails and all the signs that warned you the road took a hairpin turn up ahead.
On Wednesday we’ll look at something important and ubiquitous that changes forever the nature of civic interaction. Today: internet nonsense.
My wife, being an adult with a demanding job and a well-ordered sense of priorities, does not spend any time on online culture or Internet . . . things. You know. The things. But over dinner the other night I attempted to explain this to her.
It’s one of those things Reply All used to do before the show exploded in a shower of guts: Yes Yes No. As in, I get that part, and that part, but not that part. I had to explain Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shrimp Tail guy, the fact that he was subsequently cancelled for abuse, why this was a Milkshake Duck, and what’s more, what this . . . this guy had to do with it. Was he the Cinnamon Toast guy?
But! She had watched TNG back in the day. She did not remember this episode, which is regarded as a classic. Picard is stranded with an alien who only speaks in literary epic references. People have picked this one apart, saying there’s no way a civilization with such a truncated metaphorical means of communication could be capable of sophisticated technical achievements like space flight, but I always figured they had another language. Something they regarded as low and common, but necessary. It’s possible: we are now at a point where this image means something to one set of people and is meaningless to another, even though they share the same culture and language.
I get a lot of it, but often fall behind. By reading Daughter’s tweets I see references I do not get, and I endeavor to instruct myself. (I cannot imagine my Dad attempting to school himself on Led Zep lyric references.) But we banter once a day, usually, on Messages. Nothing brightens my day like the telltale custom sound of her text.
We have a family Zoom once a week, and Wife likes that more than texting. I don’t. I have come to hate Zoom and regard it as one of the more pernicious conventions to arise from the Quarantine Mentality. Of course, it’s better than nothing. We had a chat with Rotaria this afternoon, and it was as always a delight.
Except she in lockdown again.
They can only go a certain distance from their home. The EU has one set of rules, Spain has another, Cataloina another one on top of that. You can be fined if they catch you walking outside and you do not have a good excuse.
Anyway. The other night, late, I got a text from Daughter asking if wanted to read some things she’d written.
Nah I’m good
OF COURSE ALWAYS
She sent three little vignettes. They . . . they knocked me out, cold. First, because I love to be reminded that she is about ten years ahead of where I was as a writer at her age. Leagues past me. Second, each had a distinctive perspective. The first was an internal argument apportioned between two characters; the second was pure Her, the third just a tidy comic set-piece. So we bantered back and forth about them, and it made my day.
Then I sent her a picture of the dog and a picture of the turkey that has been stalking the neighborhood.
The next day I was talking about the exchange with Daughter, and Wife said something that was just so guileless and hilarious I had to stop and say don’t get me wrong, but that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard today, and I have to tell Natalie.
She said: “Can I see the video of the original Milkshake Duck?”
There isn’t one.
"What do you mean?"
There is no Milkshake Duck. The guy who wrote the original Milkshake Duck invented it as an example. Everyone is referring to a hypothetical Milkshake Duck who stands in for all subsequent Milkshake Ducks.
In a sense, though, the Milkshake Duck is real, because everyone knows who he was: a charming momentary Internet Thing that was swiftly canceled for problematic tweets.
There will be a president who refers to a bill as a Milkshake Duck. Not soon, but it’ll happen. And he or she will have won because enough voters knew he or she knew who the Milkshake Duck was.
Not every movie I watched gets into this feature. Not every movie I start I finish.
Case in point.
Summary from imdb: “A collection agent arrives in a small town with $1000 for a local farmer. Whilst waiting for the farmer to arrive the money is put in a safe at a hotel for safe keeping. However, it is removed by mistake and solves a number of financial problems before it is returned.”
What the movie wants you to know, going in:
Here’s Uncle Ed.
Plain-spoken and full of gosh-darn common sense! Anyway, imagine a Capra movie that makes you think "I really find Capra rote and predictable, with no discernible ability to draw good characters out of actors," and you have this.
It takes place in the 30s. CAN'T YOU TELL?
Here's a clip from the era when figuring out the causes of an economic contraction were less important than getting everyone on the same page, moving forward, and learning nothing.
Pass. Some nights I'd rather rewarch "Maltese Falcon" for the nineteeth time, and so I did.
That will suffice! Now, as ever, the Matchbooks.