I’m a Beale-eiver

Okay, now I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  (more after the image)

Beale
Crazy Like a Fox...Network

Evidently Republicans turn off the movie Network when they get to the part, only a few minutes in, where everyone is encouraged to run to their window, throw it open and yell the famous phrase.  Maybe Republicans become hypnotized and actually obey these instructions, so they miss the rest of the movie in favor of waking their neighbors.

But it seems that political commentators never make it all the way to the end either, though they seem to have a slightly longer attention span.  Take today’s well stated but still missing-the-point commentary by Mike Pesca.  He does better than most. He makes an important connection that Republicans seem to miss: the fact that the character Howard Beale, accidental savior, is stark raving mad.  Beale’s not held up as a noble hero by the the screenwriter, Paddy Chayevsky (yet another Greatest Generation casual genius).

But Pesca, like every other Network-mentioner I’ve heard since Glenn Beck created his Howard Beale tribute-band persona, fails to mention the most important and relevant aspect of the film.  You see Howard Beale is crazy in Network, but he nevertheless spouts quite a lot of truth in his highly-rated Jeremiads.  Many of these truths have to do with the failure of television to actually inform.  But the truths that really get him into trouble are those which inveigh against his corporate masters, the mega-company that owns his network.

As a result the company subjects him to an artificial epiphany in the form of the god-like presence of (believe it or not) Ned Beatty, one of the exalted executives from the parent company.  He converts Beale to the sort of Ayn Randianism favored by major multi-nationals. You can watch this scene here.

God Inc.
God Inc.

Beale becomes a Eunuch, singing the corporate message beautifully, all the sound and fury drained of significance.

And thus we have Glenn Beck, whose religion is apparently that which helps the bottom line of Rupert effing Murdoch.

Postscript: The 90s version of Network is The Matrix.  While the dialog is far less artful, the message is even more subversive.  Plus there’s awesome Kung Fu.

Target Demo

Your humble web logger has never been much of a joiner.

Popular activities like religious and athletic observance are about group identification and herd bonding, “grex” as Robert Frost put it, more than they are about the disposition of foreskin and pigskin.  They have never appealed to me.  Kurt Vonnegut’s enduring neologism, “granfaloon,” is a concept as essential as heliocentrism: once you hear it you know it to be one of the few reliable truths in the universe.  A granfaloon is defined by Wikipedia as “a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless.”  Perfect.

So it’s always a shock to me when I find myself close to the madding crowd, inescapably identified in the middle of a social category.  Demonstrably demographical. Caught.

I had one of these moments yesterday.  If you’ve read my “about” you’ll know I’ve always recognized that I share a number of properties of NPR Nation, but from my posts you’ll know I am alienated from many, many of Public Radio’s collective enthusiasms: baseball,  sentimental attachment to religion, precious language,  obscure yet banal musicians and composers, horse-race political coverage, and the list goes on and on.

Until yesterday I had begun to think myself above, or at least adjacent to, the general public radio public.

I was jolted back into my demographic identity when Guy Raz started his interview for the story “Fun and Intrigue with the Periodic Table.”

This is what he said:

So no one needs a description of the periodic table, right? It’s sort of as iconic as an Eames chair or the Chrysler Building.

There’s a lot to talk about here.  First of all, I don’t know where Guy lives, but I’m guessing I can at this very moment go into the middle of my small, preppy New England town, throw a stick, and hit several people who couldn’t begin to describe the periodic table, much less an Eames chair.

But my main point here is not the hilarious implication that everyone alive on Earth today knows about Eames chairs, or even, frankly, the Chrysler building.  It is not even the more credible but still amusing implication that everyone within the low-on-the-FM-dial and listener-supported sound of his voice considers these things iconic.

Here is the point:

In my home, not three feet away from one of the speakers converting electricity into the sound of Guy’s voice, is an Eames chair.  Ten feet further on into my house is a folk art sculpture of the Chrysler building.

Coincidence?  I think not.  I could only have been hit harder by those design allusions if I had a poster of the periodic table hanging over my stereo.  Either Guy Raz can see me through the radio or I have to own up to my membership in this group.

Does this mean I have to start watching baseball?

Window Moments

Call this “Who’s riding my coat-tails now?”

Gretchen Woods, a caller to Weekend Edition Sunday last week, whined (with what sounded like good cause) about some story she’d heard.  So far so good.  Sounds like she and I would get along just fine.

But my ears pricked up when she suggested that the unsatisfactory piece was a “window moment,” as in making her want to throw her radio out of her car window.

Not bad, lady, but I did it first, I did it better, and, most important, I did it bloggier.

If you’re so fired up about criticizing NPR with labored but apt plays on words I invite you to become a co-contributor here.