Sunday, April 27, 2008

You'll Never Hear This on NPR

Mack Hall

You’ll Never Hear This on NPR

In an unsettled time when some discount stores will sell a customer only 100 pounds of rice a week (Oh, no! How will we survive the coming winter?), one is strangely comforted by the eternal 1968-ness of National Public Radio. Here are some observations that will never be heard on NPR:

We’ve polled everyone who works for the station, and no one here knows what “Hegelian dialectic” means.

Food prices are skyrocketing, huh? Does this mean we have to scratch our files of stories about greedy, overweight Americans?

We really are being just a little too, too precious by bragging about how we don’t have advertising but then really do have advertising anyway, and then spend hours and hours of air time begging for money because we don’t have advertising. We also receive hundreds of millions of your dollars in tax support every year, and voluntary donations are tax-deductible. This message is sponsored by the Calvin and Ethel Plonk Foundation for a Greener and More Diverse Recycled America.

Have you noticed how cleverly we phased out global warming in favor of climate change? Clearly the planet, which has been cooling and warming in cycles for millions of years, is little influenced by your lawnmower. However, if today there is rain and tomorrow there is sunshine we can call it climate change and still blame it on your lawnmower. Climate change – formerly known as weather.

Today on All Things Considered we’re not going to feature a single story about some lazy oaf in New Orleans who can’t be bothered to clean up his own front yard while whining about how the rest of you aren’t sending him enough money.

Following All Things Considered we’ll have Car Talk and then Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, known to radio professionals as dead-air time.

And now an interview with AlleeSHEyah von O’Hara y Gomez d’Raheem, the daughter of a Chinese-Irish father and a Spanish-Moroccan mother whose parents were persecuted everywhere else and who then came to America and received lots of freebies but were snubbed by a grocery-store carryout which is why AlleeSHEyah hates America and wrote an award-winning book of I, I, I, me, me, me poetry that doesn’t scan detailing her existential angst. And, honestly, her book stinks.

In the next hour we’ll feature an award-winning musician, Friedrich “Stubby” Hamncheese who plays fusion Afro-German-Suomi on an Indian sitar hand-made by unemployed Sherpa draft evaders in Toronto, and, really, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

You people need to get real about fair-trade coffee. If some grocery chain re-labels a can of coffee with pictures of happy Colombians holding hands and dancing barefoot in the rain forest, and charges you two more dollars for it, are you stupid or something?

We use words like existential, ethnic, fusion, diversity, and fair-trade a great deal because that makes us sound, like, you know, smart and stuff.

And now, commentary by grumpy old Daniel Schorr, who disapproves of everyone.

In the end, we at NPR are just a bunch of otherwise unemployable white liberal arts graduates who play old records and subtly sneer at people who have real jobs and love America. We even think Al Franken is an intellectual. So why would you send us money?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Art by Kennkarte

Mack Hall

The Denver Center Theatre Company, founded in 1978 by visionaries seeing the possibilities in an abandoned downtown stage, has enjoyed a remarkable history in its few years, and has helped make Denver an arts capital.

Unhappily, under the direction of its new leader, Kent Thompson, the Denver Center Theatre Company is now regressing in the direction of art through genetic coding.

When Leader Thompson became artistic director three years ago he perused the list of the 264 plays performed by the DCTC and judged each play – and thus judged the directors, the board, and the audiences of the last thirty years -- by its genetic origins. The results: not enough women and Latinos. Leader Thompson will now commission plays by genetic standards, with three or four plays written by women and one play by a Latino per year.

What is not clear is whether or not women may write more than four plays and the solo Latino may write more than one play per year. There is no quota for black or Chinese writers, which suggests that they do not need to be approved by someone like Leader Thompson.

Will writers and actors and set designers and other artists now be required to submit proof of genetic identity before they can be employed? What is the correct procedure for classifying new playwright Heather-Misty-Shannon-Dawn Gonzales whose parents are surnamed Olafson but who is happily married to Carlos? How will Leader Thompson categorize set designer Muffin who was born Bob but has decided to transgender him- or herself?

A photograph of Leader Thompson suggests that he is a generic white boy, though without perusal of his kennkarte, or racial identity card, one can’t be sure. If he is white and male, then who is he to judge authentic female or Latino writing? And what is the genetic makeup of the past directors of the Denver Center Theatre Company? Is Leader Thompson just another privileged white male?

Humanity has done the blood-and-soil thing before; the twentieth century still stinks of the millions of corpses of people who were killed because they were not of the genetic coding approved by their governments.

And most governments have for political purposes attempted to control art at times, sometimes through bad laws, sometimes by violence, sometimes by the gentle control of funding. Happily, there have always been rebels: swing kids in the Nazi time, samizdat publications under the Communists, photographs smuggled out of Tibet, and artists working in secret in Cuba. Art ennobles humanity and celebrates truth, and so annoys tyrants.

The Denver Center Theatre Company is funded by profits and by contributions, and thus is free to follow Leader Thompson’s curious, if not creepy, ideology of art-by-genetics. But those who love art, freedom, and the dignity of the individual are equally free to avoid the submission of art to ideology and to follow their own hearts and intellects as they celebrate their own, non-regulation creativity.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Conscription? Armchair Heroes First!

Mack Hall

A surprising number of people – people who are never going to have to risk dying in the dust of Iraq – are proposing a return to military conscription.

Serving one’s country under arms is a noble idea. Conscription is a bad idea.

Military service to one’s nation is an honorable gift of effort and years and youth and health, and these can never be recovered. Further, although few soldiers choose to give their lives, their lives may well be ripped from them by nasty little men whose one skill is to make a Kalashnikov discharge its rounds. Our young men and women fight and sometimes die so that we can safely whine about gas prices and second-guess every squaddie making the tough decisions in combat.

When a young man or young woman takes the military oath, he places his life completely at the disposal of other people, and therefore should never be forced to do so under penalty of law.

We are told that military service is a great leveller, that the children of the rich should be forced to serve with the children of the poor so that they can all be multi-cultural or vibrant or nuanced or something together.

Well, toad-spit.

Press-gangs are British; they are not American. No one should be forced from his job, his home, his family, and his life and driven into a dangerous and highly-regimented situation so that some ideologue tapping on computer keys in an air-conditioned office can feel good about social engineering.

Conscription is an example of raw democracy gone sour; it is the idea that a majority can legally bully a minority into doing something that the majority cannot or will not do. And that’s just plain wrong. Further, that camel’s nose under the tent flap serves as a precedent for further thuggery. Perhaps a majority of The People will then vote to impound the car you’ve worked hard for and give it to someone who doesn’t have one. If the majority can take your life, then taking your car or your home or your savings will be but a trifle.

We must consider another problem. A soldier takes a personal oath of loyalty not to the country or the government or the Constitution, but to the person of the President of the United States in his capacity as war leader. Given this, consider the characters of the three people standing for President. Think about the one you find the most repulsive. Do you really want to entrust the dignity and the life of your eighteen-year-old son or daughter to the judgment of that individual?

Those who argue for conscription mean one thing, that a collection of other people should be empowered to force your son or daughter to surrender everything and be menaced into taking a forced oath to a leader who almost surely doesn’t give a lizard’s eyeball about the kid’s life.

Those who argue for conscription have no intention of taking your child’s place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in scrubbing a ten-holer in Fort Polk, or in guarding a chain-link fence around a B52 in 20-below weather in North Dakota.

The United States has, man for man and woman for woman, the best military in the world, better-educated and better-trained than any military in history, and led by officers who love their nation and who take care of the troops. This is a military that can kick *ss and take names, and they are all volunteers. Leave ‘em alone and let ‘em do their jobs.

Conscription? Only after the last fantasy warrior in his discount-store camouflage has died on the barricades defending this nation.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Down With Big 'Phone!

Mack Hall

Studies show (hey, if radio personalities boasting questionable doctorates can resort to such vapid lead-ins as “studies show…,” we humble high school graduates can too). Anyway, studies show that cell ‘phones cause cancer.

Most folks will casually dismiss this caution, reasoning quite correctly that they never smoke cell ‘phones.

However, inhaling burning cell ‘phones is not the problem; radiation is the problem. Cell ‘phones beam electroluxes and proteins and stuff like that through the air along with desperately important messages such as “Can you hear me now?” and “She all up in my face…!” These enrons are emitted from the ‘phone and blasted through the head, heating up the brain cells and turning the ‘phoner into a demented bibliophile or something.

Reports suggest that the first symptom of cell ‘phone cancer is a desire to embrace the concept of super delegates.

Based these reports, America will need to make itself cell ‘phone free for a healthy future. We must pass laws and exert social pressure until the last few cell ‘phoners are clustered furtively outside their work places on their cell ‘phone breaks, taking a last drag of radiation.

As we know, multi-national Big ‘Phone corporations have forced these dangerous devices on us. We were perfectly happy writing long letters by hand and actually speaking to people around us until Big ‘Phone brutally jammed these deadly gadgets to our ears. Let the people go forth and cry out to all the other people of the world (only not by cell ‘phone), especially fair-trade coffee drinkers and NPR listeners: down with BIG ‘PHONE!

Let the people demand that the United States Senate, that temple of virtue and temperance, hold hearings, summoning the evil executives of Big ‘Phone to grovel under oath and apologize for being meanies.

Let the people demand more taxes on Big ‘Phone to fund support groups so that cell ‘phone addicts can hold hands and chant “We’re all pathetic addicts and it’s somebody else’s fault.”

Let the people demand that China stop sending cell ‘phones to Tibet.

Let the people demand that presidential candidates reveal whether they ever used cell ‘phones in their youth.

Let the people demand that Big ‘Phone fund studies regarding the connection between cell ‘phones and global warming.

Let the people demand that President Bush require Vladimir Putin to stop sending cell ‘phone technology to Iran.

Let the people demand that Big ‘Phone fund classes in semaphore and morse code. Anyone suffering a heart attack can surely muster the strength to tap out 9-1-1 on a tin can attached to a string.

Let the people demand that Big ‘Phone stop drilling for protons in the Arctic!

No more Big ‘Phone! Let the people not rest until every American has been strip-searched for dangerous cell ‘phones! It’s for the children. And the environment. And, like, you know, stuff.