Thursday, June 30, 2005

The epitome of epitome

Ken Tomlinson, the crack Bushhead now heading the Corpse for Public Broadcasting and the ace who hired Mr. Mann to decide which bits of public broadcast were "anti-Bush," "anti-Delay," or "anti-corporation," used to be Editor in Chief of Reader's Digest.

The Reader's Digest somehow failed to make this list. I'm guessing the list compilers all have the dog-eared mag sitting beside their porcelain thrones, or Lazy Boys. Porcelain Lazy Boy thrones. Flag decals, wet bars, noble stags.

According to Wikipedia:

The following are some of the basic values founding the discourse of the Reader's Digest.

  • Individual achievement. Digest characters are always struggling, against bad luck, against systems and regulations, against diseases, and their only weapons are their own courage, cooperation between individuals, and an occasional helping hand of God.
  • Optimism. Most Digest stories have happy endings. There is only one other case: the article may acknowledge in the end that there are still many difficulties to overcome, and give advice.
  • Free market economy. In almost every issue, the magazine fights taxes, government regulations, budget deficits, labor unions, and for many decades the Communist system. All these ideologemes fit into a rather elaborate and consciously reproduced doctrine.

Nothing less jocular than an epitomizing gesture that pretends to be offering a microcosm of the national scene ("Life in These United States." "Humor in Uniform." "Laughter: The Best Medicine." "Drama in Real Life"), when the editorial process has more in common with the compositional techniques of Ed Gein.

To someone growing up in New York City, the Digest was like background noise of the Big Bang -- evidence that something really big and nasty had happened, somewhere in the vicinity of Ohio. Which always made it a surprise that it seemed to emanate from Pleasantville, NY. Today it seems more a generational marker.

The power of the Digest lay in its power to produce, month after tedious month, a representation of USian reality that obeyed an editorial regimen the way objects obey the laws of gravity. A set of tonal tics and wry bits of humor and remembrance that are the publishing world's version of the politically innocuous personality - the hale fellow, well met, no qualities.

The Reader's Digest is apparently still the best selling magazine in the US. No more effective propaganda machine out there. I'll buy that for a dollar. Mr. Tomlinson simply wants PBS to follow suit. Yuk it up - you'll live longer.


Blogger Juke said...

"How The Death of Dwight David Eisenhower Changed My Life Forever"

I was going door-to-door taking a survey for a left-wing newspaper in Berkeley, California. It was a middle-class neighborhood, with neatly-trimmed lawns, shade trees along the street, cool on this Saturday morning in March, 1969.
I was a pothead, a radical, into sexual liberation and "do your own thing" and "tune-in, turn-on, drop-out".
The survey was a cover story, my long-haired sandal-wearing companion and I would use the questions we asked - about the war in Viet Nam, about civil rights, about women's lib - to start a "dialogue" with the mostly Republican homeowners that agreed to participate. The idea was to get them to expose their hypocrisies, then demolish them with our superior logic and "raised consciousness".
Then there was that one house, the white one with the light green trim. The woman who came to the door was maybe in her mid-40's, ancient to us. She was wearing casual, comfortable clothes, not wealthy, not poor. I remember she looked me in the eye when she asked us through the screen what we wanted, and that she'd been crying...

6/30/2005 4:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Celui qui regarde du dehors à travers une fenêtre ouverte, ne voit jamais autant de choses que celui qui regarde une fenêtre fermée. Il n'est pas d'objet plus profond, plus mystérieux, plus fécond, plus ténébreux, plus éblouissant qu'une fenêtre éclairée d'une chandelle. Ce qu'on peut voir au soleil est toujours moins intéressant que ce qui se passe derrière une vitre. Dans ce trou noir ou lumineux vit la vie, rêve la vie, souffre la vie.
Par-delà des vagues de toits, j'aperçois une femme mûre, ridée déjà, pauvre, toujours penchée sur quelque chose, et qui ne sort jamais. Avec son visage, avec son vêtement, avec son geste, avec presque rien, j'ai refait l'histoire de cette femme, ou plutôt sa légende, et quelquefois je me la raconte à moi-même en pleurant.
Si c'eût été un pauvre vieux homme, j'aurais refait la sienne tout aussi aisément.
Et je me couche, fier d'avoir vécu et souffert dans d'autres que moi-même.
Peut-être me direz-vous: "Es-tu sûr que cette légende soit la vraie?" Qu'importe ce que peut être la réalité placée hors de moi, si elle m'a aidé à vivre, à sentir que je suis et ce que je suis?
-- Baudelaire

6/30/2005 8:38 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Bow-de-fucking-laire? It must be very lonely Tom. You are so brilliant.

6/30/2005 11:28 PM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

we are all so very lonely together here... and if we are lucky we understand and appreciate that when we see, for an ephemeral moment, aided by candlelight, veiled and framed by windows .... directly into our soul and recognize others' in it. I found myself imagining that's a good reason why many of us put candles in our windows at celebratory holy times.

Tu as choisit une passage de Baudelaire qui nous touche tous.

7/01/2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger Juke said...

Moi qui tremblais, sentant geindre à cinquante lieues
Le rut des Béhémots et les Maelstroms épais,
Fileur éternel des immobilités bleues,
Je regrette l'Europe aux anciens parapets!

J'ai vu des archipels sidéraux! et des îles
Dont les cieux délirants sont ouverts au vogueur:
-Est-ce en ces nuits sans fond que tu dors et t'exiles,
Million d'oiseaux d'or, ô future Vigueur? -

Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré! Les Aubes sont navrantes.
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer:
L'âcre amour m'a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.
Ô que ma quille éclate ! Ô que j'aille à la mer!

Si je désire une eau d'Europe, c'est la flache
Noire et froide où vers le crépuscule embaumé
Un enfant accroupi plein de tristesses, lâche
Un bateau frêle comme un papillon de mai.

Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames,
Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons,
Ni traverser l'orgueil des drapeaux et des flammes,
Ni nager sous les yeux horribles des pontons.

--Rimbaud Le Bateau Ivre

7/01/2005 4:14 AM  
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