Thursday, December 25, 2008

Return of the Jello

New World Notes News

Volume 1, Number 25 -- December 30 , 2008

Public Apology: In last week’s program I mentioned that Molly Ivins had been one of 2,000 liberals in the state of Texas. In the interest of homeland security, I revealed where to find the rest. In doing so, I had the sort of mental slip everybody makes once in awhile. Like saying “Saddam Hussein” when you meant “Barack Obama.”

So I heard myself saying that 200 liberals could be found on the campus of Southern Methodist University. I half expected the flood of hate mail I received from the Dallas suburbs, but the threatening notices from SMU’s lawyers were a surprise. So let me say that I have ceased and desisted this arguably felonious behavior. I acknowledge the falsity of my statement, which statement I deeply regret and now do publicly retract.

Obviously, I momentarily confused Southern Methodist with Texas Christian University, in nearby Fort Worth. The few emails I received from the TCU faculty were charitable and humorous, poking gentle fun at what they saw as my “brain fart,” to quote George Carlin, as several of them did.

The Rapture: Hartford, looking southwest from what is now Interstate 84. I think.
Note the total absence of downtown businesspersons heading heavenwards. Did
the motorcyclist make it, or is that him inspecting his spark plugs (far left)?

This week in New World Notes, #45 -- December 30 & January 2:

Return of the Jello

Title of this week's program courtesy of Jonathan Dowst, who, despite my best efforts, has been transmogrophied into a Star Wars fan. On the plus side, at least he still loves playing with language.

People may find it surprising that many of our best cultural and political analysts focus on language. Orwell, of course. In 1984, the State has a program of reducing the English vocabulary to only a few hundred words--thus making it impossible for people to make subtle distinctions. So politics becomes a matter of Good (those who agree with the Chief Executive) vs. Evil (those who disagree with him). And obviously, in such a world, diplomatic shilly-shallying is less than useless, so in case of disagreement with another government, send the Marines!

Does this sound at all familiar? (See also: Evil Empire, Axis of Evil, neoconservatives, Bush Doctrine.)

Though no fan of the Christian Right, Jello thought the anticipated Rapture was
“kind of cool!” He relished the thought of all the “religious extremists” being
“wafted up to heaven--
naked! --leaving the rest of us to put the world back
together again in peace.” Jello didn’t realize (see illustration) that (1) apparently
the saved
wouldn’t be naked and (2) every drop-dead-gorgeous example of
nubile jailbait would be swept up in the first
tranche. My first lover favored
denim wraparound miniskirts too, to equally good effect. Apparently Howard
Hughes--looking for a new challenge after famously engineering the brassiere
Jane Russell wore in
The Outlaw-- later had the good fortune of meeting the
sweet young thing in the Afro at a church social.

I recognize the style of The Watchtower’s in-house illustrator. Someone
should advise the Seventh-Day Adventists that a Methodist war criminal
has snuck in among the faithful.

Before Orwell there was Swift and (especially in his essays) Twain, among others. Afterwards we have--to rattle off the first to come to mind--Dorothy Parker, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Molly Ivins, Michael Parenti, and Jello Biafra. All are good analysts of politics and culture. All discuss the use, abuse, and misuse of language. Interestingly, all except Orwell are known for their humor, and some are card-carrying comedians.

We’ve already had more than enough Rapture illustrations, but this bit of kitsch was
so charming, I had to share it. It’s called “The Rapture,” but I suspect it could be
called “The Death of Ophelia” equally well. What is that thing at the top of the picture?
Did someone toss a Hoover Upright into the pond after her? Makes me inclined
to suspect the husband.

Molly we heard last week; George Carlin we shall hear next week; and let us now turn again to Jello Biafra. When this Dead Kennedys alumnus is not punk-rocking away with Jello and the Melvins, he's an astute political analyst and social critic . . . and a very funny speaker.

In these selections from a talk he gave this summer, Jello delivers his own "farewell kiss from the widows and orphans" of our country to the White House’s Current Occupant. Which inevitably leads Jello to the subject of How to Mangle the English Language for Fun, Profit, and Glory--while destroying the country that made your wealthy and comfortable life possible . . . to say nothing of the Middle East! Which reminds Jello of his high school geometry teacher, the only man who could even approach Bush when it came to logotorture and grammaticide!

Jello’s a half-century old this year. The recording artist, not the non-nutritious
dessert. Jello’s
nom de guerre combines a region of Nigeria once known for
starvation--and probably just as hungry today--with the popular American
junk-food. Not bad for a punk rocker in a band with a name like

The Dead Kennedys, eh?

Jello also discusses “creative sabotage,” how to reduce your bondage to corporations, why Armageddon “could really wreck your day,” and why “doing something,” even if only a little, “is always better than doing nothing.”

Recommended listening.

I don’t know where or when this photo was taken. How’s this? “Proudly displaying the
Colors, the President bids a fond
adieu to Baghdad at the conclusion of his surprise
pre-Christmas visit.” Another problem with the French is that they don’t even have a
word for
adieu, either! (Bush had actually said this about entrepreneur.
Could I make this stuff up?)

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