Same as the Not appreciably different from the old snarkmeister.
As the Middle East spirals into war, the economic “recovery” continues to enrich Wall Street but skip Payne Avenue, and the national debt stands ready to leap from “OMFG that’s high!” to “OMFFFFFG that’s really murtha-farging high!”, our nation’s political class is deeply enthralled with the departure of cable TV star Jon Stewart from The Daily Show, and What It All Means.
Oliver Morrison at The Atlantic confims my thesis that nobody named “Oliver” who isn’t also named “Wendell Holmes” or “Hazard Perry” ever did anything worthwhile, in this bit of brow-furrowing and navel-gazing over why there’s no “conservative Jon Stewart”.
I’m not going to bother pull-quoting the article a whole lot; the guy’s name is Oliver, for chrissake. There’s really one big thing you need to know about the article.
The One Big Thing You Need To Know About The Article: It’s wrong.
Three Theses: To be fair, Morrison takes a game whack at it; the piece is unexpectedly short on much overt condescension and patronization. Morrison thinks there are three potential reasons that there’s no “conservative Jon Stewart”:
- There are fewer conservative comedians
- “Political humor has a liberal bias”
- Conservatives and Liberals have different senses of humor
None of them is right; one of them is a classic example of self-absorbed tone-deafness. Two of them come close, but not for the reason Oliver “Who The Hell Names Their Child Oliver” Morrison thinks.
The Number Game: There are fewer conservative comics. Indeed, there are fewer self-identified “conservatives” in most “creative” fields; writing, music, art, dance, film, and certainly comedy.
Morrison cites an academic - Alison Dagnes, a poli-sci prof at that home of comedy, Shippensburg University – who says conservatives are less likely in particular to be drawn to the lifestyle involved in getting established in “comedy”; awful hours, lousy pay, a very steep learning curve with rare tangible rewards is just the beginning; “success” adds in endless travel, often crummy working environments, and very long odds of ever being able to support oneself, barring getting that shot at the big time. There’s probably a point there; given a choice between putting in ten years in crappy nightclubs, or ten years at a bank or factory or software company or pretty much anywhere else, most conservatives will take the, er, conservative choice.
And I think there’s something to this.
And I think Morrison and his panel of experts missed an offshoot of this thesis that illuminates the truth a lot more effectively.
We’ll come back to that.
A National Healthcare Plan Walks Into A Bar…: The second theory – political satire fundamentally favors the left – is easier to dispatch. The idea is that the reality of this world is just plain easier for the left to tackle than for the right.
In what I’ll be nice and call “support”, Morrison quotes Prof. Dagnes: “Conservatism supports institutions and satire aims to knock these institutions down a peg,” she wrote.
Which is true in a sense – conservatism supports tried-and-true intellectual, moral and political institutions – and complete baked wind in another; there is no institution bigger than the government, and networks of governments, that liberals support.
Morrison goes a little further – and comes as close to the truth as this thesis gets:
Theorists have been trying to explain humor as far back as Plato. The ancient Greek philosopher said humor got its power from the pleasure people get when they feel superior over others, laughing at their foibles and flaws.
We’ll come back to that one as well.
Teri Gross Is A Gas: The third theory; conservatives and liberals prefer different strains of humor.
One of Morrison’s pet academics trots out the claim that liberals prefer irony while conservatives prefer hyperbole. Morrison’s “evidence”: the difference between Stewart and Rush Limbaugh; against Stewart’s “deft satire” (big talk for mugging and snark – and I’m a Stewart fan) – Morrison cites Limbaugh’s referring to Sandra Fluke as a “slut” as the apotheosis of his sense of humor.
Which is as patronizing a few as one can take; Limbaugh walked back and apologized for the “slut” slur – and Limbaugh’s humor is a lot more subtle than that. Limbaugh has a keen ear for affectation, and weaves his impression of it into a very sneaky, deft satire that sneaks up on you if you hear it, and that’s easy to miss entirely (as liberal critics tend to) if your frame of reference is entirely stereotype (as it is with liberals slumming it and listening to Rush). Camille Paglia gets it - but Camille Paglia is the rare lefty that can park ideology long enough to form a coherent, dissident opinion, and much of the left hates her for it.
But again – there is a grain of truth here. We’ll revisit that grain in a bit.
Funny People: There is, however, one thread that all three of Morrison’s theses have in common, that I believe does explain pretty capably why liberals dominate “comedy”.
If there’s one thing I do in fact like less than Jon Stewart, it’s self-indulgent social-”science” studies that torture often sketchy, minimal and/or out-of-context data to reach a self-serving conclusion, usually some flavor of “liberals are smarter, more enlightened and better people”.
With that in mind, I’m going to cite a bunch of research in that general weight class.
This blog has cited over the years – usually with tongue firmly in cheek – numerous surveys showing that conservatives are happier than liberals; they have better sex lives, they’re less angry, more open-minded and accepting of cognitive dissonance. Again – I mention them tongue-in-cheek…
…while noting that it confirms by (admittedly biased) observations in the real world.
Now, the thing about comedy is is that it doesn’t come from happiness; it comes from pain, anger and hurt. And it shows; many standup comics are among the most dismal human beings you can imagine – although by no means all; I have some very good friends who are comics, and wonderful people. Still, at the time of my life when I spent a lot of time with comics – when I was producing Don Vogel, almost thirty years ago – I noticed it; standup comics were disproportionately angry, peevish, churlish, oversensitive and cranky.
If conservatives are happier – and you can take or leave the studies at your leisure – then it’d stand to reason that they’d feel less desire to use humor to pass the anger on down the comedic food chain to the next less-fortunate sap. Happy people don’t feel the need to pass misery on.
And that, I suspect, is why there isn’t a “conservative Jon Stewart”, and likely never will be. And never needs to be.
Over the last year, former Gov. Jesse Ventura went to court against the estate of the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, claiming – successfully, in court – that Kyle’s statements about him defamed him in the eyes of veterans. Especially SEALs, of which Ventura is a former member.
And then Ventura, rose to fame pretending to throw people around a ring, said (emphasis added)?:
“A hero must be honorable, must have honor. And you can’t have honor if you’re a liar. There is no honor in lying,” Ventura told The Associated Press from his winter home in Baja California, Mexico. He also noted that the movie isn’t playing there.
Ventura also dismissed the movie as propaganda because it conveys the false idea that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. “It’s as authentic as ‘Dirty Harry,’” he said, referring to fictional movie series starring Clint Eastwood, the director of “American Sniper”
or perhaps it’s as authentic as professional wrestling.
So Ventura just spent $1 million trying to rebuild his reputation among veterans – and then he says this?
Who’s he going to sue now?
Longtime friend of this blog Virginia Keegan – the long-suffering wife of retired publican Terry Keegan – is quite the artist.
And she’s in the art business now.
And it would be fantastic if you’d check out her website!
I, for one, and for the record, have suspected all along that the “North Korea hacked Sony” story has been dog-wagging BS from the beginning.
And while I’d prefer to be backed up by a better source than the Mail, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was right.
Think about it – why would North Korea want to screw with Sony (The Interview notwithstanding)? They have the same goal…
In addition to gundecking the premiere of The Interview, my sources at the FBI tell me the North Koreans have demanded the following:
10. Also remove “Knocked Up” from circulation.
9. Bring back Life In Rehab
8. Digitally insert Kim Jong Un into all of Rogan’s parts in Freaks and Geeks.
7. Digitally insert Kim Jong Un at the head of the conquering Humans in Return of the King.
6. Green-light Kim Jong Un’s screenplay for “Indiana Jones and the Kimchi Hangover”.
5. A talk show on “Twin Cities News Talk”.
4. Digitally substitute Kim Jong Un for Jeff Daniels in The Big Lebowski
3. Go back and rewrite/reshoot/re-release Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. And get them right this time.
2. More nude scenes involving Jennifer Lawrence.
1. No South Park parody of the entire hacking/cancelling The Interview fiasco.
I went to the Saint Anthony Main theatre on Friday night for a showing of The Overnighters.
It’s a good movie. It’s worth seeing.
But it’s more complicated than that.
The Punched Social Ticket: In reporting on life and the people in the Square States (aka “Flyover Land”), our culture’s self-appointed elites have a fairly consistent three-part narrative:
- Prosperity in the square states is at least a bad thing: at worst, it’s an unmitigated tragedy.
- People in Flyover Land are conservative in all the wrong ways: Whether it be a staid, stolid “that’s not how we do it here” to a cripping setness in one’s ways to a harsh, unforgiving bigotry, the Square States are like Deliverance Lite in the eyes of our coastal cultural elites.
- Faith in general, but especially Christianity, is always a veneer over boundless depravity: Christians, in the narrative, are deluded and usually bigoted dullards at best; hypocritical unto evil at worst. The notion of redemption is always exposed as a toxic lie in the end.
Keep those narrative points in mind through this review.
We’ll come back to that.
Baggage: Before I get to reviewing anything, let me be up front; I have a chip on my shoulder.
I grew up in a place that barely qualified as a cultural punchline for most of its history; a place famous for durum wheat and George Armstrong Custer and scary fringe characters and Minuteman missiles and the nastiest blizzards in America, and not much else. A place that some don’t believe exists, that some have tried to abolish and cede back to nature (before all that oil), that still provokes a lot of ignorant babble from “cultural elites” and newbies alike.
And when I was getting established in the big city, almost thirty years ago, it wasn’t a long trip for a lot of people from “you’re from a punch line” to “you are a punch line”.
And pushing against that turned into a hot ball of rage that kept me warm on many a cold night in my twenties.
That, like the narrative, will return to this review.
Hopeless Opportunity: The film is set in Willison, North Dakota. It’s the epicenter of the oil boom. Ten years ago, Williston had maybe 8,000 residents; today, it’s probably pushing 30,000, and nobody’s sure about that.
The movie’s protagonist – and for the first 90 minutes or so, hero – is Pastor Jay Reinke, minister at Concordia Lutheran Church in Willison. We see at the beginning of the movie that Reinke is busy running an ad hoc program – the eponymous “Overnighters” - to provide shelter for people who are new to Williston and have noplace to stay.
It’s frequently a tough battle. While North Dakota’s job market is smoking hot, it’s also more expensive to rent an apartment in Williston than in New York or San Francisco. Property values and rents have risen to the point where some locals, especially people on fixed incomes, can’t afford to live there anymore.
And the job market’s not great for everyone; Reinke sadly informs an older black man who just got off the train that the oil fields are a young man’s trade, with brutal work and long hours and very difficult physical conditions. For others – truck drivers – background checks trip them up.
In fact, if you didn’t look carefully, you would miss the parts where the filmmakers acknowledge the fact that the oilfields, overall, have a crippling labor shortage and that the unemployment rate is half the national average, and that Williston is a place where people with high school diplomas and (as one new arrival, a black man with a Chicago accent, notes on a cell phone) people with multiple felonies can make six-figure salaries.
It’s an acknowledgement, of sorts – a drive-by, if you will. But beyond that?
The movie’s website says (emphasis added):
In the tiny town of Williston, North Dakota, tens of thousands of unemployed hopefuls show up with dreams of honest work and a big paycheck under the lure of the oil boom. However, busloads of newcomers chasing a broken American Dream step into the stark reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. The town lacks the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants, even for those who do find gainful employment.
Grapes of what?
You’d think they were moving to Detroit or Camden.
To assert otherwise would be to break the narrative; there is no real prosperity. There’s just bitter, broken people serving the monstrous, otherworldly oil rigs that loom on every horizon.
The movie follows several of Reverend Reinke’s “overnighters” – men who had spent time camping out at Concordia; a young guy from Wisconsin who starts at the bottom and soon moves his way up to a supervising position and an RV; a black truck driver from parts unknown; a hopeless electrician from Georgia; a former meth addict from somewhere down South; an enigmatic and very intense New Yorker who leaves thematic elements dangling like ripped-out telephone wires.
And all of them, every last one, leaves Williston a broken man; the young Wisconsinite, driving while exhausted, rolls his truck and ends up with a broken vertebra; the electrician’s wife, lonely and overworked with the kids, demands he return home or else; the truck driver flunks a background check and walks away, embittered with Reverend Reinke. And the latter two?
That gets into spoiler territory.
Not Invented Here: Reinke starts out as a fairly unadorned hero; a plainspoken, very Lutheran-looking man who seems to be doing a superhuman job serving as minister, homeless shelter operator, counselor and rescuer. At the beginning of the film, it appears his biggest enemy is Willison’s status quo; a city council that’s maneuvering to curb the Overnighter program; neighbors that are alarmed at all the new people coming to the church and working their way up the hierarchy (they usually start out sleeping in cars in the parking lot, at least in the mild summer weather at the beginning of the film; then they move up to floor space in the hall; then, finally, a cot in the fellowship hall).
The other glimpses we see of the locals are straight out of central casting; city councilpeople intoning their reservations, locals outraged about their status quo being upset; I was almost surprised John Lithgow didn’t come to the City Council and demand a ban on dancing.
Truth be told, outside the congregation and City Hall and the central casting Small Town Regulars, we see very little of Willison; neighbors that Reinke canvasses to try to reassure them about his charges; a newspaper publisher and his greasy, slimy reporter; one farm woman who, burned by a man who’d rented RV space before relapsing into methamphetamine, greeted Reinke and his film crew with a hunting rifle and a broomstick.
And then comes the word that some of the men have “sex offender” on their background checks. And the movie’s third act begins.
Faith No More: I’m going to try to walk the thin line between spoiling and reviewing, here.
Reverend Reinke, it turns out, falls short of his Christian ideals, as a believer and a minister.
On the way there, of course, we find that nobody was saved. The unemployable are still unemployed. The homeless end up with noplace to live. The unredeemed, aren’t.
I say “of course” because that is the cultural elites’ narrative these days; faith is beyond futility; it is absurdity. A few of the plucky heroes whom Reverend Reinke “saved” earlier in the film turned out to be pretty spectacularly un-saved.
All that is good in the movie turns out to be “good” – in sarcastic scare quotes.
Including – no spoilers, here – Reverend Reinke himself.
Every single person in the movie ends up, on one level or another, destroyed.
Expectations: Now, I don’t mean to say The Overnighters isn’t an excellent bit of storytelling. It is.
And I’m not saying it’s not worth seeing, if you get the chance; it is. The cinematography is absolutely glorious. The editing and pacing and the storytelling itself is enthralling. If I had to give it a rating, I’d say “Four stars, and I didn’t like it”.
Because truth be told, I walked into the movie fully expecting:
- Prosperity to be shown as a curse (or a mirage),
- North Dakotans to be depicted as clenched, bigoted caricatures, and
- Faith, the Church and its people to be shown up as frauds, hypocrites and hollow shells of sanctimony (or, at best, people whose flaws overwhelm and overshadow all good about them).
And I expected it because – the guy for whom the little ball of rage still burns deep down inside tells me – that’s the way it’s always been. From the intelligentsia’s chortling about “Buffalo Commons” a decade ago, to MPR’s tut-tutting about all that unseemly prosperity on the Plains, to the NYTimes’ Gail Collins giggling her idiot giggle about having no place to shop and waiting in line at the Williston McDonalds, The Overnighters is an excellent story that fits squarely, unsurprisingly and predictably within the narrative.
It’s exactly what I expected.
And I wasn’t disappointed – or, put another way, I was deeply disappointed.
There is no “think about”.
Although I’ll cross my fingers and hope that he “does”.
My hopes that he “does” are eclipsed only by my crushing ennui about the subject’s entire oeuvre. And the idea that the whole media trial balloon is just a bid to revive the most justly-atrophied show-biz career since Gary Glitter.
Last Saturday I interviewed Craig Bergman, producer of Unfair, a detailed documentary on the IRS’s systematic oppression of Americans.
It’ll be showed one time, Tuesday, October 14, at a theater near you; here are the Minnesota showings; you can find one nearer you on the same page.
There has apparently been an epidemic of kidnapping; 15 major celebrities, all of whom were stridently antiwar up until 2009, have completely disappeared from the face of the earth.
If you see any of these celebrities, notify the authorities.
That is all.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
I haven’t seen much from St. Paul’s Poet Laureate For Life, Carol Connolly, appointed by Mayor Chris Coleman. Her first poem immortalized his 2006 Budget. A later work celebrated his 2010 reelection.
I was hoping she’d write about President Obama’s 2014 decision to send advisors to Iraq, not to serve as combat troops, but to forward deploy with Iraqi troops giving tactical advice and calling in airstrikes, coming, as it does, after his 2012 decision to remove American troops from Iraq.
I thought she might title the piece “You put your best boots in, you pull your best boots out, you put your best boots in . . . .”
Saint Paul. It’s like a parody, only it’s not.
I thought I’d pass the word; at some point in the near future (likely in time for Christmas), “Trulbert: A Comic Novella About The End Of The World As We Know It” will hit the virtual shelves. I’m going to publish it as an e-book.
And while it will be substantially similar to the serial I’ve been doing for the past few months, there will be many updates (above and beyond the usual rewrite) and a whole lot of new, book-only material.
Pass the word, and stay tuned!
Springsteen apparently cameo-ing in Miami Steve’s Netflix series Lillyhammer:
Nellie Andreeva reports Lilyhammer Season 3 buzz on Deadline.com: “I hear Van Zandt’s The Sopranos co-star Tony Sirico has joined the upcoming third season in a recurring role, and Van Zandt’s longtime E Street Band mate Bruce Springsteen will be making a guest appearance.” According to the Deadline story, filming
has takenis taking place in New York.
Peter Wallace, of Lilyhammer’s home network, Norwegian TV channel NRK, has confirmed with Dagbladet today that Springsteen does indeed play a part in the next season, to air later this year on NRK (as well as Netflix in the U.S., date not yet announced). Wallace does not describe Bruce’s actual role — Andreeva hears that Springsteen will “play the owner of a mortuary” — but states that he’ll appear at the end of the season
Peggy Noonan had an excellent piece last week on the late Joan Rivers - whom Noonan counted as a friend.
The whole thing is worth a read. But there was one part I’d never known about:
She was a Republican, always a surprising thing in show business, and in a New Yorker, but she was one because, as she would tell you, she worked hard, made her money with great effort, and didn’t feel her profits should be unduly taxed. She once said in an interview that if you have 19 children she will pay for the first four but no more. Mostly she just couldn’t tolerate cant and didn’t respond well to political manipulation. She believed in a strong defense because she was a grown-up and understood the world to be a tough house. She loved Margaret Thatcher, who said what Joan believed: The facts of life are conservative. She didn’t do a lot of politics in her shows—politics divides an audience—but she thought a lot about it and talked about it. She was socially liberal in the sense she wanted everyone to find as many available paths to happiness as possible.
I always enjoyed Rivers’ comedy – and like the little life lesson about politics dividing one’s audience.
Anyway – the whole thing is worth reading.
There’ some important news to report.
If you know how to party say yeah…
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Reviewing Amazon’s subscription service, this guy is talking about me:
“ . . . the sort of people who will benefit most from the subscription model are the sort of readers who will make do with reading the back of a cereal box if nothing else is available.”
Me? Well, I will read darned near anything when I’m desperate enough, I hate subscription model everything. Software, books, periodicals – you name it.
Longtime friend of the NARN and this blog, Katie Kieffer, send this:
I’m holding a book signing TONIGHT (my only signing for the month of July) from 5-7 pm at the Starbuck’s Coffee located at 3450 Pilot Knob Road in Eagan, MN. Thank you and hope to see you if you can make it!
Anyone who doesn’t have a copy of “Let Me Be Clear” yet can pick up the book up at a local Barnes&Noble and brink it to Starbuck’s and I’ll gladly sign it. Here is the address.
The book is a good read – especially if you have some under-30s in your life who are struggling with the way things are in Obama’s America.
…for Katie Kieffer’s new book!
Tomorrow on the Northern Alliance, I’ll be talking with:
- MNGOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour
- Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, on her new book Good Manners for People Who Sometimes Say F**k. And yes, I will be using my radio training to the hilt tomorrow.
Hope you can tune in from 1-3PM on AM1280!
What if The Onion did a parody of Buzzfeed, the “news” site that is the harbinger of the end of the Western intellect?
Want your faith in something - it’s not for me to say what – restored?
It seems like just yesterday Katie Kieffer and her friends were vexing the management at Saint Thomas with all sorts of conservative hijinx – like publishing a conservative newspaper on the famously liberal campus, and booking an appearance by Ann Coulter over the fervid phumphering of college president Dennis “Havana Denny” Dease.
Katie’s on to bigger and better things, now; her first book, Let Me Be Clear, is coming out next month. We talked about it on the show last Saturday; it’s Katie’s view of the world facing Millennials, and what to do about it.
She’s holding a pre-launch party; it’s on Wednesday, June 4th from 6-8:30 pm. at Casper’s Cherokee in Eagan (just off Cliff at Nichols). And unlike some big-buck K Street soirée, yoiu’re invited…
…or, actually, technically, you have the ability to invite yourself!
Sue Jeffers, Ed Morrissey and I will be there. Hope you can be too!
Albuquerque police have been busted exhibiting a tendency towards brutality
To be fair – it’s probably got something to do with all that blue meth.
While we wait for further news on Katie Kieffer’s first book – of which more to come soon – I’m happy to notice that XKCD is publishing a book this fall.
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions will be published September 2nd by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Starting today you can pre-order it from your favorite bookseller (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indie Bound). There are also foreign editions, including a UK and Commonwealth edition and a German edition
Sounds like my next couple of airplane trips are covered!
I’ve never been much of a TV watcher. I’ve gone through some major parts of my life with no TV at all, and many more not really watching any.
But over the last eight months or so, via the miracle of Netflix, I’ve caught up on some of the shows everyone says “you just gotta see” - House of Cards, Mad Men, The Killing, Walking Dead, Lilyhammer, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Battlestar Galactica (at least the first three seasons; it crashed to a halt in Season 4) and a few others.
It’s commonly said that we’re in a third “Golden Age of Television”. And if you are a picker and chooser, the amount of quality TV out there is pretty amazing (although given how much TV there is out there compared with 40 years ago, I’m not sure the quality-to-dreck ratio is that much better).
But something’s always nagged at me about this boom in quality – from the Sopranos’ New Jersey full of strip clubs and body dumping grounds to Breaking Bad’s Albuquerque full of tweakers, TV is focusing on flyoverland like it never, ever did in its earlier eras (Mary Tyler Moore’s Minneapolis and Happy Days’ Milwaukee were thematic window-dressing)…
…and it’s pretty alarming.
John Podhoretz identifies it:
[Brett Martin, author of the book "Difficult Men", about the producers behind the current era in TV] notes that there was something explicitly political at work in the early days of what he calls television’s “Third Golden Age.” Americans “on the losing side” of the 2000 election, Martin writes, “were left groping to come to terms with the Beast lurking in their own body politic.” As it happened, “that side happened to track very closely with the viewerships of networks like AMC, FX, and HBO: coastal, liberal, educated, ‘blue state.’ And what the Third Golden Age brought them was a humanized red state. . . . This was the ascendant Right being presented to the disempowered Left—as if to reassure it that those in charge were still recognizably human.”
Of course, the “recognizably human” people who dared vote for George W. Bush were all sociopathic or psychopathic crooks: Tony Soprano, Walter White (note the name) of Breaking Bad, the polygamous Mormon Bill Henrickson on Big Love, and others. They were the characters at the center, and they were indeed fully human.
Less human, but no less emblematic? ”Peter Griffin”.
Anyway, J-Po finds the part that’d been nagging at me:
It’s the depiction of the worlds in which they live that is so striking, even more so in the series that have come along since the body politic’s shift to the left, beginning in 2006. The canvas on which these characters are brought to three-dimensional life isn’t a “humanized red state” at all, but rather the red state of liberal horror fantasy.
The whole thing is worth a read.