Sunday, February 27, 2005
Just A Little Off The Top
Better than anything else, I think modern global corporate capitalism survives. Most people would be tempted to say that it sells crap nobody wants or needs best, and yes the sales numbers of The Da Vinci Code were impressive, but mostly I'm amazed at the extent to which modern mass-media driven capitalism rolls along, completely unchallenged.

It doesn't do so by destroying all who would dare stand in its path, no. Instead, it absorbs everything--pro, con or indifferent--as it rolls forward.

Victorian capitalism at least had Marx to keep it honest. Now you can buy a t-shirt or bumper sticker with a hammer-and-sickle or Che or Mao (not Marx himself, though... not photogenic enough) on it at a novelty store near you.

The problem for points of resistance to the media-driven global marketing machine is that once any point of view rises to a high enough level of general popular awareness, it is absolutely ripe for a marketing campaign. This was evident when the first mass-produced Peace Sign T-Shirt (get the matching belt-buckle, knapsack and head band for just $15 more!) was sold or when hip-hop evolved into MC Hammer floating with the aid of his parachute pants while shilling for Taco Bell.

It's the paradox of resistance: for a message to be spread widely enough to be effective, transmission across corporate-owned airwaves is required. They can, of course, put your slogan on a billboard and splice in commercials for Viagra and Metamucil. Over time, add in the neutering effect of nostalgia and what was once radical is not only mainstream, it's kitsch and we end up with abominations like the new VW Beetle.

This of course applies not only to products but modes of thought, though in slightly different ways.

Take political correctness, for example. I think the general initial aims of political correctness (or whatever it was once called) were admirable: pause for a second and reconsider the source of your predispositions. Question socially constructed prejudices in an attempt to realize the world from another point of view. An idea I could get behind.

As this approach, this challenge, gained a cultural foot-hold to one of not just dominance but ubiquity, the goals and attitudes changed into some kind of bizarre thought-policing where you weren't allowed to tell Polack jokes anymore and not just because they're tedious and unfunny but because you weren't allowed to.

In the climate created under the PC Thought-Regime, it's impossible not to have some of the basic tenets seep into one's subconscious (or even conscious) world-view and color our interactions with others, especially when unexpectedly confronted with a minority or social sub-group we are unfamiliar with. Oversensitivity leads to fear of saying the wrong thing. Many white people, for instance, when confronted with a Mexican for the first time will point out how much they like Cinco de Mayo and how they had a piƱata one year at their birthday party, talking quickly and nervously for fear they might let fly an accidental "wetback!" and reveal themselves to be the horrible racists they knew they probably were in the first place.

This is a lot of exposition and overanalysis, but something happened to me today. Something so unexpected that I'm still sort of traumatized by it. The experience itself was fine, but the surprise of it is something I may never recover from.

See, I... well, I...

I got my haircut today.

Wait! There's more!

I got my hair cut by a midget. Er, Little Person. She was short. Man, I'm sweating already.

I'm going to stop here for just one second. I think everyone knows at this point that frequently on this blog, I tell lies. Huge lies. Completely fabricated whole entire sections of total bullshit in the misguided service of some larger bullshit point. This is not one of those times. You're going to have to take my word for it.

When I first saw her at one of my local chain haircutter establishments, I admit I stared. Not Omigod Freak Show! stared, but more like "How the hell is she gonna..."

But then I saw her box. She had a box she could stand on so she could reach. And she reached.

Logisitical questions cleared, I took my seat.

I'm all chatty and wordy in this forum, but out amongst people where you have to speak and there is no BACKSPACE button, I mostly limit myself to grunts and gestures. It's easier that way. We already know from a few days ago that I don't do small-talk, so if my hair is getting cut or my oil is getting changed or whatever, Pops no talky. Cash in exchange for services rendered, the end. No new best pals.

But then I was worried she would think I wasn't saying anything because she thought I was uncomfortable being worked on by a person of her limited stature, so I felt like I had to say something, but in that situation, you know... it's haircut talk really. She asked me how I wanted my hair cut. All I could think of was the word short.

And I thought "Holy Jesus, I'm in an episode of Seinfeld."

I soldiered on. I survived. I found out it was her fifth day on the job. Then I was able to focus on her nervous amateur incompetence and grumble inwardly about my inexpert service, so the ice was officially broken by my natural tendency to be an asshole.

I even shorted her on her tip. I mean I tipped her less than normally I might have. What I meant to say was her gratuity was perhaps not quite what she may have hoped for.

Aw hell. The Thought Police are going to get me for that one.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.4


PS- Were the Oscars on tonight? I forget. The best awards-show story I've read (maybe ever) was Halle Berry showing up at the Razzies to accept her Worst Actress award for Catwoman. Hot and a sense of humor. If only she loved me like I love her.

So you saw a midget woman's box huh? That reminds me, I have not seen any good German midget porn in awhile. I better get cracking on that. Pause and reconsider my predispositions. If I do that the next thing you know black people will win some Oscars.
To hell with you, MPH. I was here first tonight, and your comment appeared while I was waiting for the Blogger comment window to open.
Pops -- So how's the haircut?
And re: Halle Berry: You never know until you try.
Best/worst PC moment I've ever witnessed: At an entertainment conference in October, the comedian/MC starts going on about German midget porn (I bet he's a friend of yours MPH) and how he likes midgets and blah blah. He's looking out at the crowd through the blazing lights and his eyes fall on one of my students--she's a little person. Sure enough he makes a choking cough and then starts to ramble into his introduction of the next act.

I think he forgot about her being there, though, because when he comes back out, he sure does make another midget joke. Replay the whole awkward scene again and you'll get what we saw over and over and over....

Sorry bastard. He never saw it coming.
This post could have started here:

"I got my haircut today."

But instead we were treated to Victorian capitalism, paradoxes of resistance, blah blah. Thank you, Pops, for not dumbing down for the masses (like I do all the time).

I also thought the Razzie story was great.
MPH: Don't worry, the Big Awards (director and Best Picture) are still exclusively reserved for white and/or Jewish people.

Larry: The haircut is just fine. I came out of the place with less hair than I had going in, so all in all I'd call it a rousing success.

Jess: Did he have any material about really, really tall people? You know, just to balance it out?

SJ: I seriously considered editing it down to start there, but then this blog is all about me rambling incoherently, burying my point (on the rare occasions I have one) under a ton of unnecessary words. It's a needed counterpoint, though. After I get off this thing, it's all Teletubbies and Wiggles.
You know... SJ may be on to something. Your narative is a bit scrambled.
No, there was no balancing involved. It was just a pure, unchecked lack of good judgment. It sort of makes me feel sorry for the guy...
Since you locked up on "short", I can only hope that the next word out of your mouth was either "permed" or "mullet."
Brent: A bit scrambled?! I'll have you know I put in literally minutes on this post to get it just the right consistency of well-and-truly incomprehensible. I would appreciate a little more consideration.

Jess: Don't worry, short-person-haters usually get theirs. From just below the eyeline, too.

Rambuncle: Yes, I now look like a cross between Kid Rock and Mike Brady. So basically Greg Brady.
Well at least you didn't mention any "tossing" or "throwing," so that's good. Greg Brady, eh? Do you have curly hair and/or going bald?
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