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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: July 30-August 26, 2005

Sunday, August 13, 2005:

At Pro Libris, this great used bookstore in Bangor, I discovered a smirk-worthy "National Waffle Association" sticker amid the proprietor's nifty pile of leftist bumper stickers. There's nothing particularly smart or scathing about the sticker, of course, but it is silly, which I appreciate every bit as much. I didn't purchase it, because Pip is a lease and I don't particularly want to spend the days before returning him to the Saturn Orphanage going through tube after tube of Goo-Gone to remove the adhesive. However, it later occurred to me that it would be funny if I were to get a few of those stickers and keep them in my wallet until I came across a car that had an actual National Rifle Association sticker on it, so I could slap a Waffle sticker on top when no one was looking, which would hopefully escape the driver's notice for awhile. 

This particular idea went no further when I remembered that an NRA sticker on a car is a pretty solid indication that its owner is not only armed, but a lunatic. And also, the NWA sticker really doesn't look enough like the NRA logo to be an effective culture-jamming device, I don't think.

Nonetheless, I wonder if there is or should be some sort of prank-driven movement whose members deface/replace right-wing bumper stickers in such a fashion. I myself feel much more susceptible to road rage when I see one of those "Support the troops... AND OUR PRESIDENT!" or "Marriage = [restroom door symbol of a man] + [restroom door symbol of a woman]" stickers than I do even when I'm nearly run off the road, so some sort of countermeasure to this ignorance could conceivably make the roads safer. It would just be a matter of coming up with silly or subversive versions of these ubiquitous slogans and logos, and finding a means of printing them cheaply enough that people could buy a whole roll of these stickers to carry around to use at every opportunity. I mean, the folks at whitehouse.org have some pretty good ones, but not only are they mostly too blatant to trick anyone, they're prohibitively expensive even with volume discounts. We'd need some way of getting, like, a pack of 100 for ten dollars for this to take off.

I'm no graphic designer or slogan-writer, but just as an example of what I mean, maybe the "marriage" sticker above could be covered up with a similar sticker that put pictures of Beecher and Schillinger from Oz on the right side of the equation. Or, I don't know, put an Andy Capp hat on the man and a rolling pin in the woman's hand.

This is why I would not be the one in charge of the content. But you get the idea.

Now, obviously, the Freepers and Dobsonites could do the same thing back at us, but... well, this may sound like a sweeping generalization, but the neo-cons don't strike me as a bunch that can list "humor" as one of their chief weapons. I don't simply mean that a political persuasion that largely regards Ann Coulter and Dennis Miller as the pithiest of the pithy is sorely lacking in any sort of comedic intelligence (though that's certainly the case); I mean that the neo-con platform is driven to such a degree by scare tactics, misdirection, and sermonizing that you don't tend to see a lot of potential for lightheartedness. It's a lot of "The sanctity of life is under attack," "The sanctity of marriage is at risk," "Freedom is in jeopardy," and so forth, and when they drop this facade of urgency and impending threat for a moment, it tends to backfire. (For instance, all the deserved flak Dubya took for his "joke" about being unable to find the WMDs.) Because to do so would make clear that if they consider these issues a laughing matter even for a moment, then the issues must not be as deadly serious as they'd been insisting in grave tones for months... and if there really aren't terrorists walking among us and pornographic series on PBS and public schools full of pothead teachers instructing our children that Jesus was a liar and that sodomy is what all the cool kids are doing, and we don't need to be constantly in defensive mode... then the rich white fundies would have a lot of 'splainin' to do about their policies, eh? Not to mention people might start paying attention to things like the de facto pardoning of Ken Lay, or Karl Rove's dangerous psychosis.

On the other hand, although the left unquestionably takes their positions equally seriously (though arguably believes in them more genuinely), I think that the left's ideals tend to spring from a desire for what's best for the greatest number of people. Again, this is a huge generalization, because I know there really are corrupt nutball liberals who go too far just as there are some conservatives who really do have unselfish motives underlying their misguided beliefs, but in a certain sense, it's easy to (over)simplify the conservative agenda in the phrase "Freedom isn't free, and we define the price," and the lefty agenda in the admittedly hippie-ish phrase "Why shouldn't freedom be free, and who are you to tell us otherwise?" Thus, since our point of view can be easily defended by poking holes in the right's bubble of fear, humor is an effective way to do that.

I once saw an interesting History Channel special on the concept of The Devil throughout the ages, and one historian said that, of all the religions and mythologies that have a Satan-like figure, a running theme is that an effective way to defend oneself against him is to simply laugh in his face. I think the same principle applies to the right. No matter how fervently we may believe that the Iraq war is a crime against humanity, that homosexuals deserve the same rights as those heterosexuals enjoy, etc., it doesn't diminish our argument to have less-than-solemn slogans like "Who would Jesus bomb?" and "Ban Republican marriage!" and "George W. Bush is a punk-ass chump!" So that's one weapon we have that they don't. Does that seem reasonable, or am I kind of reaching here?

At any rate, this is pretty much a rambling and irresponsibly reductive way of saying that I'd expect a lot of lame Monica Lewinsky jokes from the right. (Plus, personally, I think bumper stickers are a vulgar enough phenomenon in the first place that a partisan prank war of that nature would be pretty amusing regardless of the stickers' content. I find something very, very pleasing about the notion of people of any political stripe tooling around town while unknowingly wearing "kick me hard" signs on their bumpers.) Ever since seeing those documentaries The Yes Men and Sonic Outlaws, I've been really excited about media viruses, and in my own naive little way, I thought this might be a fun, tiny one that someone could put together if they had the resources and talent. Not me, though. I've got cartoons to watch.

Oh, and I had a very promising job interview at The Ellsworth American on Friday, so wish me luck with that.

CURRENT MUSIC: Minimum-Maximum by Kraftwerk.
CURRENT MOOD:
Being slowly driven batty by a logorrheic cricket that's somewhere in my living room.
TIME:
1:33 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, July 31, 2005:

A few notes:

I forgot to mention that while Bev and I were staying in Camden, the woman who was co-runner of the Swan House told us about an extremely creepy house on that road which features a bunch of dolls (Bev counted 28) in the windows, staring at the passersby with their dead eyes. It was indeed disturbing. The woman told us that she'd once looked in the window of the house at dusk and seen the elderly homeowners eating dinner with a number of dolls seated around the table. I knew those American Girls weren't to be trusted. (Also, breakfast at the Swan House included their "spicy egg puff," which was unspeakably delicious. I really liked it there.)

Yesterday, Bev and I went to a fun auction to raise money for the local volunteer fire department. Lots of bargains to be had. I got a Gulbransen brand Pacemaker organ for ten bucks. Ten bucks! Lots of cool, old-timey noises come out of that thing. I can actually re-create the "Intermission" bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which means... I'm a hopeless dork. Bev got some sake cups and a piano bench.

Regardless of the denials of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Depp's performance in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was totally based on Michael Jackson: high-pitched voice, transparently white skin, misanthropic recluse who invites a bunch of kids to his place because he himself never had a true childhood, etc. Plus, the film is much more interesting that way. Cotton candy sheep = Bubbles.

CURRENT MUSIC: Action Pact by Sloan.
CURRENT MOOD:
It's starting to hit me that I'm really, actually removed from all my Michigan friends. It's a little scary, and I miss you all. 
CURRENT QUESTION:
Hypothetically, if I get a job interview, do you think it's necessary to get a haircut beforehand, or has the whiteboy afro gained enough popular acceptance that I can spend the nine dollars on booze instead? I mean, it's not like I'm applying at The Free Republic or anything.
TIME:
5:43 PM.

Doot? | |

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