Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tim Blair, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Christopher Buckley and well ... whatever

Sometimes a Saturday produces a shock, a surprise, as the loons gather to celebrate the newspapers publishing their large weekend editions, once filled with classified rivers of gold, now filled with trickles of lead.

What to make, for example, of Miranda the Devine sounding sensible, almost rational, when it comes to discussing the issue of cruise ships and their passengers spreading swine flu in the streets of Sydney? She sounds almost socialist, understanding the predicament of authorities, the difficulties they face, and the steps they've taken to combat the problem:

Our whingeing culture needs a reboot. Looking for scapegoats and making unreasonable demands on authorities only hampers the ability of the people in charge to make good decisions.

Instead of whining that NSW Health has not delivered them a free meal, we should be thankful the disease is not yet too virulent, that the anti-viral Tamiflu still works and that we have a first-rate health system.

Yep, that'd be the public health system and public purse bureaucrats. Eat it up while you can you first rate socialist lads, because surely the storm will come again at a later date. (see Bad case of moaners going overboard).

Fortunately, Tim Blair is always to hand when loon pond is desperately short of entertainment. During the week he was quick to link to bad reviews of The Chaser's new outing on the ABC, but you have to put that down partially to professional jealousy. The Chaser boys are genuinely funny, in an up and down off and on way, while Blair, who purports to be a humorist, always comes across as someone driven by ideological rage.

The Chaser lads never let ideology get in the way of a terrible bit of slapstick, and even if their latest outing shows that re-invention is the hardest task in comedy, at least they've managed some decent comedy in their time.

What to make, for example, of this Saturday Tim Blair outing for the Daily Telegraph in Spoken down to by dimwits?

First I'll have to deliver a spoiler, so if you want to read Blair unencumbered by outcomes, head over there right now. On the other hand, if you never read Blair on principle, the punchline for the story is that he takes a series of quotes of varying quality, purports that they might have come from Sarah Palin, and then in a punchline, reveals that they've actually come from a speech by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The purpose of the speech? A commencement address at North Caroline's Wake Forest university, where of course the real purpose is to see how man times you can get the students to laugh, and where the worst crime is to anything other than be light and be positive about the world, in a way peculiar to all go getting Americans.

Now nobody would  pretend that Joe Biden is the sharpest steak knife in the drawer, or that he's the a top notch stand-up comedian when trying to ingratiate himself with students. If you want a good example of the genre, drop by Christopher Buckley and read his column My Address - and Apology - to Yale.

A Buckley ampler:

I’m tickled, and a bit nervous, to find myself standing here today. As Mark Twain once said, facing a large, intimidating audience, “Homer’s dead, Shakespeare’s dead, and I myself am not feeling at all well.”

That's the opener of course, but then Buckley gets deep:

They used to screen late-night movies in Linsley Chit. Maybe they still do. Almost every night, in those happy, bygone days, you could catch an Ingmar Bergman movie, for a buck. What better way to unwind after a long night at the library than sitting in hard upright wooden seats, watching incomprehensible black-and-white Swedish art movies?

And every night, it always happened: Right at the climactic moment when Death was playing chess with Max von Sydow and the eerie music was swelling and you didn’t have the foggiest idea what the heck these brooding Swedish persons were talking about, someone at the back of the room would shout out, “What does it mean?”

Your generation, being more sophisticated than ours, came up with an all-purpose answer to that pressing existential question—Whatever.

We didn’t have that word in our day. It was your generation that came up with the whole concept of “whatever.” And on behalf of my generation, I want to say, Thank you. It’s just brilliant and philosophically airtight.

There is no proposition, no argument, dogma, asseveration, boast, or claim that can’t be stopped dead in its tracks by an American teenager with an iPod in his or her ears saying, “Whatever.”
Try it.
To be or not to be. Whatever.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Whatever.
Mission Accomplished. Whatever.

Well indeed whatever, strangle me in the shallow water before I get too deep, but to get back on topic with Blair, his diatribe about Biden is in fact a kind of outrage at the unkind lashings copped by his heroine Sarah Palin. Blair can't stand that David Marr calls her as thick as a brick, claiming he's misattributed one Palin quote, and even if indeed she is as thick as a brick.

And let's make no bones about it, Palin is as thick as a brick, and perhaps even as thick as Hadrian's wall on occasions, and her home made family drama has become a source of endless titillation to a US media always willing to spend an hour or two watching the sitcom Life with the Palins, or the soap Days of our sordid Palin lives. 

But to be fair, as a media sensation Palin has been a rip roaring success, and it's hideously wrong of Marr not to recognise the fine job she's done selling newspapers, shifting electrons and giving the world a deeper understanding of the fine art of moose dressing. Still, Blair smarts at the pain his heroine continues to suffer:

Anyway, smart people were relieved when Palin's White House bid failed. But what if John McCain and his dimwitted running mate had been elected? Right now we'd be listening to some of the most spectacularly stupid speeches ever made.

Okay, so how's it go with Blair and Biden?

"I had planned on driving my '67 Corvette up the middle of this area here. But the Secret Service said they wouldn't let me do it." Such disregard for the environment would be typical of an ignorant woman who shoots moose and wants to drill Alaska for oil.

Oh please, whatever. You might have a go at jolly Joe for delivering a terrible joke, a kind of get down with the guys piece of nonsense about driving a '67 Corvette to the levy (oh wait that was a Chevy), and then doing a reverse pike by boasting about the secret service connection, but Blair's retort is just ... well lame. Feeble, pathetic, tragic, more tragic than Biden's original outing.

And so it continues. For every half assed Joe Biden utterance, Blair provides a half assed, half baked, totally unfunny comeback, as he pretends to assault Palin for making such dipstick remarks while really trying to assault Biden.

Funnily enough, I felt a warm regard for Biden, and a bizarre understanding of just why the likes of Blair don't get recent changes in the world. And why things won't change, if this is either (a) an example of conservative humor or (b) an attempt to redeem Sarah Palin or (c) Blair thinks shooting himself in the foot is a funny way to demonstrate that Biden has shot himself in the foot.

Another sample:

"Remember your physics class? You're driving along in an automobile and you move the wheel slightly to the left or right, and you send the car careening in the direction that absent another change will end up a significant distance from where you were aimed." My car generally goes where I aim it. What kind of comedy opposite-steering clown cars do they drive in Alaska?

Well Blair's car might go where he aims it, but his keyboard don't go in the direction of comedy, not even when he aims it, unless you count a hammer smashing a peanut as a total hoot. Second thoughts, try picking the wings off flies.

So there you have it, a column about being spoken down to by dimwits which quotes a dimwitted speech allegedly by an Alaskan dimwit but really by a dimwitted Biden, and rebutted in a heavy handed dimwitted fashion by Blair for what must surely be a dimwitted readership, if this is how they get their comedy rocks off.

Which leaves me with only one thought. Whatever.

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