brush, the understandable evil
Monday, September 8 2003
To understand the Average American is to let go of every useful lesson life has taught me and to give in to the vague nagging of long-repressed voices in my head, the ones planted by peers circa sixth grade and reinforced (to the extent that I've allowed them to be reinforced) by advertising. Maybe if I drove a colossal sport utility vehicle, my grass really would grow thicker and greener. If I switched to AOL, I'd discover that this was the place where all my friends have been online all these years. If my penis were only three inches longer, well, hell, there's no telling how much happier I'd be! And all those guys in the Middle East - the ones with turbans on their heads who talk funny. They're all part of one big anti-American conspiracy. By kicking Iraqi ass, we're taking decisive action in the war against terrorism. Those terrorists who think they're going straight to Heaven when they die killing us - once we show 'em, they'll learn that our version of life plus eternity is simply better than theirs. Especially that life part of the equation. How can a life spent soberly swatting flies in a camel-dung hut compare to cracking brewskis and watching football in a democracy?
Okay, maybe it's not that simple, though such simplistic thoughts surely sustain the contentment of vast majorities. Such people have the luxury of not being responsible, even though in a democracy on some level they are. The guy who really is responsible has a preference for the simple answers and even simpler solutions, but with the information he has available, these days his head must throb with cognitive dissonance.
No wonder he's so fond of attacking brush back on the Crawford Ranch during his month-long August vacations. Evil just doesn't get any simpler or more predictable than Texas brush.
I can relate to our president when I'm out extending the trails in the forest behind our house. I don't clear the brush as Dubya does, in large Satan-thwarting swaths. I deal with it in a linear fashion, doing my best to integrate my removal into the landscape. What I'm attacking isn't really brush, because it's usually not alive. It mostly amounts to downed trees and the dead lower limbs of pines. My trails are designed so that they run between the trees, and I only route them through fallen timber when there is no better way.
Today I was out on the Chamomile Headwaters Trail (which corresponds to the pink line on that map I posted the other day). Being a logging road, it pretty-well defines itself, so my job was to clear the trees that had fallen across it since it was last used. I had a bow saw, but it was only good for cutting a log less than twelve inches in diameter. To cut anything larger required techniques such as sawing from the bottom first and then switching to the top once the pinching began. In the past I've also used another technique in which I cut out a wedge of wood from the top which gives me a deep enough valley to cut all the way through.
My biggest problem today was getting the blade severely pinched inside various trees. This would usually happen when I was cutting in a way that seemed to avoid pinching, but the cutting itself would sometimes unleash forces from unexpected directions. I spent a good twenty minutes working to unpinch the saw from a semi-fallen tree after a horizontal force suddenly materialized. I had to use stones from a nearby cairn (the woods actually have more cairns than beer cans) to build a fulcrum for a makeshift lever. The whole time Eleanor was watching me with a mixture of concern and fascination. Only a puppy could have found it interesting; meanwhile Sally was far off somewhere else, probably engaged in a chipmunk mining operation.
Like our President, I enjoy the mindless sweaty labor as a distraction from more cerebral matters. The heat in the Catskills is probably nothing like that of Crawford, Texas, but I don't have access to any of the President's mechanized conveniences. For me, it's all about brute force, and sometimes the thing I'm moving can only be advanced in inches. But there were only three or four downed trees to clear on the entire length of the Chamomile Headwaters Trail, so I was able to complete the assignment and have the satisfaction of a job well done. Compared to the War on Terrorism, the Hunt for Osama bin Hussein, and Operation Make Iraq Resemble Canada, it was a tidy little project.
This evening Gretchen and I finally got a chance to see Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Bravo. We'd heard about this show, obviously, but now we got to see what the fuss was all about.
The premise is that five gay guys, all experts in respective fields stereotypically associated with gayness, show up at some straight guy's house and give him some tips on how to present himself. We saw two episodes of this show (each an hour in length) and the straight guys all had long nasty hair and lived in either appallingly cluttered or completely barren houses.
QEFTSG has the form of a home improvement show, but it's so much more than that too. Unlike most home improvement shows, it's extremely funny and has elements. It shows influences from reality teevee, but these are handled in an ironic, mocking way that respects the intelligence of the viewer. The editing is so frantic that at times you don't have time to savor something hilarious or touching.
That last aspect was unexpected. After all the humor, all the in-joke references to Bring It On, and all the catty behind-the-straight-guy's-back observations, we were delighted by the sincere gratitude expressed by the straight guys to their new gay friends, who had come and enlightened them on their ill-conceived clothes, grooming, and social habits. Interestingly, much of the wisdom being imparted was the sort of thing a father is supposed to teach his son: how to shave, how to tie a tie, and how to prepare asparagus. The curse of being a straight man it to never fully accept your adulthood and never transcend the directly pragmatic. For a straight man, no home is ever permanent enough to be decorated. In this show, these things were matter-of-factly presented as handicaps to be overcome. The message to straight men was: benefit from the gay people in your community. They have wisdom and sense to impart.
The show does wonders for furthering the acceptance of gays among skeptical demographics. There are whole swaths of troglodytic Americans who can't get past the buttfucking when it comes to thinking about the lives of gay people. But I have enough confidence in this show (and the persuasive effects of television) to think that anyone who watches it will come away thinking that perhaps gay men and their Barbara Streisand collections and zebra-print upholstery somehow provide a valuable service to the world. Maybe being gay isn't all about buttfucking, playground proselytizing, and circle jerking.
So, yes, it's a great show, on so many levels.
Oddly, though, the advertising that runs during Queer Eye for the Straight Guy seems to be extremely poorly targeted. It mostly amounts to low-production basic cable commercials such as the dreary Ditech.com series ("I lost another loan to Ditech!"). In a show of this caliber directed (at least initially) to a coastal world-weary audience, one would expect the sort of expensive ads one sees during the Simpsons. I got the feeling that they are still finding their way with this show. Can it really be that I know a lot more about how they should be targeting their ads than their ad guy does? Why does he have a job and I don't?
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next