I can’t help but scoff at the Dane Cookization of America. Cook rouses laughter through his spastic body movements and mockery of social phenomena. His antics are amusing at best, at worst, Dane Cook is ruining America.
While Cook’s comedic doctrine is governed by outlandish behavior, he also presents a suitable outlet for inner aggression and bites his thumb at the status quo. His repertoire is likened to the classical comedians of yesteryear like George Carlin however, modernity brought with it the death of the stand up comedian. Several variables led to the demise of the Catskill comedian, namely, the birth of SNL, Jerry Seinfeld’s conversion of whining to humor, and finally, the proliferation of idiocy through democratic vehicles like You Tube. If I were to add to Dane Cook’s biography on Wikipedia it would read “Dane Cook is to comedy what a double cheeseburger is to fast food: overexposed, over-processed, and oversaturated through the use of human growth hormones.” Cook replaces wit with charm and depth with a hot body.
In researching this article, I came across several websites that are exclusively devoted to hating Dane Cook. I found www.DaneCookSucks.com whose tag line reads “The stupider you are, the funnier he is.” Of course staging a counterinsurgency against American stupidity is hardly the way to win friends and influence people. The goal of this article therefore, is not to win popular support through character assassinations but rather, to expose Dane Cook’s hidden Populist agenda.
Dane Cook’s Tourgasm on HBO is much like William Jennings Bryant’s’ Free Silver Platform. Like Cook, Bryant appealed to the average Americans by campaigning for issues that affected people’s everyday lives. While the Populist Party grew out of the agrarian revolt that led to the collapse of agriculture prices, the Dane Cookization of America came as a result of the intellectual and moral decline of Americans.
While Populism felt good and was based on the democratic tenets of liberal democracy, it ultimately declined with Bryant’s defeat in the 1892 Presidential election. One could argue that Bryant’s loss was largely due to his naive idealism. After three failed presidential bids, William Jennings Bryant is remembered as a Communist, anti-Darwin, silver hugging zealot. Like Bryant, Cook will soon vanquish into the annals of history. In recent years, however, we have seen a resurgence of Populist movements, championed by the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hopefully, spastic comedy is just a fad.
But most Americans settle for Cook’s comedy because he reminds us of that frat boy we once hooked up with because all of the good-on-paper guys were too busy attending College Democrats meetings. Still, his sobriety in questionable and his paddle has been replaced with a microphone.
Some critics praise Cook’s style because he returned American stand up to the simplicity of finger painting. Perhaps Americans have grown tired with the crude gaucheness of Larry David. Indeed, not everyone is amused by David’s antics, ordering a vanilla bullshit drink at Starbucks and high-fiving an African American dermatologist for benefiting from Affirmative Action.
In a recent Times article, Richard Zaglin noted that Cook welcomes life’s exasperations “with the thrill of a class prankster turned cultural anthropologist.” While Cook touches on germane topics such as dating, road rage, and the importance travel mugs,Cook lacks insight into pressing world issues such as the sex slave trade, and the imminent threat of Iranian nuclear proliferation.
Dane Cook’s success reveals that not all Americans seek politics in their comedy. While I subscribe to the belief that Stephen Colbert is to comedy what Kol Nidre is to Judaism, I understand that Colbert’s mordant wit` is not suitable for the goat herders of North Dakota. Historically, comedy served as a safe outlet for escaping from the human condition of pain and loneliness. The Daily Show and Colbert Report single handedly transformed the role of the comedian from social commentator to political realist. Even Maureen Dowd notes that Stewart and Colbert are the most trusted names in news.
Is America stupid because of Dane Cook or is Dane Cook stupid because of America? While this question is as difficult as explaining the differences between Ted Nugent and Satan, one fact remains constant. You can’t convince someone of funny.
In the past few years, I’ve seen music take a sharp turn from emo rock around the bend towards synth pop. The geo-political paradigm shift towards Globalization in the Nineties promised the proliferation of democratic music. Where the access to populist platforms allowed bands to distribute music more freely without industry backing. This shift ushered in a new era for music where artists could dictate their creative styles without the rigidity of the mainstream market. Through this changing marketplace, artists were able to control their future. However, this shift opened a vacuum that sucked the garbage of the late Nineties into the void of synth pop that left the music scene oversaturated, overexposed and over synthesized.
Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? Oscar Wilde pondered this question in Decay of the Living and argued against the Aristolleian principle of mimesis. Contrary to art imitating life he argued, art sets the aesthetic principles by which people perceive life. The indie music scene on the Twenty-ought’s has seen a similar paradigm shift - the resurgence of 70s prog rock coupled with the idea that Thom York is the Shepard and we are sheep following him down the rustic path towards spiritual awakening.
In the 19th Century Nietzsche declared that God is dead and we murdered him- in the case of Kurt Cobain this may hold true. But Nietzsche was just killing the idea of God and the childlike dependence of every Existentialist questions about actualizing the self. People are unable to grasp this metaphor of Gods murder (likely by waterboarding) and understand a world that is not governed by absolutes and excludes the Judeo-Christian notion of morality and ethics.
But what governs the universe if not religion? People cannot come to terms with Nihilism and need something to believe in. Without religion, people are unable to see the world as expansive and boundless as a child’s imagination. If you destroy the Abrahamic God, you destroy the limitations of society. The sacrifice of Isaac is not a lesson in God’s covenant with man but serves as a lesson in blind faith. There is nothing more dangerous then this idea which yields the abandonment of logic, critical analysis and independent thinking. I hold the belief that only music can transcend religion.
So why not let art guide our morals and shape our understanding of the universe? Several bands of the new millennium do this well and embody Nietzsche’s philosophy. Populist bands like Broken Social Scene, Animal Collective, and Thee (The) Silver Mount Zion provide a new understanding of the world that abandons religiosity and replaces it with community. This sense of community is vibrant in cities like Chicago, Brooklyn and Austin. The rise of instrumental math and post rock demonstrate the notion that we don’t need language to have direction. While language is important in defining art, shaping culture, and inspiring the masses, this new genre holds to the old world philosophy that spirituality transcends scripture.
My Élan Vital was shaped by music during my formative years. While music provided an outlet from rich suburban aggression, it also promised that life is not a linear trajectory that favors chaos over pragmatisms. But the question here is not primarily one of aesthetics or a question of conventionally recognized beauties. Rather, it is a question that Dr. Draper explores in examining D.H. Lawrence- one of life’s discovery through a sixth sense that is magically rendered, rippling and quivering under the impulse of the Élan Vital.The current artistic convention that abandons formulaic inspiration and marries it with mustachioed douchebaggery does not hold up to this standard.
If life imitated art, the current zeitgeist should be one of populism, community, and bipartisanship. There was no time in history that America was so divided along party lines which produced talking heads that pollute our minds with toxic ideas. Even in communities like Brooklyn, ideas are recycled and we are a nation that is dumpster diving into the garbage of our own making. Few bands are creating anything new. Stunted creativity has left bands short on lyrics and heavy on synth. This does little to inspire and leaves us under the misguided apprehension that all you need is a beard and plaid shirt to earn your indie rock street cred (I’m looking at you Local Natives)
So here is a call for chaos theory dictating new music and inspiring a new generation of forward thinkers, progressivism and democratic ideals. Perhaps if new bands follow Wilde’s departure from myopia, we will not have to bury them into the cemetery of our own building. If you must write prose and poems the words you use should be your own, don’t plagiarise or take on load. ‘Cause there’s always someone, somewhere with a big nose, who knows, and who trips you up and laughs when you fall.
In the past few years we’ve seen the revival of English history, culture, politics and fashion. Downton Abbey revolutionized how Americans view English society, high tea and secret pikey gay sex. When nancy boy Rupert Murdoch testified before Parliament for wielding his political influence to perpetuate his global media empire, he assured Lord Justice Leveson that he’s “never asked a Prime Minister for anything.” Bollocks. Codswallop. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all know that he asked Margaret Thatcher for at least one hand job. Still, the influence of Great Britain continues to colonize our imaginations. When Kate Middleton (a plebian nonetheless) married Prince William, we all sighed in our collective minds that we too might marry into the English Monarchy, tame Nazi sympathizer Harry, and roll with the queen. While England has rebranded itself from a declining empire into a beacon for style and culture, I wonder when bitchy McQueen will step aside and make way for a new generation.
The great English Empire that colonized much of Africa and the Middle East has been in steady decline for the last 200 years. Decline of Empire usually wields chiseled down soap boxes, a weak economy, and disillusioned citizenry. Yet Great Britain failed to step aside gracefully after losing political influence through the emergence of the US as a superpower in the post WWII and decolonization eras. England has remained the manic pixie cousin who assures us that laying in the street will lead to transcendental awakening. And still, our spirits have not been reawakened or transcended the stuffy, and snobbish collective archetype that Americans have toward the English. Just this month we all looked on as bitchy McQueen celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with about as much jubilation as the instillation of a new garbage disposal.
This leads me to question if the English Monarchy should be overthrown all together. When I think about 18th Century political history (which is mostly when people start talking about their juice cleanses) I am nostalgic for a world where the electorate would not stand for the oppression that accompanies Empire. I look at the French Revolution with longing and celebrate Liberty Leading the People into a blood stained torture den of equality. While Robespierre reigned with terror, he also reminded us that being out of touch with Main Street galvanizes our natural rights within (I’m looking at you Mitt). But Joe the Plummer would not have faired well in revolutionary France as a member of the Committee of Public Safety- he’s likely stapled his hand to his goolies several times as an act of defiance towards intellectualism. Still, this doesn’t mean that English bloaks that busy themselves with biting their thumbs at the Euro-Zone cannot achieve independence from the British Monarchy who is out of touch with its citizenry.
As an American, of course I’m cynical and disillusioned by the political process that favors nepotism and dodgy sound bites. But maybe it’s time for bitchy McQueen to step aside and for someone else to usher in a new generation. Kate Middleton’s civility, generosity, and style repositioned England in the American mind. Just look at Pinterest and you will be assured that Americans know more about Kate’s style then the Magna Carta, Spanish Armada, or Protestant Reformation. Moving forward, perhaps we need a modern answer to Downton Abbey. This would assure the citizenry that the Monarchy is not out of the touch with the people and can lead them into the 21st Century. Heres to hoping slaggy McQueen chivvys along in disgrace after being caught in an elicit affair with the help.
The early 90’s provided many contributions that I can’t help but look back upon fondly; grunge, the peace process, flannel, Radiohead, slap bracelets, and Full House. In thinking about the current crisis of Iranian nuclear proliferation, the brilliant catch phrase of Stephanie Tanner says it all; “How rude, Mahmoud.” But how can we bring progress to such a politically, economically, and religiously constipated state?
Far before the so-called Populist and profane presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Persian Empire made many contributions to world civilization. The Sumerians predated the Roman Empire and established systems of government, and laid the foundation for Ancient Rome. This civilization contributed immeasurably to art, poetry, and language and originated in modern Kurdistan (choke on that that mustard gas, Saddam Hussein).In addition to civilization building in mess-o-potamia, the Persians also championed Ziggurat construction, which influenced the building of the great pyramids in Egypt.
Many factors contributed to the decline and fall of the Persian Empire. Economic depression and high taxes led to revolts in the provinces. This was a result of a decentralized government, that was out of touch with the citizenry. Weak rulers who govern from afar experience similar problems in consolidating and maintaining power and are unable to quell local unrest and rebellion (sound familiar?). Therefore, the Persian Empire experienced a steady decline and fall and the world saw the rise and influence of Islam in the greater Middle East and Asia.
Likewise, the modern state of Iran has been met with constant upheaval and political, social, and economic turmoil through out its long history. Unlike its bordering states, Iran was never colonized which led to a distinct architectural style and the preservation of culture. Whereas the Safavid and Zand dynasties focused on Persia’s rich history, the Pahlavi dynasty led by Reza Shah propelled Iran into the future by constructing a national education system, building railroads, and establishing a parliamentary government. After President Mosaddegh nationalized Iran’s petroleum reserves in the Fifties, the US intervened by leading a coup, which led to the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the modern (or ancient draconian) Islamic Republic. Once again, job well done America. Mission accomplished.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 gave rise to Ayatollah Khomeini whose likeness fills my mind with horrifying Orwellian imagery. In many ways, the revolution transformed Iran from a beacon of culture and civilization to a bearded zombie apocalypse. With the implementation of Sharia law, Iran has not been able to keep up with the rising tides of modern culture. Following the devastating Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s where the US strategically aligned itself with the Iranians, (Islamists aren’t as bad at Baathist murderers, right guys!?), Iran saw a short lived era of reform led by President Khatami. While Khatami supported free markets and was seen as a reformer, he failed in propelling Iran into the modern era. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mullah’s children wore onesies that said “Khatami, the infidels’ Khomeini.” We could call this future Sharia law enforcement brigade “infantdels.”
In 2005 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to the highest office of Iran in a very fake 2000-esque election. We’ve all seen images of Ahmadinejad in his camel suit and schlubby style; a real man of the people. Ahmadinejad’s tenure has included his famous catch phrase of “wiping Israel off the map,” nuclear proliferation, disdain for the West, and state sponsored terrorism. This was showcased in the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war and Iran continues to support Hamas, Hezbollah and countless terrorist regimes around the world. In case you don’t think that’s bad, he awards families of Palestinian suicide bombers $10,000 a pop. Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad deal- I could really use some fast cash.
While Ahmadinejad’s presidency has largely alienated Iran, an important thing to understand folks, is how little power he actually has. Ahmadinejad is just a figurehead and answers to the Mullahs, much like the relationship between Dubya and Dick Cheney (hey remember when he shot that guy in the face? That was awesome). Ahmadinejad trash talks a big game but the religious infrastructure in Iran possesses much of the countries soft power.
Therefore, the U.S. should get its head out of the sand and address the real issue of the repressive Islamic “Republic.” While the international community has isolated Iran by imposing economic sanctions, all this does is hurt Iranian citizens who really want a progressive government, economic prosperity and a social contract of human rights.
Perhaps instead of taking a hard line with Iran, the US should focus on the progress of the Iranian people. The fires of the Arab Spring conflagrated across the Middle East and overthrew many repressive regimes but the wind is shifting and the fire is slowly spreading to Iran. The people want change while the US is trying to put out that fire. Instead of imposing economic sanctions and forming supranational coalitions to stop Iran, maybe we should heed the advice of Stephanie Tanner, rise up and declare “How rude, Mahmoud.”
There are few bipartisan things left in Washington: pancakes; mutual disdain for Clint Hill’s lady pantsuits; John Boehner’s botched spray tan; eastern market. Perhaps another thing we can agree on is our country’s’ linear movement towards collective nostalgia and historical idealism.
Facebook just acquired Instagram, a photo-sharing app that takes modern photographs and makes them look vintage. Let’s call this phenomenon hipstoriography: rewriting history from a hip perspective. Just in case your Aunt Jenny’s Memorial Day BBQ wasn’t torturous enough, now we can see twitpics of her flag arm and strawberry fields apron in sepia. Thanks, Steve Jobs.
With the collective unconscious shifting from progressivism towards nostalgia, I can’t help but wonder if this election will pave a path forward while reflecting on past administration. It is easy to draw comparison between the Kennedy and Obama administrations. Political historians continue to analogize the myopic Catholic boy wonder with resurrected black Jesus himself.
The elections of 1960 and 2008 decided who was going to make America stop chasing her tail; those contests threw the winner in the maelstrom of cultural and political upheaval. While the post World War II era brought great prosperity through the GI Bill and welcomed the rise of the baby boomer generation, it also ushered in an era of promise. The promise was for American exceptionalism: superiority over the Soviet Union, brokering decolonization, integrating African Americans through Civil Rights legislation, the race to space, and a restored faith in ourselves. Ask not if your country gives a crap about you, ask if you give a crap about your country.
While the Kennedy reign revived the presidency and galvanized the electorate, it did little to control the political unrest ahead. Kennedy maintained his relatively high approval rating despite his policy gaffes in Cuba and constructing an unpaved back alleyway toward Vietnam. While Americans were caught in the crossfire of his explosive magnetism and palatable oratory skills, they neglected to see what was right in front of them.
For all of the promise of the passed torch from one generation to the next, little changed in the wake of Kennedy’s presidency. Cold War realpolitik got the best of him (and he likely died because of it). While history has vindicated him, the geopolitical realities and fault lines tell another story. There is one thing that is certain though: if looks could kill we would have won the Cold War.
Unlike the 1960 election, 2008 was a referendum on the failed Bush Doctrine of dogmatic unilateralism and blind neglect. If the mission was alienating the international community and collapsing the global economy, it was certainly accomplished. While some argue that the reign of Clintonville should have continued, Obama promised that hope was all the country needed to move forward. Progressivism would prevail in the face of draconian malfeasance.
Like Kennedy, Obama inherited a presidency that he fell victim to. Campaigning on hope over fear, and unity over purpose, his actions have not lived up to that promise. But I can’t blame the president for his political misgivings and strategic shift to the center. He inherited the global financial collapse, the Arab Spring, and Joe Biden. While he failed to close Gitmo, he did one hell of a job at shooting Obama, err, Osama in the face.
Going into the 2012 general election, I see a changing political breeze in the winds ahead. Americans care less about the Houla massacre and more about their loose pocket change. James Carville got it right in ’92 and indeed, this election is about the economy, stupid.
While Obama’s campaign unleashed an offensive strategy in attacking Romney’s record at Bain Capital, he has done little to convince Americans that another term will indeed bring change. We need assurance that this next chapter in our history will be a beacon for human rights, economic prosperity, social equality, reproductive rights for women, and an end to global nuclear proliferation.
Moving forward, perhaps what Americans needs is a progressive answer to Instagram. Let us not surrender to hipstoriography and lay to rest the ironic mustachioed 1890’s themed bike rides. Rather then the continued naiveté of historical idealism lets bid farewell to the past and focus on the future.