February 25, 2004: “I was going to write about the unrefined thoughts…”

I was going to write about the unrefined thoughts I had on the passing of Golden Age of TV icon Jack Paar. Which involved some teleportation back, against time's arrows, to the past, when television was Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bill and Kukla Fran and Ollie and Studs Terkel (this was in Chicago) and Dave Garroway and whatever the chimpanzee's name was (I could go to Google but am feeling like minimizing my contact with the search engines of the world). Sadly or unfortunately there are a number of barriers between the kinds of thoughts that are more than passing and my opportunities to think them through or write them down. Well, anyway that's my problem.

So before I move on to the great pressing question of the day, Ralph Nader, I did want to secure the recollection that WD Wetherell's Morning was a terrific novel whose protagonist was the archetypal early morning television show host. It's a good time to examine the media against the context of real history, and Thom Mallon, in a way, does the same sort of thing in his new novel, Bandbox, which fabricates a hilarious narrative around a mens's magazine in the raucous NYC journalism jungle of the late '20s.

I have also, in the recent weeks, been trying to read a bit farther afield than the occasionally claustrophobic strip of terra firm that I call my home away from home, contemporary literary fiction. This effort has me delving into neurology and the "intellectually unhygienic" subject of creativity with Alice Flaherty's The Midnight Disease, contemporary physics and super string theory via Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos and Eva Hoffman's thoughts on what I have recently acknowledged is its own subject, the Holocaust, in her portentous, After This Knowledge. Not that I am complaining.

So, now other than knowing the price of a gallon of milk [$2.39] (which is a renewable resource) and having by necessity to know the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline [$1.61] (which is not a renewable resource [shouldn't the renewable one be cheaper?]), my somewhat remote contact with everyday life is being threatened by the hysterical keening and ululating that is coming from my friends who are upset at Ralph Nader for exercising his right to be a candidate for the presidency. Let me say this is not worthy of hysteria and may be as much the result of our poor education — especially in matters of history and governance — as any real threat posed by Nader's machinations. But that's a matter for another time.

Without any resort to the current vernacular of blue state, red state mumbo jumbo, which has reduced politics to beer distribution, let me offer two things. One, Ralph Nader did not cause Albert Gore to lose the election. Guess who did (besides the Supreme Court?). Two, without a third party candidate the media will pay attention to (there are others, that perennial Larouche, among them) the election will be an Armageddon of television commercials and Orwellian. What will that advance?

Nothing good, I am sure.

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