Why the Duck Dynasty Bleeps?

Duck DynastyI just had a thought about Duck Dynasty. Remember last October when Phil Robertson was complaining that the “editors” of the show were putting in random bleeps to make it sound like the clan was made up of a bunch of foul-mouthed hicks? I wrote about it, The Sad Reality of Duck Dynasty. At the time, I speculated that Phil Robertson knew exactly what was going on and that’s why he complained about the editors and not the producers. Well, I’m still sure that’s the case. But something occurred to me just now.

The reason that the producers thought that it would be just fine to make the Robertson clan look more like hicks by throwing in implied expletives is that they already knew that the Robertson clan had no problem pretending to be hicks by growing long beards. So the bleeps was just part of the same thing. And I assume that the producers have been doing that for a long time. But it was only once the show was hugely popular that Robertson went out and started complaining. Anyway, that is undoubtedly what the producers were thinking, “Why would the Robertsons care; they’re a bunch of phonies anyway.”

I’ve had another thought. Maybe the days of Duck Dynasty really are numbered. I know that the show will get a bump from the recent controversy. But the people who I know who like the show, like it because the Robertson’s are rich backwoods hicks. They don’t dig on the “good Christian values.” If the Robertsons manage to make the show as boring as Phil would like to make it, they will be left with the Christian crowd, and that isn’t their main audience. They are currently on their fourth season. I would be surprised if the show makes it past the sixth season.

The truth is that in America, you can be a good Christian or you can get good ratings. I know the Robertsons are just a bunch of rich assholes who are Christians only in a cultural sense. But the repeated attempts by Phil Robertson to save face have lost the show much of its fake credibility. But it can easily be replaced. How about, Romney Riches? Sounds like a winner. Especially if they all grow beards.

The Name of Umberto Eco

Umberto EcoAs I made some mention of back a few weeks ago, I had entered into a depressive phase. I always say that I am lucky because in general, my manic-depressive cycle is minor compared to many people who suffer greatly from it. And I also claim that my depressive phases tend to be short. All of that is true, but it isn’t always true. I think my writing of the last few weeks shows that I’m not that into it. I keep hoping that this ends, but I’m afraid it is seeping out in my normal relationships. Yesterday, my older sister was grilling me about signs she has seen of my depression. I denied it all. There’s nothing so tiresome as talk about all that. Writing about it, however… Given that things are more anonymous and that generally, most people didn’t think I’d last this long, I have the opportunity of being more honest. I’m not the suicide type, but I have been fantasizing about dying recently. I rather think it will come to pass. The idea that I might live another 30 years is unthinkable. Of course, just imagine my living to be 100. It would be the ultimate proof of an evil God. What could I possibly have done that is so bad as to justify such punishment? Anyway, I tell you all this as an apology and a reminder. I’m sorry if my writing of late has been uninspired. But remember (you and me, both): soon I will be feeling better and have more to say that is worth listening to. Until then, here is another (Insert: exhausted yawn) birthday post!

On this day in 1762, Constanze Mozart was born. I was inclined to give her the day, but alas, that idea only echoed in my brain for a while. (Note: pun!) There are two things I find really interesting about her. One is that Mozart loved her. She wasn’t anything especially great, but then, when they met, neither was the great composer. By that time, he had lost all the boy genius allure and few people wanted to see him perform. And he still wasn’t the great composer that he would become—although still greater than most composers of his time. The other thing is that for the longest time, Mozart biographers blamed Constanze for all of the couple’s financial problems. It was said that she didn’t know how to run the household and all kinds of other garbage. Of course, after Mozart died, she managed his estate extremely well and actually became rather wealthy. Here is the Requiem (which she was responsible for getting finished with Mozart’s student—and a great composer in his own right—Franz Xaver Süssmayr) just for her:

This one’s fun. I get to tell a secret. When Andrea was a little girl, she had a crush on Mr. Green Jeans on the television show Captain Kangaroo. In one of the episodes that I’ve written of The Post-Postmodern Comedy Hour, I use that fact for what I think is a very funny joke. Now that I think about it, the whole show has a lot of references to that kid’s show that I never really liked. In particular, I’ve used Mr. Bunny Rabbit, although in my version, he writes poetry and is the reincarnation of William Wordsworth. I like my comedy erudite, damn it!

Anyway, Hugh Brannum was born in 1910. He is best known for playing the part of Mr. Green Jeans. But he was a very accomplished musician. He was associated with the singer Fred Waring, for whom he wrote and arranged gobs of music. Leave it to Andrea to have a crush on a guy who, without her knowledge, was actually really cool.

I had no idea that Walter Mondale was still alive. He’s 86 years old today. I bring him up only to say that he didn’t lose the 1984 presidential campaign because he was too liberal. He lost because the economy was good and that you can credit to Paul Volcker. And we smart Americans re-elected a president who was clearly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Aren’t you proud to be an American?

Other birthdays: French surrealist Yves Tanguy (1900); the great novelist Stella Gibbons (1902); highly successful charlatan Jeane Dixon (1904); I don’t care what they say, proto-abstract expressionist Nicolas de Stael (1914); actor Jane Wyman (1917); great record producer and finder of talent Sam Phillips (1923); poet W D Snodgrass (1926); great actor Robert Duvall (83); animator Hayao Miyazaki (73); actor Diane Keaton (68); and actor Clancy Brown (55).

The day, however, belongs to Umberto Eco (Eco! Echo!) who is 82 today. I most like him because of The Name of the Rose, which is one of the best novels I have ever read. I’ve also read a number of his essays. He’s a brilliant man. What I couldn’t do was read Foucault’s Pendulum. I tried. I’m sure it’s good. But the beginning really made me think that this might be an “unreliable” narrator and I really don’t much like that. But I will always love him for The Name of the Rose. If you haven’t read it, please do. And if you have seen the movie, forget it. The movie is pathetic. (Yes Bob, the sex scene with Valentina Vargas and Christian Slater is really great.) Anyway, he’s a great thinker and a great writer.

Happy birthday Umberto Eco!

Afterword

I don’t think of myself as suffering from depression. Clearly, I suffer from some manic-depression kind of thing because my highs are much higher than those of others and my lows are lower—sometimes frighteningly so. The most clear problem in my life is a high level of anxiety. And some day, I might have the money to get that treated. Regardless, I don’t wish I were someone else. The devil you know…

Update (5 January 2014 8:17 pm)

Okay, maybe I was too harsh. I found the movie The Name of the Rose on youtube. It is nowhere near as good as the book, but the film is not too bad. And it has a bunch of great European actors. Check it out if you like:

[You know YouTube! The film is no longer available. But here is a very good scene from it, although the aspect ratio is screwed up. Still quite good. -FM]

Update (5 January 2014 11:10 pm)

One big difference between the book and the movie is that the movie kills off Bernardo Gui at the end. And he is just as vile in the book. As I recall, he simply flees when the peasants revolt. Eco couldn’t kill him off in the book, because he was a real guy who lived to be about 70. As Inquisitors go, he probably wasn’t particularly bad. But we know about what those people did because of all his writing on the subject. In fact, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis (Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness) is pretty much an early 14th century how-to book for aspiring Inquisitors. Here is a good example of his thinking, On the Albigensians. What you see is the same thing I see with Christians today. Different Christian sects just hate each other over the most minor theological differences. You can well imagine what kind of “Christian love” Gui meted out to these “Manichaean heretics.”

GOP Strategy Won’t Change 2014 Elections

Martin LongmanMartin Longman wrote an interesting article over at Booman Tribune yesterday, GOP’s Irrational Exuberance. It’s about the Republicans and their conviction that they are going to totally rock in the 2014 elections. Longman isn’t so sure. He thinks that “they will have to develop a positive message.” If he’s right, then all hope is lost for the GOP in 2014, because the party just doesn’t have a positive message. That’s what made Reagan so important to the conservative movement: as vile as his policies were, he seemed like he cared. (He didn’t really; he was the leading edge of winner-take-all conservatism.)

What I think will happen in the 2014 election regarding the Republicans is what always happens. The Republicans will run the same old candidates and hope that the Democrats just don’t come out to vote. (This is unfortunately, a highly successful approach.) But as I discussed this last week, the GOP attempt to get better candidates won’t work. Almost half of the Republican Party is made of fools who believe the Fox News propaganda as faithfully as they believe the Bible.

You see, it doesn’t matter what the “establishment” Republicans want for candidates. What they believe in are exactly the same things that the Crazy 40 believe in. Oh, I know! The establishment types don’t really believe that it is better to let a pregnant woman die than get an abortion. And they don’t believe that God Hates Fags. But they know that they can’t upset the Crazy 40 or they will be decimated in the general election.

And let’s look back on the notable crazy candidates of the past. In 2010, it was Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell. But even if the Republicans had nominated better candidates who had won the general election, the Republicans would not have taken control of the Senate. In 2012, it was Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. But again: had better candidates been nominated and won the general election, the Senate would have remained in control of the Democrats. Right now, the Democrats have 55 seats (including two leftist independents who caucus with the Democrats) in the Senate and the Republicans have only 45. So even if all of the 4 crazy Republican poster children had won, the Democrats would still control the Senate.

What’s more, those last two elections were ones where the Democrats had vastly more seats to protect. And that is again the case in 2014. But in 2016, it will be the opposite. And that means a couple of things. First, it means that the Republicans only chance to take over the Senate is to do it in 2014. Second, it means if they take over the Senate, they will only have it for 2 years, under a Democratic president so it won’t do them much good anyway. And third, it means that the in 2016, the Democrats could again have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

As for the House, the gerrymandering continues to help the Republicans. But as each day goes by, the gerrymandering has less and less impact. I’ve argued that 2016 will be a huge year for the Democrats where what little gerrymandering advantage the Republicans still have will not be enough to maintain control of the House. Given that the Democrats will also likely keep the White House, 2016 will look a lot like 2008. But even that will not cause the Republicans to make any policy changes. That will have to wait until 2018, when they find that they can’t even win elections in an off year anymore. But they may not be willing to make changes even then; they may just disintegrate. (Note: the next redistricting takes place after the 2020 elections—an on-year election that is likely to benefit the Democrats. If I were a Republicans I would be terrified. Or maybe not, because if I were a Republican, I would be an idiot.)

Regardless, I think Republicans have advantages in 2014 that will allow them to keep the House and if they are very lucky, take over the Senate. It will be a last hurrah for them, however. And no amount of strategy is going to change 2014 in a big way. It will mostly be a wash, regardless of what candidates the Republicans manage to nominate.