Wednesday, November 30, 2005

so what is it all about, anyway

This is one of these random jumble type of posts, where (like the surrealist painter) there are semi-recognizable things comprising some larger not-quite-consciously-grasped idea.

Back page of Time magazine, the 'light editorial', there is a cartoon that asks the question 'Why the worry about losing the true meaning of Christmas?', citing numerous popular movies, tv shows, plays, stories, etc. about some variety of meaning 'saving' or 're-discovering' Christmas.

Then I think about the 'commericialization' of Christmas as being generally ascribed as a largely American pursuit, and so attribute this fear of 'losing meaning' to the duality of the American mindset, where we purport to be virtuous, generous, down-to-earth and benevolent while wanting to be rich, powerful, glamorous and self-righteous.

Our reaction to this duality is to find fault in our general lifestyle and self-criticize relentlessly, particularly in the press: put the faults in the spotlight in order to somehow atone with a collective misgiving and demonstrate the insight that the virtous side has into our more corrupt side. So, it's important that the glamorous and rich are also wracked with relationship stress and secret self-destructive urges, that the crafty and talented are revealed as morally corrupt, and that the morally upstanding are pulled down by secret vice, and that the fallen, consumed by overreating, undereating, addiction, depression, self-indulgence, can be redeemed in small quantities from time to time after a suitable period of sufficient suffering (criteria for which to be secretly established and judged by an impartial panel of random unknown viewers).

To some extent, it's about 'equality'-- reinforcing that nobody is really any better than anyone else once you look at them for a while (of couse they can be *worse*, that's kind of the odd/sad thing, they can always be *Worse*).

But, while all this image shifting and judgement is going on, there really is a reality, an undercurrent, of change and rippling that has more to do with the everyday people you actually interact with. Also, there are people who manipulate the larger semi-fictional for ease of consumption images.

There's a great story by Kurt Vonnegut whose title I cannot remember, where the entire population is literally 'equalized' by the Handicapper General, whose department establishes a uniform standard of mediocrity that eschews natural discrepancies between individuals and enforces it by strapping weights to the exceptionally strong, clamping headphones that spit random noise into the ears of the unusually clever, disfiguring masks on the faces of the attractive, distorting lenses on the eyes of those particularly keen in vision. But the point is that the image movers/formers/changers are working at creating this balance of buildup, teardown, and moral to the story and keeping it consumable: not actual physically handicapping, but informationally handicapping.

So, while we lament the sullying of the meaning/spirit of Christmas (an image) and we are relieved at the various staged portrayals of it's reclamation, it's less clear that we are moved to make a change to project the essence of that meaning or spirit into our own surroundings or merge it into our day to day year round interactions.

Now, on the back cover of that same Time magazine (in my region, anyway), there is an add for a far reaching Wireless Broadband solution from a cellphone company that does not rely on wifi hotspots. "Forget WiFi" or words to that effect. Ah! $60 a month, not too bad, seeing all the things you can do on the internet.

But then you read a little more and it indicates "speeds averaging 400-700kbps". So, they are comparing apples to oranges: WiFi is shriekingly fast in comparison. They are offering you mediocre speed everywhere, and wanting you to settle for that. "Forget WiFi, even though it's often free". So this offer is not a gift at all, not a shining savior tucked in rough swaddling, but a hollow dimwit dolled up in shining raiment: it is not a thing of light and happiness, it is a letdown, a farce. It is the antithesis of Christmas, mere microns of paper away from the humorous yet poignant jest about the spirit of Christmas. Bold evidence of a Herod-like plot to wipe out wifi/wimax.


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