Monday, July 06, 2015

Where the harm was never meant

So TV Land has yanked Dukes of Hazzard reruns due to the Confederate flag on the General Lee.

I hate the Confederate flag and everything it stands for, and pretty much always have. I didn’t at first, as the show was my first-ever exposure to the flag, and it was on most of my favorite toys of the time. But once I realized the flag represented something other than a design flourish on a cool car — and that the “something” in question was half the nation spilling a whole nation’s blood in an attempt to secede over slavery — I still enjoyed the show but didn’t condone the flag (much like you might love a relative even if they hold some views you wish they didn’t). After all, it’s not as if the show was about the flag, right? The banner was there, but none of the baggage that went with it was apparent in the characters or the plot lines. Really, Hazzard was an idealized microcosm of the South, a place that flag defenders could point to as what the Confederate flag really stands for. Unfortunately, real life is a tad different, and the history of the banner that many real-life Southern counties continue to fly can’t be swept under the rug quite as cleanly.

My immediate thought upon hearing the news of the cancellation was, “I hope someone gets to work on digitally erasing that flag so we can have Dukes back.” But wouldn’t that play into the hands of people who accuse us of erasing history? There’s a difference between “erasing history” and evolving against the public display of the nation’s most shameful symbol. That distinction could get muddier if we took the Photoshop tool to the show.

On the other hand, it seems wrong to call for the flag’s removal from the public square, yet turn a blind eye to the reruns. On the other other hand, removing Dukes from the airwaves hardly seems on par with removing the flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

I’m trying to control for personal nostalgia here. I have loved Dukes as long as I’ve been alive. And ever since the mass shooting in Charleston, I’ve seen many people express love for the Confederate flag than can only be a function of nostalgia. Anytime I’ve seen that, I’ve rolled my eyes. Likewise, I realize that some who read this might similarly roll their eyes at me.

But unlike the Confederate flag, Dukes remains pretty much universally beloved. I don’t know anyone, regardless of race or political affiliation, who has any serious issue with the show. It’s been in heavy rotation in syndication since it ended and has spawned both a series of recent films and, even more recently, a series of AutoTrader ads featuring Bo and Luke. Unlike a lot of cultural touchstones of its era and even later, Dukes holds up as a solid, watchable show that at times extolled some impressively progressive values. That’s what makes its use of the flag all that more frustrating in retrospect.

I hate that the Dukes ever adorned that flag. Even more importantly, I hate that the hateful actions behind the banner were ever a thing. I can’t believe I have a mixed feeling on anything involving the Confederate flag, but there it is.

But let’s be clear — this is the only mixed feeling I have.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Today in fake news

Study: Caring about two issues possible

BALTIMORE — Researchers at Johns Hopkins University announced on Friday that humans can indeed think and care about as many as two separate issues.

This was the conclusion of study findings that will be published in the autumn issue of Common Contrarian Quarterly. The study tracked a representative sample of Facebook users over a period of eight years.

“Up until now, popular consensus has dictated that anyone who is discussing an issue cares about that issue and that issue only,” a researcher involved with the study said. “It was assumed, therefore, that anyone who talked about anything other than world hunger, the environment or other social inequities at all times didn’t care about those things.”

This, the researcher said, led to scorn from others who never let up on the big issues regardless of context. Previous research had concluded that human beings could mentally fixate on only one subject, and thus it had better be the most important one.

But the new research dispels this notion.

“The takeaway from this is that someone talking about, say, football or the Confederate flag, might not be as deserving of a verbal lashing as previously suspected,” they said. “Those insisting that others talking about these topics might not, in fact, be a sheep at the mercy of bread and circuses offered forth by corporate overlords. Instead, they might be simply mulling another thing for a minute.”

The study cited one test subject, identified only as Aaron, who wrote a detailed rant about the personnel decisions of the Atlanta Braves. When called out by a friend for “being distracted by trivial matters while Big Banks continue to fleece the American people,” Aaron replied: “I, in fact, addressed that issue in my previous status.”

“This exchange was pivotal in reversing our hypothesis,” the researcher said. “Aaron’s friend couldn’t believe he was capable of talking about both baseball and banks, and neither could we. But the proof was right there. Further tracking showed that Aaron was indeed able to bounce between the topics. This is a game-changer.”

In light of the findings, social networks and other websites with profiles are now expected to expand their “interest” fields to allow more than one answer. The new developments could also lead to a reduction of smug comments by people with obnoxious superiority complexes.

“Though I don’t think that’ll happen,” the researcher said.

Further studies will attempt to discover whether a person can juggle three or even four topics of interest.

“We still haven’t yet seen that, but it’s possible,” the researcher said.

Band now beloved by hipsters is future punch line

BROOKLYN — Fumblebee, a rising band currently beloved among hipsters, is expected to be a national punch line within 15 years, pop-culture analysts say.

The five-piece ensemble, which plays what fans describe as “a hybrid of emo and trancecore, as far as labels even apply,” is currently the darling of the Brooklyn scene. Frequent show-goers often sport the band’s signature T-shirt, a bright-yellow getup featuring the band’s logo that will be worn only ironically once the future single “Freeze” becomes a frat-party staple.

“It’s the same trajectory we see with many bands, and trends in general,” said Matt Dickerson, a critic and analyst for Rolling Stone. “In this case, Fumblebee has such a unique gimmick that appeals to hipsters in this specific time and place, that it will go mainstream only long enough for its short shelf life to work against it as a fond memory.

“The band is essentially the current equivalent of loud 1970s leisure suits. Future generations will ask, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ rather than recall them fondly. Fumblebee’s only hope to return to favor in 15-20 years will be if hipsters are as ironic then as they are elitist now.”

At a recent Fumblebee concert, Jeff “Typewriter” Cartwright, a Brooklyn hipster who describes himself as “anything but a hipster,” raved about the fledgling outfit.

“These guys, man, you can’t even begin to understand,” Cartwright said of the band that his future children will regard at Vanilla Ice levels once its 15 minutes come and go. “They have this one song that I can’t even describe. It’s like ‘Bang Baby’ and ‘Fixieation’ wrecked into each other and had a beautiful baby song.

“Not that you ever heard of those songs either,” he added. “I don’t know why I’m even bothering with you right now.”

The community’s love for Fumblebee is expected to end suddenly once “Freeze” becomes an international smash. Even fans of the song will quickly tire of its sugary hook and inevitably dated fashion and dance associations.

“‘Freeze’ will land sharply into guilty-pleasure territory, but in that subcategory where you only listen to it alone with the windows up,” Dickerson predicted. “It will never find new life like ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ or even ‘Ice Ice Baby.’ At best, Fumblebee will show up on YouTube searches when people are searching for better bands of the 2010s.”

As of press time, “Freeze” had debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard pop chart.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Allons of Base
Bay City Rouler
The Mamous and the Papas
Piggly Wiggly Azalea
Simply Red Beans & Rice
Brian May Gardez-Donc
Cher Baby
Booker T-Bob and the M.G.’s
Tim Mardigraw
AccorDion and the Belmonts
Perry Comosquito Bites