Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, October 16, 2004
Only The Comedians Can Save Us

I'm not going to talk about Jon Stewart's amazing appearance on Crossfire... it's been talked to death. Here's a transcript if you want to know what happened.

The only reason I even bring it up is because it's an exellent example of a phenomenon that I've longed believed in, and have been thining about a bit lately anyway. Anyone who knows me at all well knows that while I'm not given to hero-worship, I make an exception for a certain kind of comedian. And I use the term "comedian" very loosely... your garden-variety stand-up is a rather sad figure, and certainly not deserving of anyone's special esteem. The people I'm talking about transcend mere comedianship, and become a much greater thing: prophets.

I know I tend to talk about Bill Hicks the most, and it's true, he's probably my current favorite. But he's only one of several who, in my opinion, have earned a place as a modern prophet; also in the list are Lenny Bruce (obviously) Andy Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Richard Pryor, and potentially a few others if they keep their game up. (Denis Leary, I suppose, would be a good example of a false prophet, Bill-Hicks-wannabe hack that he is; Sam Kinison was a proto-prophet run amok.)

These guys don't tend to live too long... Lenny died of an OD; Andy died of lung cancer; Bill died of pancreatic cancer; Richard was felled by MS, although he's still alive. (Harpo lived to a ripe old age, but then he was always more of a portal for light and happiness than a sponge for anguish, so that makes sense.) Given what these people do for a living -- by which I don't mean getting up on stage and telling jokes, but rather using themselves as a living psycho-spiritual filter for all of society's collective rage and pain -- it's not surprising, perhaps, that their bodies never seem able to take the strain for more than thirty or forty years. They accept a life in which they take on the burden of continually facilitating our desperately-needed catharsis on our behalf, and it seems they inevitably give up their lives in the process.

We don't get to have prophets anymore. We don't have a social place for truthtellers; artists try, and do a fine job, but some things must be said directly, the things which society is unwilling to hear otherwise, those that we won't tolerate being said; the pain is too much. Those things must be veiled in humor -- sort of a big cosmic snootchy-bootchy -- to even make it into the collective consciousness.

You never hear of Jesus having a sense of humor, but if you read those words that are best attributed to him, it's clear that there was one there. Which isn't to suggest that Hicks and Bruce are on par with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John... merely that they may be the closest thing to them our society is allowed to have. I often find myself wondering where the current Hicks is -- if in fact it's even time for another one like him. Much of what he said in the years just before he died is still very relevant; perhaps even more so than it was when he actually said it. For example:

"George Bush presided over an administration whose policies towards South America included genocide. Ha! Ha! So yeah, you see, the reason I didn't vote for him is because he is a mass-murderer.

Substitute "the Middle East" for "South America" and you've pretty much got the current situation nailed, albeit stated in a fairly shrill way. ("Shrill," of course, being the current desireable-epithet-du-jour among all self-respecting lefties. As in, "Did you read that last Steve Gilliard post?" "Yeah, man, that was totally shrill.")

Now, none of this is to say that your lesser comedic priests -- Stewart, Carlin, Maher, Cho, et al -- are on quite this level... I'd actually suggest that in order to be a proper prophet, the person in question has to be dead. (Hardly any Americans had even heard of Bill Hicks at the time of his death, although he was hot shit in the UK... which says a lot about our respective cultures, actually.) You can't get quite the mythic resonance necessary off a living person. Death demonstrates the necessary commitment to the medium. But certainly people like Stewart are preaching the gospel while the rest of us wait patiently for the Next Coming.

4:00 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Thursday, October 14, 2004
The Joys Of Incoherence

Y'know those big LED signs that people put up around stadiums and casinos and other public facilities? They flash the details of upcoming events, happy messages, advertisements, etc... yeah, those things.

Well there's one around here that I passed by during my lunch break today, and it said the damndest thing: as I approached, it was flashing a big Coca-Cola logo; the next thing I saw was the words "OSTOMY NURSES"; followed by "INCONTINENCE"; and finally the word, "THIRSTY?"

Errrrrm... no.

Now, I admit that I looked down for a second right after the Coca-Cola logo, so maybe something flashed briefly that would make the rest make sense. And given that this is a town full of elderly people, talking about ostomy nurses and incontence isn't necessarily an inherent non-sequiter. But it was still pretty fuckin' weird.

I was reminded of an incident riding on the Tube in London; I was sitting next to a mousy-haired woman who was reading a play of indeterminate title, and I was, naturally enough, surruptitiously reading as she turned the pages. I was amused to note that at roughly regular intervals she had noted the word "Bollocks!" next to the text; I assumed it was just a comment on the quality of the play. But about ten pages in, she had noted in similar fashion -- but larger letters -- "TITS!" I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud at that one (since obviously you're not allowed to laugh on the Tube). Other people's incoherence is one of life's true joys.
3:59 PM ::
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No Time, No Time

No time to recompose a personal email (looking at you, Dave) which took 45 minutes to write and was ultimately sucked into the aether by the fickle god of webmail. I'll try again later. No time to discuss the debate last night, except to say that I'm sure Bush's supporters are glad that, for once, he didn't completely fuck it up, even though that still won't save him on Nov. 2. No time to tell the folks at the Co-op about the amazing stuff that's going to be happening where I am; if any of y'all read this, drop me a line and ask, 'cause otherwise I'll forget and that would be bad because you might want to know.

Does anyone want to give me a new laptop? 'Cause having one right now would really save my ass. I might be able to get everything done if I had one.

11:39 AM ::
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Republican Voter Fraud

Republican activists would have you believe that the mere act of registering new voters is tantamount to voter fraud; I can't blame them for disliking it, since new voter registrations have seen margins of 10-to-1 or more in favor of the Democratic party.

But leave it to other Republicans to show 'em how voter fraud is really done. In Nevada, a private group called Voters Outreach has been registering new voters outside malls and supermarkets. Thing is, they only wanted Republican registrations. So what do they do with all the Democratic registration forms they end up with?

Easy: rip 'em up and pretend they never existed.

This is the thing that frustrates those of us on the Left. Compared to the shit the GOP pulls, Bill Clinton was an eagle scout, and yet when they get caught nothing happens. The new Republican party motto should be, "If we get away with it, it isn't really wrong."

PS: Steve Gilliard has more.
11:13 AM ::
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Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Is It Vietnam Yet?

Still not convinced? Read this.

I hope he's wrong, I really do. But Hersh has nailed every story so far, and I have no reason to suspect this is any different.

Note: edited to correct for my complete and utter, all-consuming disinterest in baseball.
5:00 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Monday, October 11, 2004
J'taime Je T'aime John Kerry

There may be a temporary lull in the frequency of posts to this blog, gentle readers, while I attend to a month-long regimen of penance and the saying of the Rosary in preparation for November 2. Posting will continue, but you'll forgive me if it's not quite as daily as it normally is. I'm sure the coming election will give me ample reason to make time for new posts, though, so the dip in numbers shouldn't be too extreme.

A Future Voter Tells Bush What He Thinks of The Deficit
9:45 AM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink