Monday, August 15, 2005

Dave Chapelle vs. Gore Vidal: A Crying Shame?

Last week was hell, son. When I get in a scrape I turn to the letters for solace, I read books or the news or I write. As I settled in to do the latter with talk radio (NPR, Air America & KPFK in equal shot glasses), I kept hearing sideline repartage from the state too expansive for its own good -- the whole Cindy Sheehan thing taking place in Crawford, TX (click header) started to annoy me, to put it mildly. The news coverage of the latest "white woman done wrong" has started reaching critical mass, not because it's unworthy of consideration but more because it's nothing new, hence the term "news." As I said, I've been going through a few of my own cock-ups on the real side but the impermanent nature of existence shouldn't stop one from being observant because if you don't pay attention to what's going on around you, you'll pay with pain and I'm not weak enough to give in to what Marvin Gaye called "bad-breaks and set-backs" but I will say this...

It seems that what we need now, more than anything, are straight shooters manning the crows nests of the public's news channels but the way earthly things are going, even if there were an army of these truth-to-power types running around they'd be neutralized (read: gagged) by the now corporate overrun media sources -- the proverbial trough of information from which the American braintrust consumes its geo-political'n current events nourishment. All of this caused me to reflect on two disparate voices pointing in the same direction that I've been listening to over the years: Dave Chapelle and Gore Vidal.

The whole Sheehan vigil typifies what many saw coming back when our democratic process was turned on its ear back in 2000, the coming of the day when the misguided, middle-class American fool would awaken from their torpor only to find that everything they'd been ignoring in the political arena (the unadulterated facts) would had tied them down like so much Liliputian ropes in the town square of the Potemkin Village which was cleared away like prairie brush by this administration's defiance of all things logical. Things anyone with even a mild recollection of what things were like during the end of the Cold War and into the (laughable) War on Drugs should've remembered to avoid. It's been as if these couch-ridden generals and hoodwinked nabobs were attempting to reshape reality itself through the sheer will of their denial. But reality, which is multi-lateral cannot be forced into the provincial round hole of the politically short-sighted world view. That dog don't hunt...

All of that explains, in a nutshell, the conundrum that I was in by Thursday of last week. Obviously solely reading and writing wasn't doing the job so I shot down to the video store to get some DVDs, among them I rented the second season of Chapelle's Show to get a little reprieve with some biting cultural commentary and jokes. Dave Chapell's inroads on the collective psyche of America snuck up on the zeitgiest like Jim Morrison's back door man. After years of doing racially charged stand-up; a few failed attempt to crack the (still segregated) color bars of sit-com TV; the comedian came up with a formula that worked for both him and the power brokers at Comedy Central -- a skit show... Personally, I've always liked Chapelle's approach to stand-up. I don't know if it's because he was raised in the same neck of the woods as I (D.C., Mid-Atlantic region) or if it's the way he's managed to maintain his edge over the years without dumbing down his schtick in order to "soft-shoe/ buck dance" for the mainstream (read: white) market in the soul-killing manner that many black comedians have tried and failed to do before him. On Sanford & Son -- Redd Foxx was a born-again-hard Jim Crow-era comedic stalwart, a hard-boiled show biz veteran and still his goose got cooked when he had his show on the air. Come to think of it, even Daddy Rich's (Richard Pryor) stay on primetime was so brief he didn't even get to finish his variety show's inaugural season but I digress...

I don't watch cable TV -- no need in my book because who wants 1,000 channels when they're only going to watch 7 to 9 stations on the regular, tops. After waiting like a crack-whore for those new episodes of the Sopranos to come out a few years back (remember that shite), these days, rather than watch a through-line play itself out over the course of a whole season, I take my doses in one sitting, thankyouverymuch. So, when I got Chapelle's second season I wasn't expecting high-brow discourse on the ontalogical state of our collective being, I just wanted to lift my spirits -- get a few laughs in before I started crying, yo. So I took a couple of days to go back into what I call "the cave" and watched DVDs, sipped a few cocktails and kicked back. In essence, I needed to take the blue pill for a minute. The results of my rental can be summed up in four words: I'm Rick James biotch! (Rest in peace Super Freak)...

Chapelle, Charlie Murphy and guest host Wayne Brady (looking around wild-eyed: is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?) did exactly what I wanted them to do -- they made me giggle and forget about the clouds of darkness (ha!) that seemed to hover over my crib. The feel of impending danger dissipated for about 48 hours which is all fine and good but reality bides its time, kid. When I came out of my "two-day media black out" the Crawford Spin cycle was in full gyration. It seemed like the news media had just gotten to the place that the free-thinking sort amongst us had arrived at five years ago...but that's another rant altogether: that's another rant...

I won't try to tell you where the bear shites in the buckwheat, son -- bigger fish have already been fried in that pan. Let's get real. Gore's already been there. Shortly after 9-11, the outspoken essayist wrote a few choice words about the wheres and whys of what was really going on in the Middle East and lead up to that horrifying autumn morning in NYC but his perspective didn't toe the line of insecurity that's resulted in what's going on over there right now. These ideas had been fomenting long before Joseph Wilson's report on WMD came out or Sy Hirsch put together his expose of what was going on in the interrogation rooms for the New Yorker. Vidal was journalistically excommunicated in the US for writing about (back then) what has now become a given; a revelatory truth in the wake of the findings that have been made since those two collossal structures snuffed out those thousands of lives in a cloud of asbestos, shattered glass and twisted steel back on that hellish September day...

While Chapell brazenly unearths truths about the racism that we all still inhale on a daily basis through comedic (at times crass) televised skittage that evoke peels of laughter from his audiences, Vidal peels back the onion skins of "the Big Fat Lie" that has become our nation's domestic/ foreign policy over the past half decade...9-11 was the best thing that could've ever happened to this administration and the voices of dissent has been shouted down by bellicose conservatives and other sundry hardcore brownshirts -- always makes one teary eyed for the days when blue-dresses and pecker tracks across the carpet in the oval office was all we had to worry about. Remember the reaming "Old Dirty," Bill Clinton got in the press for his tryst? No? Shame on you. Vidal's words about what lead up to 9-11 finally did get printed in a small Italian press. I'm reading Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace right now. I found it interesting that none of the material therein could make the galley proofs of The Nation, the progessive, state-side publication he's worked at as an on and off for years now. The subject matter was considered "unpublishable" in the US, by the power brokers who live amongst the people who needed to read it most -- guess that qualifies, in full, Gore's moniker for the mental state of the citizenry of our country: the United States of Amnesia...Ouch...

Well, as it turns out Vidal -- while still widely read -- isn't reaching the people he really should because either they don't know he exists while voting against their best interests, kicking back in their red states of denial or they're forced into a statis synaptic submission while running in the paycheck-to-paycheck hamster wheel that has become part and parcel of our day-to-day life -- beyond that, he's preaching to the choir...Chapelle's been having psychological "malfunctions" of late brought on by the success of his TV show which makes one wonder if he really has the minerals to weather the storm he's been sailing in for so many years already...I hope he makes it...None of this bodes well but we have no choice other than to stick it out and keep fightin' the good fight..'cause ain't that America? You and me...soon enough, we're all going to know exactly what Iron Eyes Cody (pictured in commercial clip above) was really crying about on the side of that littered-strewn freeway back in the 70s...the Cindy Sheehans of the world are just getting "a little taste" of the hypocrisy that many others have been force-fed for centuries already...Laters...

By the by, here are a couple of other Vidal Books to check they're all in the library, so you got no ex-scizzle:
Imperial America and Dreaming of War

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