How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization

David Hopkins, April 2016, The Observer  (http://observer.com/2016/04/how-a-tv-sitcom-triggered-the-downfall-of-western-civilization/)

 

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

You may see it as a comedy, but I cannot laugh with you. To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. And even if you see it from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The constant barrage of laughter from the live studio audience will remind us that our own reactions are unnecessary, redundant.

The theme song itself is filled with foreboding, telling us that life is inherently deceptive, career pursuits are laughable, poverty is right around the corner, and oh yeah, your love life’s D.O.A. But you will always have the company of idiots. They will be there for you.

Don’t I feel better? Continue reading “How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization”

Advertisements

Fortress of Tedium: What I Learned as a Substitute Teacher. A novelist’s education in the classroom. (excerpt)

by Nicholas Baker, New York Times Magazine, 7 September 2016

One wintry mix of a morning, while I was in training to be a substitute teacher, I saw a textbook that was being used in an 11th-grade English class. The class was studying transcendentalism, and the students were required to read excerpts from an essay called “Nature,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was an unmethodical writer with low, puffy sideburns who liked to work himself up into paragraphs of rapture. When it came time for him to write an essay or give an oration — about nature, say, or self-­reliance — he combed through his voluminous journals and pulled out choice bits that were more or less on topic, and he glued them together with some connective prose. For instance, in “Nature,” Emerson writes: “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball.”

In the textbook, next to this passage, there was a brief assignment printed in the margin. It said: “Review the elements of transcendentalism listed on Page 369. Which aspect of transcendentalist thought is reflected in Lines 12-19? Explain your answer.”

Continue reading “Fortress of Tedium: What I Learned as a Substitute Teacher. A novelist’s education in the classroom. (excerpt)”

Deliverance

Excerpt from piece originally published in The New Yorker

by Lena Dunham

Family legend: I am four. It’s midafternoon, between mealtimes, and my mother has a friend over. They are chatting in the living room and I am playing in a corner when the buzzer rings (another guest has arrived) and I cry out, “Dinner’s here!”

We are being raised on delivery, but it’s a fight. Every day around 6 p.m., my parents come home (from their studios, which are two floors below in our building, on Broadway, with its rounded fire escapes) and the dinner debate rages.

Continue reading “Deliverance”