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Entries in christopher piatt (3)


Return to Paper Machete - 7/9/16

My assignment - the end of Garrison Keillor's overlong tenure on Prairie Home Companion - coupled with recent police shootings of unarmed black men, had me riffing on whiteness.

Garrison Keillor, pictured just prior to being unmasked and having his plot foiled by a bunch of meddling kids.


After 42 years, Garrison Keillor is finally retiring as the host of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. That’s four decades of delivering home-spun bullshit for 53-year-old white people as they ease their Saab into a spot at the farmer’s market – white people fond of chuckling at feebleminded word play, and old-timey songs sung in an atonal dry-throated murmur, and meandering radio plays that as free of dramatic conflict as they are peppered with agonizing dad jokes.

For over 40 years, each weekend, America has tuned in to form a drowsy paste of warm milk and crushed Saltines, and then spackling their ears with it.

Never mind that even after Garrison goddamn Keillor is leaving, they will CONTINUE to produce this fucking show. Never mind that this Lutheran death march of mandolin-puke will shortly be a HALF A FUCKING CENTURY OLD. And never mind that to lower your brain into this warm bath of nostalgia porn effectively announces to the world that you’re content to garnish your fucking applesauce with a ground-up Tylenol PM and nap till you’re dead.

At first glance, there would seem to be no connection between Prairie Home Companion and the nationwide frenzy of police shooting unarmed black men, but for your edification, I will now attempt to make just such a connection.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like the guts of a biscuit, is by no means a CULPRIT in the over-long list of slain African Americans, obviously, but I would submit to you that it is a data point in the vast spreadsheet of whiteness that creates and maintains precisely the systems of oppression that make such institutional murder possible, it is a tentacle on the nation-sized beast of collusion and calamity.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a Whole Foods in Utah, does not pull the trigger, obviously, but NPR is for sure on the presets of enough Volvo and Acura and Audi car radios as to be a contextual contributor to the kind of complacency that must be present in the beneficiaries of systematized privilege for such systems to persist.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a glass of Pinot on the deck of a boat, does not perpetrate the inequities of media coverage that normalize and minimize such brutality, but provides an ongoing propaganda campaign about the supposed virtues of whiteness, and therefore adds to a climate where whiteness continues to dominate.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a pair of Crocs at a Klan rally, does not administer the system of justice that permits white cops to kill with impunity, but is at least a brick in the high, wide wall of a white sense of entitlement that permits such a system to run roughshod over any sense of fairness or balance or even hope.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a Montana soccer game, does not in any direct sense, obviously, follow this appalling violence with the apology and dissembling and misdirection that too many white people, with their internalized sense of superiority, offer in response, but it is at least a plume in the fanned peacock tail of unearned white pride that causes too goddamn many of us to circle the fucking wagons when anybody calls us on our shit.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like Cool Whip on a yeti’s dick, obviously did not engage in a decades-long campaign of militarizing our police. But it has always advanced the certainty that the apparatus of the state, and more broadly all forms of a authority, should be obeyed – that uniforms and crosswalks and school bells are all signifiers that our duty is to comply, and that failure to do so makes us aberrant and unwholesome.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a golf cart full of cottage cheese, has not insisted – not overtly – that we swaddle ourselves in the flag and remain resolutely uncritical of our nation’s policies or our own complicity in them. But radio, like all dying media, can do nothing but hearken backward, and as it pines for a time that never was, it provides a kind of ambient noise of patriotism – chiding civics lessons and rose-colored revisionism can only happen against a backdrop of implied national greatness. And patriotism, as any limbless veteran can tell you, has a whiff of the graveyard about it.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a line of cocaine on a low-flow toilet, did not introduce the profit motive into our nation’s prisons, obviously, thereby incentivizing whole towns and regions to incarcerate black and brown men at rates that are the envy of despots all over the world, but in this fictional town in Minnesota, where are the black people? I’ll tell you were they are. They’re all crammed like animals in the supermax prison just outside of St. Cloud.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a handgun with a peanut allergy, obviously did not conspire for generations to deprive young black men of economic opportunity, but Lake Wobegone, populated as it is by thrifty merchants and wise, avuncular tradesmen, does perpetuate that tired bootstrapping bullshit that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will prosper. Such a cheery narrative about your prospects, though, is only possible if you live in a town without food deserts and where you can get through high school without getting shot, and where jobs await you after graduation.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a meth lab on a Jet Ski, does not, obviously, destroy and dismantle the educational infrastructure that would once have permitted black men to claw their way out of their generations-long cycle of deprivation and hopelessness, but it does portray schools without lockdown drills and where all the students have had breakfast and regular medical care; where there are fewer than 40 kids to a classroom, and where there are no behavioral issues or trauma; where their teachers are not ground down and burnt out, where their parents are not jailed and addicted, and where the streets on the way to school are not paved with the bones their fallen classmates.

Prairie Home Companion, which is white like a yoga mat in a vat of Greek yogurt, obviously does not in itself constitute any of the depravities of privilege and discrimination, of bloody capitalism and bloody hatred – to suggest as much would be an irresponsible overreach. And I am nothing if not measured and responsible.

But dopey radio shows, and chatty podcasts, and laugh track sitcoms, and race-baiting newscasts can all serve to render us all a little whiter. And history, coupled with recent events, must cause us to conclude that whiteness, as we have been practicing it, is broken. And it is long past time – centuries past time – that we abandon the present model of whiteness in favor of something less oblivious and harmful, less volatile and aggrieved, less joyless and mean, less greedy and grasping. Because to fail in this is watch the world burn.


If You're Like Me, You Find Readin' to be a TON of Work, So…

HERE's a link to the Paper Machete podcast, wherein I read my fast food essay. Which is quite good. 

Paper Machete podcast.


Paper Machete - 4/28/12 - Commit to the Bit


Audio is up at WBEZ site, HERE.

If you don't know Paper Machete, it may be found HERE.

Dateline: Brazil. From The Daily Telegrach UK

Which I will quote in its entirety. It appears under the following headline:

“Actor dies after accidentally hanging himself as Judas during The Passion of Christ”

“Tiago Klimeck, 27, had been in a coma since the accident on Good Friday earlier this month in Itarare. Klimeck was enacting the suicide of Judas during the performance. He was hanging for four minutes before fellow actors realised something was wrong, believing he was playing his role. When he was taken down, Klimeck was unconscious. Scans found that the incident had caused cerebral anoxia due to the complete lack of oxygen to the brain. His life support machine was switched off on Sunday. An autopsy was due to take place yesterday.

Police are examining the security apparatus that was meant to support Klimeck during the scene.

It is unclear if any charges will be filed.

The Passion of Christ is performed every year in Brazil across the country. The biggest show is in Pernambuco, where thousands of visitors watch more than 500 actors on nine separate stages.”

I will set aside the fact that the copy editors wished to leave you with a bit of cultural context regarding the show. Because I realize that, like me, you read an item like this, you cock your head and go “Not to discount the fella that hung himself onstage, but I sure would like to know a scosh more about significance of the Passion of Christ in the local culture.”

Here’s your real takeaway from this story, and here is the legacy of the late Mr. Klimeck:

Commit to the Bit.

Because, come on – on the Stanislavsky Scale, Mr. Klimeck makes Nicholas Cage seem pretty bush league, am I right? I mean that Taylor Lautner? David Arquette? Billy Zane? Our various Afflecks, and lesser Baldwins? Our best and brightest? Tiago Klimeck SMOKED ‘em all, man.

But if he was just some lone genius – in that riveting way of like a Chris Klein or a Justin Long – then, OK, THEN I would not feel like the U.S. supremacy in the realm of ultra-dazzling mastery of craft was threatened.

But it isn’t just him, though. Think about it: the guy is hanging himself in full view of his cast mates, and they are all STAYING IN THE SCENE. A whole STAGE filled with Brazilians, you guys – BRAZILIANS! – and they see a colleague twisting and kicking, seconds away from death, and they just keep delivering their lines.

Because the show must go on. Or, as the locals would say:

Porque o espectáculo tem de continuar

Brazil, you guys. Brazil - famous for nothing but nuts and waxes. Brazil nuts: the ones that everyone despises and leaves in the can. And, sure, everybody admires the Brazilian wax from afar, until they get a closer view of the scalded bologna surrounding that Hitler’s mustache of pubes.

Are we gonna let BRAZIL beat us at Committing to the Bit?!? I know that Brazil has an emerging economy that’s one of the globe’s great success stories, but that’s petroleum and bananas and coffee, you guys, not SHOW BUSINESS. They should be DECADES away from challenging U.S. dominance of show business – DECADES. The Brazilian Dane Cook or Ryan Reynolds shouldn’t even be BORN yet, so how is it that these Amazonian yokels are making a play for the U.S. of A. here?

I tell ya what we gotta do – we gotta shut ‘em down. We gotta take decisive action now, and we gotta take the fight to them. What I propose is bold, ladies and gentlemen, what I propose will demand sacrifice. What I propose is this:

We airlift a crack thespian squad of our most battle-tested hunks and starlets and drop them into Rio for this Passion of the Christ festival to do their own goddamn production that’ll be so brutal, those Brazilians are all gonna scuttle back to the coffee plantation. I say we stage a Passion of the Christ where EVERY member of the cast winds up dead. We get the Army Corps of Engineers to design a stage that’ll unfold in midair so our stars can parachute down onto it and show these savages how it’s done.

Getting the actors is gonna be simple – we load ‘em in limos, we hustle ‘em out to Edwards Air Force Base. From the limo, we leave a trail of gift bags up the cargo bay of a waiting C-130. We stuff ‘em in their costumes, we fly ‘em to Brazil, we equip ‘em with period weapons – swords and axes and shit, and they improvise a production of the Passion of the Christ that’ll make the Hunger Games look like a game of Pictionary.

We’re calling this Operation Avenging Apostle.

Here’s our cast:

  • James Franco is Judas. One of history’s most reviled figures, portrayed by the actor People Magazine called The Man We’d Most Like to Throttle.
  • Pontius Pilate will be that James Pattison from the Twilight franchise – for is not the tyrant with nothing going on behind his eyes all the more terrifying?
  • Mary Magdalene, in an audacious and if I may say so inspired bit of casting, will played by Orlando Bloom.
  • The apostle Matthew, obviously, has gotta be Matthew McConaughey, who was the top vote-getter in the recent Us Magazine poll “Jesus God, Do I Wanna Beat This Guy With a Pipe Wrench.”
  • Salome will be played by Jessica Alba and Megan Fox and Katie Holmes and January Jones and Keira Knightley and Blake Lively and Scarlett Johansen.
  • Jesus? Keanu.

You get the idea. It’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna add a whole new level to this – these Brazilian amateurs went the whole “naturalistic death scene of a single cast member” route. Not so Operation Avenging Apostle: this will be the most stilted and unconvincing bloodbath the world has ever known. Each and every member of our all-star cast will not only be splayed lifeless at the end of the show, but the audience will file out going “ I don’t know. I didn’t really buy it.”

Then later, they will learn that each one of these trite and unnatural-looking deaths was 100% real. When those Brazilians have seen actual nails driven through the hands of Keanu-Jesus, and his reaction remains totally unconvincing, even though he is an international star, they’ll think twice before they come gunnin’ for us, my friends.

Now you may be asking: “Why does this matter?” I’ll tell you. In the waning days of our empire, when we no longer make anything, and where the average U.S. citizen is an obese man-child that finds science “confusing and scary” – all we HAVE is the dream factory churning out the world’s entertainment. It’s our only remaining claim to superpower status. And if the only basis for we have for clinging to the vestiges of world leadership is as Content Provider to the World, then I am by God willing to sacrifice a few pretty boys we can easily replace, and I think you should be, too. Tell Congress: support Operation Avenging Apostle. Now. Before it’s too late.