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Entries in Patton Oswalt (1)

Monday
Nov282016

Satire in the Time of Swastikas

Patton Oswalt posted a really thoughtful thing about the role of "bog-standard show biz jealousy" as being a component of the current fractious nature of our post-election world. He cites Clive James' analysis of how the Nazis rounded up cabaret entertainers IMMEDIATELY - both to contain their influence, but also out of envy. The post is HERE, and lays out with greater nuance this joyless aspect of intolerance - give it read.

Good comedy has at its core the aim of brain-jostling - cognitive dissonance is part of the idiom of capturiing laughter. It relies on the ability of a listener/reader to track multiple goals, and to make fine-grained assessments of them all through a bit, or story, or essay. For instance, if I write a[nother] thing about masturbating tearfully, I am relying upon your ability to recognize that the ACTUAL subject is not the literal fact of my tearfully beating off, as I so often do. I am expecting, without stating so explicitly (to do so would pop the bubble of "magic," "magic," here meaning something like "fart jokes = philosophy"), that you will have the requisite acuity and nimbleness to make an educated guess at what my sob-spanking is meant to signify.

As a consumer of comedy, therefore, you must have a measure of cognitive flexibilty (not like yoga-instructor, but like, say, paunchy suburban dad attempting in vain to touch his toes) in order to be able to mine my bit about weepin'-n'-tuggin' for all its rich depth. I am imparting to you, in the well-crafted depiction of the semen and tears pooling at my feet, the sensitivity to appreciate that what my actual goal is might be to lay bare the condition of desperation that might lead to the creation of a vignette involving such well-salted socks. I am trusting that you believe me to be smart enough to not be wasting my goddamn life agonizing over how best to convey blubbering self-pleasure, and that the frankly quite upsetting picture I paint for you might in fact be a stand-in for something else. And I further hope, as I feverishly revise my tableau about weepy pud-pulling, that you will stick with this piece, however upsetting you may find it, because you wish to learn what, if anything, I have to convey about the aforementioned condition of desperation.

You are also permitted a fleeting self-administred chuck on the chin for being "in on the joke," for being savvy and wised-up enough to get what's REALLY happening. Don't dwell. Don't Fresh Air's Terry Gross-NPR-overexplain-the-whole-fucking-thing-thereby-destroying-for-all-time-what-once-was-amusing-about-it. Just enjoy your moment. Quietly. Internally.

Humor, when it's well-wrought, is seldom about just one thing. It dwells in ambiguity. 

Not so the swastika. The swastika is a rigidly inflexible symbol. It's the paunchy suburban dad above, after he's torqued his spine on the Slip-n-Slide - couch-bound, swearing under his breath, infantile.

In terms of rendering a swastika, it is roughly comparable to writing a capital "A" - straight lines, arranged simply. It is a rudimentary job, drawing a swastika; a job within reach of even the most enfeebled, the most cognitively compromised. 

Often, whether due to being rushed (lotta parks and bus benches to cover, after all) or, one hopes, pangs of guilt/suspicion that one is wrong to add this symbol anyplace, it is botched pretty badly.

Given the unadorned nature of the thing, and given how frequently this super-simple symbol is butchered by the very dipshits that seek to celebrate its use and advance its cause, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the folks inclined to use swastikas are irretrievable simpletons and therefore ill-equipped to handle the brain-jostling that comedy seeks to do. To jostle such brains is like sending a single grape ricocheting around inside a tumble dryer - it is not merely that such brains are small in size, it is that they are easily bruised. And when bruised, they send their hosts rampaging. 

So what are we, the purveyors of Lacrymal Monkeyspank lit, to do? Are we to shelve our cosseted and hard-won works of dolorous self-gratification? Is the collective capacity for cognition not equal to the task of grapping with the nuances of our tear-streaked spooge-spatter? Are we to abandon our life's work for want of the nimbleness required to enjoy it?

I for one, will not. They can take my exhaustive descriptions of weep-wanking when they pry them out of my cold, dead (from exhaustion and, one presumes, dehydration) hands.

I will just take responsibility for the fact that - if I am to traffic in layered accounts of sad self-consolation, as indeed I continue to - then I must also be prepared to offer my unvarnished, unlayered, unambiguous assertion that swastikas and what they signify are some fucked up shit, and I do not wish to see either them, or, more importantly, the warped and infirm world view that they are meant to express, in my world.

So, swastika-makers: cut the shit, you guys.

Fans of stratified accounts of sordid self-stimulation, we shall return to those momentarily - that smarty party will rage on in just a bit.

But for the un-nimble among us, the inelastic and plodding, who are fucking shit up for the rest of us:

Do.

Not. 

Put.

Swastikas.

Anyplace. 

For any purpose.

At any time.

Thanks a bunch.

You may experience it as an act of defiance that arising from your mounting desperation. But for us, all we see is that our path is slicked by your tears and ejaculate. Which is gross.