SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
October 28, 2018

Snippets 10: The Year We Make Contact

 

Not long ago, I came across a story in The Guardian that caught my attention. In early October, with much breathless excitement, astronomers announced what they believe to be the discovery of an enormous new addition to our solar system, a massive new planet out beyond Pluto which they have dubbed “Planet 9.” Nobody’s actually seen Planet 9 yet, but from all they can determine so far, it’s mighty huge. It’s also being orbited by a misshapen moon they’ve christened “The Goblin.”

            Okay, let’s stop right there. Planet 9? The Goblin? Who the hell is naming these things? Planet 9 comes straight out of a Japanese sci-fi film from the mid-sixties. So much so I’m amazed they didn’t vote to call it “Planet X.” Planet 9 could be home to the Mysterians, or that other alien race in the wraparound shades who unleashed King Ghidorah on us, for godsakes! What were they thinking? And The Goblin? Is this some kind of comic book supervillain moon? Nothing at all good ever comes out of anything named “The Goblin.”

            Knowing astronomers and Jet Propulsion Lab types get most of their ideas from sci fi films, and that they usually get so excited by what they’ve seen they neglect to sit through the end of the picture in question, this new announcement has me worried. King Ghidorah aside, It all sounds just a shade too much like the opening to When Worlds Collide, the 1951 George Pal extravaganza based on Philip Wylie’s 1933 novel.

            In the case of When Worlds Collide it was a huge new star named Bellis and its solitary planet, Zyra, but is that really all that different from a huge new Planet 9 and its solitary moon The Goblin?

            There was something a bit dark and sinister about the tone of that Guardian story. So now I’m waiting for the follow-up report, if it ever comes, when they admit yes, they’ve discovered this brand new planet and creepy little moon, and they’re both on a collision course with Earth. And by the way, we all have four months and counting before we’re completely obliterated.

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Of course if that turns out to be the case, that the earth and all life on it are scheduled for obliteration in four months, it might be a blessing, the way things are headed.

            Before I stepped out to run some errands one recent morning, Morgan told me about a friendly and innocuous woman who had composed a funny little ukulele song and posted a video of herself performing it on Twitter. Well, the song, written in reaction to the Brett Kavanaugh ugliness and the accompanying backlash against the Me Too movement, was called something like, “It’s a Tough Time to be a Man.” It was nothing more than a silly little novelty song, but almost immediately after posting it, this woman began receiving death threats. Morgan had told me about several other instances in which people, usually of a liberal bent, were besieged by death threats from white nationalists and other MAGA sorts after making seemingly innocuous comments online. This is apparently what we do now when we disagree with an opinion.

            The chasm between the American Right and Left (and I’m no fan of either) began growing increasingly insurmountable during the Reagan administration, and has reached the point now where politicians are openly willing to fuck the people, the country and the whole planet in order to destroy the opposition. The only thing that matters is that day’s battle, with no thought at all given to long term repercussions.

            The mindset is not limited to politicians, as civilians now take it as a given it is right and proper to threaten those with whom they disagree (even lighthearted middle-aged women with ukuleles) with violence and death.

            O tempora, O mores, O well. It’s pretty damned funny, you think about it, how over the past two or three years we’ve stopped fretting about the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, having once again realized that the real enemy, to paraphrase Pogo, is us.

            Still, on my way to the store it occurred to me again, as it has occurred to others, that we are fast careening toward another real Civil War. But this time around it wouldn’t be a simple North-South divide, the country would have to be chopped up a little more jaggedly, with the East and West Coast taking on the Midwest and South. Things could get very complicated.

            Complicating things yet further, there’s that apocalyptic UN report on climate change. You know, the one that said by 2030, a mere twelve years from now, we were all doomed. Not that we could turn anything back at this point, but considering most sitting leaders are not only unwilling to do even the meagerest thing to stop it, but seem intent on exacerbating the situation as much as possible and fuck all y’all, I’m just imagining a bloody Civil War taking place as the whole environment collapses around us. Yup, it’s gonna be a sloppy and hilarious debacle as assorted Right and Left wing militia groups clash with one another amid unprecedented floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

            On the bright side, every generation is convinced they’ll be the last generation on the planet. They ache to be the last. So maybe this lot will finally get their wish, though without any Battle of Armageddon and no Jeebus descending from the clouds. Just a bloody, sloppy mess as the planet does what it can to dust itself with flea powder to at long last get rid of us all. Which is why I have my fingers crossed for that Planet 9 scenario.

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Here are a few too often denigrated or overlooked things that never cease to delight and amaze me:

·         The brilliantly elegant and practical design of toilets

·         Escalators

·         Those plastic waterfall boxes that dispensed “grape drink” and “orange drink,” and could only be found at movie theaters

·         Hot air popcorn poppers (though I never much cared for the resulting popcorn).

·         As mentioned before, the New York City subway system

·         Corn holders shaped like ears of corn

·         Drowning man corkscrews

·         Public drinking fountains

·         Old-fashioned phone booths

·         Philco radios

·         Those oily rubber gorillas with one upraised Arm, apparently designed to dangle from rear-view mirrors

·         Pine tree-shaped air fresheners, also designed to dangle from rear-view mirrors

·         Any novelty item specifically designed to dangle from rear-view mirrors

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It’s an old story I won’t repeat again here, but the one and only time I ever voted was in the 1984 presidential race, and at that point I used voting as a nihilistic gesture. Over the subsequent thirty-five years I have been militant in my non-voter status. I refused to vote for anyone who expressed the desire to hold public office, and my reasoning has been proven sound time and again. I’ve never had a single regret. Let the American people go ahead and choose their own passel of self-serving morons and blowhards to make a an ugly situation even worse, I want no part of it. I’d rather watch the show as we swirl deeper into the chaos and the black muck of stupidity. It’s simply the way of history. I always like to quote Emma Goldman when the issue comes up: “Voting is the opium of the masses in this country—every four years we deaden the pain.”

            Alas, it’s one long-held point of pride to which I can no longer lay claim. For years now my wife has been gently nudging me to register to vote. Knowing better than anyone my stubbornness on the issue, as well as my unwavering contempt and loathing for all things and persons political, the nudging never went on long.

            This year, however, on the last day of voter registration, she finally got me. It wasn’t a matter of big issues or the present administration, but a neighborhood representative up for re-election. Awful, awful human being who has done everything in his power, it seems, to fuck with me. Without naming him personally, let’s just say he’s run over a few people in his time, and has done everything short of legalizing hit and run driving. He does what he can to make life hell for pedestrians and bicyclists. Given his voting record, he also apparently loves child molesters and Nazis, and hates cripples, gays and women. Normally I have the greatest respect for genuine Evil, but genuine Evil is as rare as genuine genius. And this particular state senator, however he might like to fancy himself, is not Dr. Mabuse or Moriarty or Hannibal Lecter, he’s just dumb and rotten. He’s Eichmann-scale evil, banal evil, a Goober of Evil. He’s a man with no charisma or style, yet one who’s been re-elected term after term by really dumb people intent on confirming everything I’ve always thought about the political process.

            So yeah, on a neighborhood scale dealing with neighborhood issues, when dealing with a lout in power who keeps fucking with my ability to walk the streets, I’m gonna fuck with him in return however I can, short of firebombing his office. That’s why, dirty as it may make me feel, this time around I’m actually going to vote. After that, we’ll see.

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When I started in this business, I gave my innate misanthropy free reign, and it worked well for me, because back then public misanthropes were a rare breed. Over the past three years, however, bile, venom, and vicious insults have become the dominant form of American discourse, the Internet overrun with anonymous trolls trying to out-shock each other with how ugly and vicious they can get. Problem is, nary a one of these pathetic little shut-ins has been blessed with the tiniest scrap of humor or style. There’s nothing literate, memorable or meaningful in their tepid rants. The sole motivation seems to be getting a rise out of people, still the easiest thing in the world to do, without any solid belief or philosophy backing them up. It’s just sad and weak.

            Sadder and weaker still, it’s because of them I’ve been keeping my own venom trapped and stewing in my head. What’s the point of contributing to the public vomitorium when I’d be nothing more than another one of Them?

 

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