Monday, December 27, 2010

Establishing Credentials

Photograph of Robert DeNiro for Esquire by Nigel Parry

The January, 2011 issue of Esquire magazine is on the newsstands. The cover sports a photograph of Robert DeNiro.

In our family, my wife uses the Christmas issue as a “stocking stuffer.” Esquire is directed at a mostly male audience, so I am the one who receives it in my Christmas stocking.

The magazine is a guide for those of us who need to know what to wear, where to eat, and how to act, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Until a few years ago, it had a section titled “Dubious Achievement Awards” that was laugh-out-loud funny.

The magazine also includes a section called “The Meaning of Life.” It features prominent individuals who have been successful in their fields of endeavor. The participants are interviewed and encouraged to reveal their candid thoughts and impressions on what has been important to them.

The interviews are titled, “What I’ve Learned,” and in the January issue they feature a broad spectrum of people, from Chef Ferran Adria to Yoko Ono. Here is a transcript from one of them. It’s a spoof, but it gives you the style and flavor of the interviews:

Jesus H. Christ: What I've Learned
About to turn 2,011, the all-knowing son of God reflects on his early days — and that whole Mel Gibson thing

By Ross McCammon

Swarthier than you thought, right? I get that all the time.

Frequent? Are you kidding me? Okay, here's one ... and another one ... And there's a "Jesus Christo!" ... It's a lot of outcry. Off the hook, if you'll pardon the expression. It's a direct line.

We've become so rash all of a sudden. But I get it, I get it.

Yeah, 2010. I know. An earthquake, then hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, then the Tea Party, then Ohio State loses to Wisconsin. But here's the thing: I'm. Not. In. Charge.

It's just H. It doesn't stand for anything. Ulysses S. Grant was the same way.

Incidentally, when I'm having a hard time, I say, "Ulysses S. Grant!" I'm kidding, of course.

"Samuel L. Jackson!"

Those given the most credit are the ones who neither need it nor deserve it. Miley Cyrus thanking me for winning an MTV award, for instance — that was all you, sweetheart.

And Tony Romo. "God's plan"? Let me get this straight: God called a blitz package that a Cowboys guard didn't pick up, allowing a Giants linebacker to slam you into the turf, which fractured your clavicle, ending your season — that was part of God's plan? Here's a plan for Tony Romo: Check your Jesus complex, son.

Prosperity gospel? Please.

It's funny: On a philosophical level, I agree with Michael Pollan on pretty much everything. Personally, however, I find him an insufferable putz. Go figure.

They're all solid in their own ways: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and, I guess, John. But you should have heard me in the "Q Gospel." Never made it into the Bible. Lost to time. But it was like a "Jesus' Greatest Hits."

Mel. Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel.

Tax collectors. After all these years, they still get to me.

Shroud of Turin? Not me. The piece of toast, however ...

For the record, I wasn't a carpenter. I was a tekton. It's an old word for handyman. You need lots of stuff fixed, you call a tekton.

Never forget where you came from. I come from a small town in the country. Four hundred people tops. It shaped me.

A man should have a creed. And a mission. You have a creed and a mission, you'll be all right.

You want comfort? Look to the tunic.

The ones I like: Lord of Hosts, King of Kings, J. C., Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Emmanuel, Sweet Jesus in Heaven, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the First and the Last, the Gate and the Way. But Jesus is fine. My friends call me Jesus.

I have no idea who the hosts are or why I'm lord of them.

Idiots have a way of killing themselves off. Most of the time you don't have to do it for them. I know it really doesn't seem like that right now.

The difference between love and sex? Pass.

It's either pre-Easter or post-Easter, if you know what I mean.

I've been ignoring the haters for years. I started that.

You become a man when you see the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove. At least that's how it happened for me.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with judgment you make, you will be judged. I'm reiterating, of course.

I'm here. I'm right here.

Can I get an Amen?
Well, maybe that is funny just to me. Let me get to the point of this post.

The interviews can take a political turn. The magazine is not meant to be particularly biased, except in the advice it delivers to its male readers. It reflects our culture and the beliefs of leadership figures within our culture. Here are some excerpts from the “What I’ve Learned” interviews…

Samuel L. Jackson, actor:
When they killed Kennedy, black people were thinking, Oh, my God, white people are gonna come down and kill us all today! All the rights that Kennedy gave us are going away! So they sent us home from school and said, “Stay in the house.”
Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter:
The only political experience I've ever had came in sixth grade when I had a crush on Jenny Lavin. Jenny was stuffing envelopes after school at the local McGovern-for-President headquarters. So I thought it'd be a good idea if I volunteered, too. One weekend they put us all in buses and took us to White Plains, the county seat, because the Nixon motorcade was coming through. We went with signs that said MCGOVERN FOR PRESIDENT. I was holding up one of these signs and a 163-year-old woman came up from behind, took the sign out of my hand, whacked me over the head with it, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. The only political agenda I've ever had is the slim hope that this woman is still alive and I'm driving her out of her mind.
Ted Danson, actor:
Why is it that we can make our sandwiches together, walk our dogs together, roll up our sleeves and make something in our community better, but as soon as we talk about ideas, whether it's religious or political, we become entrenched. I can't stand what looks to me like the selfish, shortsighted righteous far Right. They cannot stand my liberal dada dada. And we will fight to the death. When only two minutes ago we were making sandwiches together.
Danny DeVito, actor:
Karl Rove's dad was a homosexual. Why is he afraid of that? Why does he become one of these guys who stands in the way of gay rights?
Each of these individuals establishes his anti-Republican credentials as a way of validating his remarks with the reader and letting us know that he is a part of our popular culture. It is a reflexive action and is endorsed by Esquire.

The Editor in Chief of Esquire is David Granger. He sees to it that this point of view is uncontested within his magazine. Should this be cause for concern?

Maybe we can look to the “What I’ve Learned” interview of James L. Brooks, writer and director:

I have a rule in research: The third time you hear something, it’s generally true.

With that "truth" (and immersed in a culture of political indoctrination) James L. Brooks might be “an easy mark.”

UPDATE 12/28/2010:
Linked by Morning Beat at Left Coast Rebel: Blog/Post of the Day!  Thanks, Tim.
And now linked by GayPatriotDan sees the essence in the title of his post.

UPDATE 12/29/2010:
Some readers might be aware that the remarks of the individuals listed above are convenient restatements of the Six Themes of the Democratic Party.  Can you match them?  Here is a hint:

The themes NOT used are: "Republicans are destroying the environment", "Republicans are stealing from our Seniors", "Republicans are shredding the Constitution", and "Republicans are turning the economy into a disaster."

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  1. OH, MY. This was unexpectedly, cheekily brilliant - made me laugh right out loud, which I don't usually do when reading religious satire, or reading anything else, for that matter.

    "Check your Jesus complex, son." Still chortling...

  2. Vicki:

    Yes, Ross McCammon has a gift. Here's another example of his work ... for someone that appreciates the liquid gustatorial arts:;1