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Fri March 7, 2014
The Walrus Was Marty: A Nose Worksheet
In 1969, I was a high school sophomore, and I fell completely -- and embarrassingly uncritically -- for the Paul Is Dead mania. My own interest was fueled by revelations from the previous academic year. Under the spell of a young teacher named Tyler C. Tingley, I had come to see that Beatles lyrics were stuffed with symbolism and multiple meaning.
This was clever work on Tingley's part. When you think about it that way, the jump from John Lennon to James Joyce is a short one I became such a precious little crank about all the McCartneymortem signs and symbols that I was eventually summoned to sit on the right hand of our (no doubt deeply amused) headmaster Robert A. Lazear and explain the whole thing to him.
Arcana! The known world is not the only world. There's more going on here than meets the eye or is dreamt in our meager philosophies. There's an intoxication to these notions, specially when they are directed at something familiar, something unsuspected of greater death. Pop music, pre-Beatles, was pretty basic and sensory. "Wake Up, Little Susie" contains narratives of past, present and future; but its meaning is plain. American television, prior to 1990, was straightforward stuff. Then came "Twin Peaks," the first mainstream TV show to invite fevered exegesis. Arcana, spewing out of a household appliance. People went bananas. I would cite "The Da Vinci Code" as the third tine on this pitchfork. From 2003 to 2006, a mass audience was lured into a world of parallel texts and non-canonical realities. I listened one day, in an eye doctor's waiting room, while the front desk staff, all young Latina women, talked excitedly about the notions that everything in the Bible might not be quite as it seemed and that there might a considerably darker and somehow more satisfying version of events drummed into them as young Catholics.
Today on the Nose, our panelists are Theresa Cramer, Jim Chadelaine and Irene Papoulis. (Or, unoriginally, to introduce them by their Travolta names, Theodore Crarter, Jai Colezan and Igor Parkinsmack.) In our pre-show deliberations, Theresa/Theodore quickly led us down a path to "True Detective," which joins all of the above examples, plus "Lost" and a few others, in the cloud of pop culture texts that have invited mass efforts to mine them for meaning.
Geeking out on the series is craze that extends to, well, POTUS. The way in is this very obscure work of fiction known only to a certain kind of nerdoscenti. "Lost" turned Americans into a nation of comic book men. "True Detective" has turned us, collectively, into the guy the comic book men know but don't get along with, because he's into all kinds of weird s**t that they find too recherche.
There's a small, reluctant backlash.
One might be tempted to ask whether the slender reed of a TV series can bear the weight of all this novelistic speculation. According to Igor Parkinsmack watcing and talking about television used to be terribly unfashionable among faulty elites. Now, knowing your "arv TV" is sine qua non when heading into the latest academic dinner party.
Anyway, that'll be the opening segment of The Nose today.