Hello, Wisconsin! Nice to know you’re not above falling in line with “the wave” of coolness. Nice to know that, chubby and Germanic and working-class though you are, you, like your coastal brethren, can still fall prey to the latest trends.

Another busy week, coupled with some nastiness at work reminiscent of, say, having a root canal done by a dentist who failed to clean raw sewage off his hands after a water main break. But anyway. The coverage of this year’s primary rolls on, and NYCweboy has wondered out loud if the press has won, writing their story of Obama’s meteoric rise as they have, casting Hillary as an evil stalwart of the corrupt old guard. It’s depressing, and maybe it’s true: the vast majority of people I know (who, demographically, are mostly in Obama’s camp: the educated, the relatively well-off, the snooty, the idealistic, and the young; those who can afford to sing along with Scarlett Johanssen and erupt into fits of hormonal giddiness about Sir Talks-a-Lot’s oral prowess) don’t seem to really care what Obama is about, because his movement is real. Yee-haw.

So here we go, and I promised I’d give money and time to Obama if he gets the nomination because, obviously, nothing could be worse than another four or eight years of retrenched social and political conservatism in the form of aggressive foreign policy, failure to reform health care (although Obama has amply demonstrated he doesn’t really know how to do that either), and pandering to upper tax brackets. And I will. But I’m starting to feel less and less enthused about the Anointed One, mostly because I think that, however corrupt/calculating/disingenuous you find the Clinton camp, their criticisms are right on:

1)Obama is all about soaring rhetoric and not so much about ideas.

2)Obama plagiarizes his rhetoric. The evidence is pretty egregious. And yeah, maybe I’m a pedant, and certainly I’m a nitpicker, but it sticks in my craw that his obvious plagiarism of Deval Patrick’s speech is getting a free pass from the media, and from Patrick himself, even though the governor was obviously taken aback at his endorsee’s duplicity.

So maybe NYCweboy is right. Maybe the press decided this for us, and we went along, because that’s what we do, except for those of us who don’t. I’m a contrarian and an outsider from way back, and I see in Barack Obama an ability I never had: one to take all the characteristics that might have alienated people from him and play to their sentiments, to make himself the cool kid, the B.M.O.C., the one who makes you forget what he looks like or where he comes from. I don’t envy him it or begrudge him it, but I just don’t find it that appealing. Because to me, it ought to be more than a popularity contest.

I know I’m in the minority — where else would I be? And I know I’ve got about a snowball’s chance of seeing Hillary, whom I originally viewed as similar but now, due to what Christopher Hitchens accurately termed a “tsunami of drool” bestowed on Obama, see as the red-headed stepchild in this equation, get the nomination. But hey — “right” ain’t about “fair.” I’m not going to completely give up hope; to do so would be to say that the rest of this little democratic process doesn’t matter. So I’m going to keep gunning for the stepchild.
I have never been a political donor, but I’ve now given money to the Clinton campaign. Twice. And though I’ll vote for the Democrat this fall, I have just one wish if that Democrat is Obama:

Take a cue from Hillary. Turn up the substance, turn down the charm, figure out when to shut up.

Oh, and one more thing while I’m passing messages to the candidates:

Confidential to John Edwards: join forces with HRC. This is your chance to be a kingmaker, shake things up on Pennsylvania Ave., and actually fix a few of the things that are broken around here. As far as I can tell, being veep under B.O. will be all about making the cool kidz happy, and that’s no longer your thing, ennit?

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Lately there’s been a lot of talk in our house about the proper status of television, most of it between me, myself, and I, because we have conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I find most television abhorrent, especially in light of the current eruption of reality TV (shows like the various bachelors, the various makeovers, and the various competitions) and slasher TV (shows like the miscellaneous forensic, judicial, and detective offerings); the former seems to be loosely themed around “Degrading The Human Condition Through Self-Humiliation and Appalling Discourtesy” and the latter around “Degrading the Human Condition Through Pornographic Gore.” On the other, I am not immune to the lure of TV as sedative, and I grew up watching all the eighties greats (Remington Steele, Knight Rider, The A-Team, Magnum P.I.) that not only offered forty-seven minutes of sweet oblivion, but also reinforced the idea that heroes exist, and they become great by flouting the rules, some of them in really stylish suits, others in cherried-out Pontiacs. To each his own. In my recollection there was no humiliation, no carnage, and very few casualties in these shows, which made them a relatively harmless indulgence, like smoking marijuana, whereas today’s TV is so utterly devoid of hope, heroism, and good-natured humor that it’s the psychological equivalent of smoking meth.

If that is indeed what you do with meth. I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I don’t really read those meth articles in the paper, because they always have really gnarly pictures of snaggletoothed people with lesions. And I have enough of those in my daily life, you know?

So there’s some struggle with TV. We have a difficult relationship. I keep expecting a slim, roué Pierce Brosnan to saunter across the screen, or perhaps a dapper, yet rough-edged George Peppard, and I keep getting airbrushed and siliconed teenagers uttering insulting and poorly-scripted remarks while discovering bodies in trash compacters. Kind of a letdown. In the spirit of experimentation and open-mindedness, I turn it on every couple of months, only to be bitch-slapped by images of some poor man’s severed limbs being pulled out of the back of a Buick or of closeups of the postmortem abrasions on some murder victim’s skin, — or worse, a bunch of clinically obese people jumping up and down in matching sweatshirts — and then I turn it right back off.

When I became a parent, I of course decided that my kids weren’t going to watch TV, and that resolution lasted right up until the first time I had a deadline to meet and my seven month-old was bored, and then I decided that it would be OK if he just checked out a little PBS. So I plunked him down in front of our little 13-inch TV/VCR combo, inherited from my parents ten years ago, and began what could have become a lifetime of addiction except that he had absolutely no interest in it at all and crawled off to chew on a plant.

In the intervening months, I’ve tried again a few times, only to discover that the new Sesame Street’s director of photography clearly got his start at Mtv, with all the attendant crazy camera zooms and cut-ins that you just know are going to cause your kid to end up with ADD. And the wee people in our house still find it uninspiring, so we’re pretty much a TV-free household, unless you count the occasional Thursday evenings when K. and I drag out the 13-inch so we can watch the detritus of slutty medical residents’ social lives.

So just imagine my surprise when the two-year-old announced to me one morning, “I’m playing with television!”

You are most certainly not, I thought. But in true “good parent listening” mode, I said, “You are, honey?”

“Television is playing hide-and-seek. He’s upstairs. He’s hiding.” And then, leaning in confidentially, “He’s really funny. He’s really famous.”

I see. You people who let your kids suck up hours of Sponge Bob and Dora every day, your kids have imaginary friends named Krusty or Boots. My kid, who reads high-quality literature, recites poems, and watches nothing but an occasional viewing of The Red Balloon, has an imaginary friend named Television. It would be funny, if it weren’t so tragically bleak and sad. Meanwhile, I was racking my brains to figure out how he had even heard the word “television,” when it finally hit me: the answer was in our stereo. Specifically, CD 5 in the changer, which for lo these many weeks has been Robyn Hitchcock‘s album “Spooked.” The first track on the album is called “Television,” and it begins:

Television, say you love me
Television, say you care
Loneliness is my profession
Show me those who are not there 

Television, murmur to me
Deep inside my room tonight
You're the devil's fishbowl, honey
I undress before your lies
Your lies...

         (complete lyrics here)

At first I was relieved. My son has excellent taste in music and frequently requests this album, and what could be better than a young person well-versed in irony and quirky, elegantly abstruse pop music? Mr. Hitchcock has been one of my great musical loves since I was fifteen, and my son went to see him in utero, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Except that there is no irony in a two-year-old talking about Television as if he were a confidant, because a two-year-old has no idea of the complex relationship America has with the medium, no understanding of why it’s called “boob tube” (I only recently fully came to appreciate the mammary metaphor: America sucking at the poisonous teat of Rupert Murdoch et al.) or “idiot box,” and no context for anything resembling double entendre. The two-year-old has forged his own relationship with Television, and it has nothing to do with obese folk having group weigh-ins or young men in fast cars saving the innocent and bringing the guilty to justice. Robyn Hitchcock’s sardonic verbal caresses become, for this child, totally ingenuous. Say you love me, indeed. We don’t watch TV, and yet the iconography of the television reigns in our household: just yesterday I drew at least twelve cartoon TVs, and this morning, pointing at the drawer pull on the coffee table, my son informed me, “That’s Television’s knob.”

Television has become a member of the family. Just listen to what he exclaimed when, while reading a bedtime story, we came across a drawing of a television:

“Oh! He has daddy’s eyes!”