micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links

Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.

Please send him email at micahth@chartermi.net.

Holmquist's full archives are listed here.

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Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)

Aljazeera.Net English
AlterNet (War on Iraq)
Alternative Press Review
Always Low Prices -- Always
Another Irani online
antiwar.com (blog)
Asia Times Online
Axis of Logic
Baghdad Burning (riverbend)
BBC News
blogdex.net ("track this weblog")
The Christian Science Monitor (Daily Update)
Common Dreams
Daily Rotten
Democracy Now
The Drudge Report
Eat the Press (Harry Shearer, The Huffington Post)
Empire Notes (Rahul Mahajan)
frontpagemag.com (HorowitzWatch)
Guardian Unlimited
The Independent
Information Clearing House
Informed Comment (Juan Cole)
Iranians for Peace

Iraq Dispatches (Dahr Jamail)
Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report (Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice)
Mr. Show and Other Comedy
The Narco News Bulletin (blog)
The New York Times
Occupation Watch
Political Theory Daily Review
Press Action
Project Syndicate
Raed in the Middle (Raed Jarrar)
The Simpsons Archive
Simpsons Collector Sector
Technorati ("search for mth.blogspot.com")
United States Central Command
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
War Report (Project on Defense Alternatives)
The Washington Post
Wildfire (Jo Wilding)
wood s lot
www.mnftiu.cc (David Rees)

Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)

Thivai Abhor
As'ad AbuKhalil
Ken Adrian
Christopher Allbritton
Douglas Anders
Mark W. Anderson
Aziz Ansari
Atomic Archive
James Benjamin
Elton Beard
Charlie Bertsch
alister black
Blame India Watch
Blog Left: Critical Interventions Warblog / war blog
Igor Boog
Martin Butler
Chris Campbell
James M. Capozzola
Avedon Carol
Elaine Cassel
cats blog
Jeff Chang
Margaret Cho
Citizens Of Upright Moral Character
Louis CK
Les Dabney
Natalie Davis
Scoobie Davis
The Day Job
Jodi Dean
Dominic Duval
Steve Earle
Daniel Ellsberg
Tom Engelhardt
Lisa English
Barbara Flaska
Brian Flemming
Joe Foster
Yoshie Furuhashi
Al Giordano
Rob Goodspeed
Grand Puba
Guardian Unlimited Weblog
Pete Guither
The Hairy Eyeball
Ray Hanania
Mark Hand
Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log Jim Henley Arvin Hill Hit & Run (Reason) Hugo Clark Humphrey Indri The Iraqi Agora Dru Oja Jay Jeff Lynne d Johnson Dallas Jones Julia Kane Blues Benjamin Kepple Ken Layne Phil Leggiere Brian Linse Adam Magazine Majority Report Radio Marc Maron Josh Marshall Jeralyn Merritt J.R. Mooneyham Michael Scott Moore Bob Morris Bob Mould Mr. Show and Tell Muslims For Nader/Camejo David Neiwert NewPages Weblog Aimee Nezhukumatathil Sean O'Brien Patton Oswalt The Panda's Thumb Randy Paul Rodger A. Payne Ian Penman politx Neal Pollack Greg Proops Pro-War.com Pure Polemics Seyed Razavi Rayne Simon Reynolds richardpryor.com Clay Richards Mike Rogers Yuval Rubinstein
Steven Rubio
Saragon Noah Shachtman Court Schuett The Simpsons Archive Amardeep Singh Sam Smith Soundbitten Jack Sparks Ian Spiers Morgan Spurlock Stand Down: The Left-Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq Aaron Stark Morgaine Swann Tapped (The American Prospect) tex Matthew Tobey Annie Tomlin Tom Tomorrow The University Without Condition Jesse Walker Warblogger Watch Diane Warth The Watchful Babbler The Weblog we have brains Matt Welch
Alex Whalen
Jon Wiener
Lizz Winstead
James Wolcott
Wooster Collective
Mickey Z

Monday, November 04, 2002
The Value of The Simpsons

Last night’s “Treehouse of Horror XIII” –the first new episode of The Simpsons since last May’s hilarious but misunderstood “Papa’s Got a Brand New Badge” – was very good.

The three segments all were a solid blend of the zany take no prisoners humor that was situated in the real world of ambiguities, uncertainty and problems. The middle segment told the story of how the citizens of Springfield decided to eliminate guns –including the guns of the state- and then quickly found themselves harassed by the gun toting ghosts of outlaw cowboys and one German general. Throw in some witty wordplay and jokes that point out the ridiculousness of the sci-fi concept of time travel and you have great comedy. “I guess guns really are the answer,” said Lisa towards the end.

What made the segment stand out in my mind is that it poked fun both at those who think there is any chance that guns should be eliminated in the real existing world and at those who view firearms as an absolute good. Neither side was left off the hook and because the lack of an answer doesn’t give way to a political program, it rates as some of the more honest cultural satire ever created.

The first segment looked at cloning while the third segment was a parody of H.G. Wells’ novel The Island of Dr. Moreau and the 1996 movie based on the novel and features a minor pro-vegetarian theme, a theme that is by now a staple of the show. I bring this up because it says something very interesting about The Simpsons when considered in light of Burger King’s recent promotion of 10 Chinese made plastic toy statues of characters from The Simpsons in creepy garb or animal/human hybrid appearances.

From nearly the very beginning The Simpsons was a product of corporate culture and the result of a committee process. True Matt Groening had the initial vision but by the first actual episodes it was in the hands of a larger group of people and in the years that have followed the number of people who have left their mark on the series has grown far larger than I care to count. To make a long story short, there is no auteur with a vision behind the series. It is the product of a group process that was designed by the FOX corporation to make money. And if it didn’t make money it would cease to exist or at least be retooled so that it could.

Great art rarely comes from such a process –although it should be said that creating great art within capitalism usually requires not losing too much money and/or having an alternative source of funding- and yet I believe that The Simpsons should be placed in the category of great art for what the episodes routinely say about life, culture, society and the world in a humorous fashion. It is able to make statements about gun control and more importantly guns, vegetarianism and the existence of God that are bold within the context of the show yet which are problematized but the marketing and commercial apparatus the surrounds the show. (And just for the record I collected the Burger King figures and have many toys based on the show.) Burger King may have a veggie burger but it is still a huge part of the corporate kill animals so more advanced animals can eat them process and certainly doesn’t want to see vegetarianism take hold. So, in a way, Burger King was trying to use the popularity of the show even though it hopes that one of the regular messages of the show doesn’t take hold.

It should be said that by using The Simpsons brand Burger King is not promoting The Simpsons so much as they are using the show’s popularity to promote their chain of the restaurants. The popularity and influence of The Simpsons is unlikely to change much in the near future and so its ideas are already as much out there as they are going to get. Burger King doesn’t have to fear the themes of The Simpsons because they, like most successful business enterprises, do not pine for an ideal world but rather try to make a buck within the existing one.

All of this denies that The Simpsons possess anything approaching a “subversive” power, which brings up some interesting questions. Is it possible for a product of corporate culture to change society in a qualitative way that is not directly connected with the further expansion of the productive and profit making power of capitalism? If the answer to the previous question is no, can the producers of the popular culture have any impact not related to entertainment value and the strengthening the current set of economic relations? Does it matter what the producers of culture do? How should people who are critics of the set of economic relationships that currently exist in the U.S. and/or the world relate to popular culture?

I don’t think there is any value to simple answers to the above questions. There too many nuances involved and anybody who answers those questions in a fair manner will have to deal with their own prejudices and desired outcomes. I for one want The Simpsons to have some value beyond entertainment in a world where critical political humor is an endangered species. Maybe this is in fact of the value of the show. In a culture where the late Bill Hicks receives almost no appreciation and a comedian is lauded because he has nothing to say about anything, maybe The Simpsons is valuable because it carries forth the tradition of satire that is mainstream and yet still biting and pointed. If that is the case, then the show’s value will be that it will be looked at as a guidepost for the developing and not yet developed humorists who point out the shortcomings and problems of the conceptually unlimited war that President George W. Bush and his advisors have started.

Maybe it is just my bias but I hope that will be the case.