Sunday, August 28, 2005

Mark Morford: Too cool for school

Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe have written some wonderful books, but they've been a terrible influence on the prose of a whole generation of would-be writers. Take the SF Chronicle's new columnist, Mark Morford, who has adopted their stylistic tricks---the exclams, the use of capitals, the run-on sentences, the hyperbole---but lacks the talent to make them anything but annoying:
 
It's like that feeling you get when you smack your head into a brick wall and your skull reverbates and your vision momentarily blurs and you have a painful but somehow still nicely appealing flash if insight into Something Very Important, something you think you should know, something that can be illuminated only via cocktails and bloody prime rib and conversing with old flames.
 
This is the opening paragraph of a column about Morford's 20th high school reunion, of all things: "This is the high school reunion...You attend one and you are calmly slammed up against the wall of your past, and your head convulses..." etc. This is the English language on steroids.

Behind the whiz-bang prose, Morford's message: He and his readers are cool, and everyone else is not, especially all the poor slobs in Red State America, aka "white-bread" suburbia, a cliche he uses twice in the piece:
 
Huge numbers of men were apparently drawn to sales and investment banking and golf like Republicans to an NRA convention. Some women became lawyers and teachers and Christian soccer moms and and not nearly enough became polyamorous tattoo artist-chefs who live on a houseboat in Amsterdam and collect obscure German fetish porn and grow their own dill. What can you do?
 
All you can do is adopt a hipper-than-thou pose and sneer at cheerleaders, school plays, and sports, which of course he was much too cool to participate in.
 
Last Friday Morford went Deep with a column about religion. Naturally, he and his friends are cool about that, too, unlike folks who adhere to those stuffy old orthodoxies that have been mired in the mud for thousands of years:
 
There is this upwelling. There is this delicious rebellion. It is not yet loud and it is not yet conventional and it is certainly not yet dominating the national political dialogue and it is not yet making the headlines and maybe it never will and this is probably a good thing. But it's happening. I have seen it. Maybe you have, too. I am, in fact, part of it. Maybe you are, too. And lo, it is righteous and delicious and good.
 
No, I haven't seen it, and I'm not part of it. And what does the word "delicious" mean in this context? Nothing, really; it's just a bit of verbal froth, like when Morford writes about how married people's "sighs roar in the night." Sighs don't roar, dude; that's why they are called sighs and not roars.
 
Morford's deity is not the old, uncool "war-mongering homophobic paternalistic God." Instead, it's a kind of generic New Age divinity that has something to to do with "the return of the divine feminine," which is superior to that of our "warmongering president whose own unhappy God tells him to bomb foreign lands..." So that's what the war on terrorism is all about: The president is listening to an unhappy God.

In other words, it would appear, as far as the divine is concerned, that we are opening rather than closing, inventing rather than devolving, experimenting and thrusting and whispering new secrets to the moon rather than quivering in the corner, afraid of our own divine shadows, slouching toward death, unaware that our cosmic shoes are untied. Can I get an amen? Or maybe an om?
 
No, you can't. But next time you are out "experimenting and thrusting," whisper this to the moon: bullshit!

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Ski-Jump on Pacific Heights: City for Sale

Supervisor Alioto-Pier on the crackpot scheme to put a ski-jump on Fillmore St: "You can't do an event in San Francisco and not discuss it with the neighborhood groups, and not abide by the conditions of the permits. San Francisco is not for sale." ("Ski Jump Event..." SF Chronicle, Rachel Gordon, Aug. 25, 2005)

Actually, the city is for sale. You just have to make the right offer in the right district. If the ski-jump promoters take their proposal to Chris "Rincon Hill" Daly in District 6, maybe they can work something out, since Supervisor Daly just auctioned off a big chunk of his district to developers for $58 million. California Street in the Nob Hill area would make an excellent ski jump.

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