Jan 6, 2016

Auld and Knew

"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--
 the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden
 turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
                                                                     --C.S. Lewis

"[It] is not a milestone ... that I intend to go unnoticed.
 I want to make some noise. I want to make a joyful noise.
 I want to make too much noise. I want the neighbors to complain."
                                                                     --Joss Whedon

commentary by michael j wright

Part One
Before I get to what is almost an obligatory topic of this day, I'd like to express a thought or two regarding Comedy Central's re-re-vamped The Daily Show..., which you already know is now hosted by Trevor Noah, but which form demands I spell out for you: ...with Trevor Noah.

I completely understand his and his producers' need and desire to differentiate Noah from the institution that was Jon Stewart.  Consequently, I was fine with the new set and the new graphics.  I was even okay with the decision to have Noah standing, out from behind the desk, while handing us our tag-riffic (if sometimes obtuse) Moment of Zen.  Such things were no big deal.

When the show returned to the air for this first full week of the new year, however, bigger deals were afoot.  I'd tell you I chose the word afoot with care, but the truth is words like that sometimes just pop into my head.  The reason afoot is particularly fitting here is that the first thing one notices about The Daily Show's most recent cosmetic tinkering is the decision to open "cold," in the parlance of the biz, with Noah standing in/walking from one of the sizeable set's seldom-seen crannies, trying valiantly to fit his South African accent around distinctly American words like "Ar-egon."

I don't yet know whose decision this was.  Perhaps Noah lobbied for it; perhaps the show's producers told him to give it a try.  Likewise, I don't yet know the thinking that went into the decision.  Maybe Noah is more comfortable standing than sitting.  Maybe the obvious fact that Noah's face and physique are more appealing than Stewart's led someone to the, um, epiphany that those assets should be more often showcased.  Whatever the cause, and however awkward it may seem in the short term, the results are nowhere near disagreeable enough for even a curmudgeonly nit-picker like me to raise a proverbial ruckus.

What happens after the cold open, on the other hand, is sacrilege of the first order: they changed the theme music.

Actually, to say they changed the opening theme doesn't do the dastardly deed justice.  It would be far more accurate to say they did away with it.  For years, the straight-outta-central-casting, big-voiced announcer's list of date, location, and title was followed by a stirring snare-drum roll and rousing guitar riff.  It got the blood pumping.  Now, that same litany is followed by a handful of fall-flat notes, probably (judging by the utter lack of soul, depth, warmth, et cetera) generated by a computer.  It is to its predecessor what erectile dysfunction is to arousal: I want to watch the show, but I don't think I can now.  It's depressing.  Instead of being pumped to see The Daily Show's clever take on the events of the past few days, I now involuntarily say, "Nope!" and wonder why I suddenly feel so blue.

{Addendum:  Having seen two additional episodes, I now realize The Daily Show did not "do away" with its theme, but merely substituted a different arrangement or mix.  Maybe yelling "Nope!" isn't the best way to listen for sonic subtleties.  With that acknowledgement, I stand by my characterizations of the new mix's aural impact.}

Daily Show, please take note...
When Disney bought LucasFilm, millions of fans were a little brought-down by the realization that the next installment of Star Wars would not be preceded by the trumpet-laden 20th Century Fox fanfare.  When they went to see The Force Awakens, however, John Williams' familiar opening measures still underscored the sudden STAR WARS logo and opening text on the screen-- and they cheered.  There is a lesson to be learned from that.

Part Two
An acquaintance of mine recently wondered openly if there was an official date when he could stop pretending to give a [negative term of your choosing] how every-damned-body-he-has-ever-known's holidays were.  (I'm paraphrasing.)  I suspect the question was prompted by the phenomenon of every-damned-body he has to passingly interact with asking how his holidays were.  You know the type.  People who can actually convince you they give a [see above] are said to have charisma; people who try very hard and don't quite pull it off are almost always in sales.

Fortunately, there is a firm date when the holidays are over.  It's today.

Centuries ago, the religious clerics who invented Christmas --and by invented I mean they stole it from some sun-worshippers and re-vamped it to differentiate the new host from the old; new set, new theme music, the whole schmeer-- decided the season should be twelve days long.  (Hence the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which appeals mainly to choir directors and autistics.)  The basis for this time frame is the legend that the Magi, or Three Wise Men (who were up-jumped to kings in their theme song), did not arrive to pay homage to the newly born King of Kings for the better part of two weeks.  Because even wise men who are running late can learn something new, the event was called the Epiphany (which basically means realization), and because January 5th is the twelfth day of Christmas, January 6th was dubbed the Day of the Epiphany (or usually just Epiphany).

Of far greater relevance to most of us, with our modern, temporally
expanded, more secular notion of the holidays, is this...

By the church's own calendar, January 6th of every year is the first day of
It Officially Ain't Christmas Anymore, Jack, So Stop Asking.

Part Three
Today, we here at Blasphemes celebrate ten years of impiety.  For reasons loosely tied to the discussion in Part Two, it was on January 6th, 2006 that this here site was officially launched, or founded, or opened, or whatever.  Please honor this milestone, Dear Reader, by engaging in a vice of your own choosing.  At the very least, give a passerby a dirty look and let them wonder why.

Found on Mars this week... a fragment of star map,
                            and a mile post numbered 1138.