Now that it seems 2021 has indeed told 2020 to hold its beer, at least in some parts of the world, most of the optimism we sent the old year with must have fizzled out. This is sad, really. Resist it. That’s what I’m doing, with mixed success.
The death of the grotesque
I may have mentioned my 20-minute daily exercise routine, which for most people actually serious about physical fitness sounds like a warm-up, before. What I may have not mentioned is that I do it while watching some sort of comedy or other, to avoid being bored out of my mind. This week, I returned to an old favourite — Married with Children.
It took me less than season 1 to start lamenting the death of the grotesque, of which Married with Children is, to my limited knowledge, the best example in TV history. Today’s comedy shows, again the few ones I’ve tried watching, not all of them, are careful ones. They are so careful about not offending anyone — not that there’s anyone who deserves offending — that they lose the point of comedy, that is, being funny.
Compare with the Bundy story, which does to stereotypes what a tyre pump would do to a balloon that never bursts, i.e., blows them out of any sensible proportion with the result that the stereotype becomes funny rather than annoying. Which is the point of the grotesque as an artistic approach. And the reason the grotesque is important is that it helps put things we think we see clearly in another perspective, showing us our original view was not, in fact, as clear as we thought. Which brings me to a related matter.
When will we catch up with the Americans?
This was the name of a popular TV show from the early 90s in Bulgaria, soon after the totalitarian regime we had died of natural causes. The focus of the show was making funny cultural, political and other parallels between the Balkans and the magnet that was the West for pretty much everyone at that time. The central premise was that everything is better in the West — as summarised in the concept of the American dream — so how can we most quickly get to the same level of good.
It’s taken the world less than 40 revolutions around the Sun for things to change in many radical ways, some good, others not so much. We discovered that not everything in the West was better (things like free education and healthcare come to mind, as well as job loss and homelessness), for example. We also discovered that the things that are better, such as business opportunities and freedom of speech, come with something called responsibility, which we weren’t too used to and a lot of us still aren’t. Basically, it’s been a hell of a journey and it has taken us in unexpected directions.
Okay, I have to admit it’s difficult to reference political matters without mentioning them but I will do my best because I’ve sworn off political discussions. Think most recent events that hog headlines, all right? All right. The point I’m making here is as simple as it is amusing, from a certain perspective, and sad, from another perspective. You see, the thing is we never caught up with America. America caught up with us. Sorry, everyone. For the future, bear this piece of folk wisdom in mind: Nobody can hurt you as badly as you can hurt yourself. It is equally valid for individuals, communities, ethnic groups, parties, and whole countries and continents.
Dear shoe, will you drop already?
I already complained about the sick season in our family, which was generous. I was the only one who didn’t get anything beyond a mild cold, like I do every winter. The thing is, due to some inherited factors such as a fatalistic view of life and its intricacies, I now keep expecting to fall very seriously ill or just die without warning.
The options are limitless, thanks to the size of my imagination and the abundance of self-diagnosis tools online. I know it’s stupid to self-diagnose with the help of what Google offers you. We all know it. But we do it because Google is there. I won’t go into detail about all the things I’ve self-diagnosed so far because it will be depressing but I’ll say I sometimes wish for a power outage so I can have a bit of a rest. Only I won’t since I’m perfectly capable of freaking out because of a headache without the help of the Mayo Clinic or the NHS, which are my first go-to websites when I think a have a symptom of something.
Yet things don’t stop here, because my fatalism has a friend and it’s called a firm belief in the randomness of the universe. This means that just because the rest of the family got sick once — some twice but who’s counting — it doesn’t mean they can’t get sick again, and worse. In other words, I live in a state of constant fear, which is my default setting, only this time it’s amplified. Since there is nothing much I can do, I endure. And write, because writing helps me get my mind off the worry. Writing is a great coping mechanism, for those who didn’t know. All art is, I imagine. We should all do it more often because, among other things, who knows if we will be here tomorrow?
I will leave you on this exceptionally positive note because I have bread to make and exercise to do in the company of Al Bundy and family.