Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Troubled Times, Where Shall a Bruised Nation Turn for Soothing Ironic Distance?

I found myself drawn to this recent headline from The Onion: Nation's Crumbling Infrastructure Probably Some Sort Of Metaphor.

The satirical "newspaper" recounts recent infrastructure failures and notes that these failures are "forcing many to question whether the nation's rapidly deteriorating roads, contaminated drinking water and groundwater, and run-down schools could perhaps be a metaphor for something."

"Everywhere you turn you see improperly maintained railways, structurally deficient bridges—not to mention billions of gallons of untreated sewage flowing directly into our groundwater," said Adam Perry, a representative for the ASCE. "Is there an underlying message here? There are so many layers, and each one is so subtle and nuanced, that I'm hesitant to make any kind of blanket statement about what this means 'for America.'"

"I think our overstretched and increasingly obsolete infrastructure might symbolize something important," Perry added. "But what?"

I find myself missing that sort of irony-heavy satirical commentary now that the TV-writers' strike has darkened the nation's airwaves. I wonder where to turn for the acerbic commentary I once depended on The Daily Show to provide.

As it happens, commercial television is not the only place to find such content. As we turn away from reality-TV, we are rediscovering thoughtful, written cynicism in all manner of formats, from traditional printed books and magazines to on-line blogs and, for the more adventurous, personal conversation.

Aside from The Onion, there are other goofy-news sites such as ScrappleFace, McSweeney's and the (somewhat NSFW) Daily Mash over in the United Kingdom. There are sites featuring humorous writing in general, such as Francesco Explains It All. And the TV writers are creating new on-line video content in their own cause at Speechless.

So, as the writers' strike drags into a new year, and we resign ourselves to television without great wit, people around the nation are re-discovering the joys of literature, learning about alternate media, and indulging in conversation.

And some -- a brave few -- are starting to express their own, very personal, satire.

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