"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 July 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Trimming the Hegemony


[rising to the top:
mountain boy and girl]

Oh, Canada. Our good neighbors

to the north have the best

intentions, but they just keep

losing their page in the script

of world history. Late last

month, Canadian culture minister

Sheila Copps invited colleagues

from 40 countries to attend a

special conference in Ottawa.

The purpose? To ceremoniously

declare war on America's

"cultural domination" of the

planet. According to the Los

Angeles Times, this confab grew

"out of increasing concern ...

that what millions of people

around the world watch and hear

is determined by a small number

of executives in Los Angeles and

New York." This is alarming,

because what people used to

watch and hear was determined by

a small number of feudal despots

in Rome and London. These days,

though, everyone's a critic.

Even high-ranking figure heads,

with no apparent critical skills

beyond discerning which butts to

kiss to get appointed.


Sadly, the United States was not

invited to the conference. If we

actually had the equivalent of a

cultural minister (or, for that

matter, a culture), we might

have argued that we're simply

sharing the wealth. Consider it

the noblesse oblige of

syndication. Frankly, the rest

of the world still seems to lack

the reservoir of cultural

resources it takes to produce

their own timeless art on the

order of, say, Baywatch. Is it

our fault the best Canada can

come up with is Gordon

Lightfoot, Moosehead, and the

Red Green Show?


Our friends in the Olde World

are quick to cite the delusion

that they have their own rich

cultures, traditions, and

histories. That's not all; we're

supposed to believe that Tony

Danza sitcoms threaten to bring

Western Civilization crashing

down amid anguished cries of Wer

ist hier der Boss? Still, the

European approach to cultural

diversity has typically led to

either holocaust or hooliganism,

so we consider badly dubbed

reruns of Hogan's Heroes -

surely Hollywood's proudest

moment of genteel

internationalism and gutsy

historicity - a kind of pacifier

worth its weight in Euros.


[bishop's aquatic fetching abilities]

The French, of course, are a

proud people. But their

reluctant fascination with all

things American endures.

Disneyland Paris and its

"Mainstreet USA" is just a short

sally from the Eiffel Tower, and

it's been wildly successful. The

only real glitch has been a

telling clash of work cultures.

As it turns out, what the French

really resent is how hard

Americans work, and the

authentic way Disney tries to

reproduce this in their theme

park. The New York Times

reported last week that

Disneyland Paris is being

picketed by the French

performers who play Mickey

Mouse, Captain Hook, Pluto, and

all those other noble Disney

roles that keep aspiring actors

off the dole. The French are

striking for more pay, saying

they earn only slightly more

than minimum wage for such

demanding work. Euro Disney

executives are quick to point

out that French law requires all

companies to offer their

employees five weeks of paid

vacation per year - five weeks,

fer chrissake! - and this

justifies the compensation they

receive. Knowing how shrewd

Michael Eisner is, and how

casual the French are, we have

little doubt they'll find an

easy compromise. Perhaps "paid

vacation" can become the actual

job description, and they can

log a little R&R right there

in the workplace. Since they're

French, they're not really

working anyway, right? In

reality, Disney's giving 13,000

French "employees" a free pass

and some walking-around money.

Now that's transnational



It's possible the Disneyland

Paris strike was just a ruse to

spend more time at the soccer

stadium. Hard as it may be to

believe, the French have been

distracted by something other

than wine, cheese, bread, and

philandering in the past four

weeks: Against all odds, their

squad made it to Sunday's World

Cup final against Brazil - and

then actually won. Despite their

chronic diffidence,

obsequiousness, aloofness, or

whatever the hell's wrong with

them most of the time, the

French are giddy with an unsuave

brand of pride this year.

(Soccer and nationalism? How

bourgeois!) After all, the World

Cup was originally their idea,

contrived 70 years ago by a

Parisian dilettante. (They're

slightly less proud of the fact

that it took them seven decades

to even get to the

championship.) Anyway, the World

Cup should be proof enough to

the French, the Canadians, and

anyone else that the United

States is still capable of being

terminally incompetent,

irrelevant, and uncool.

Ironically, it also proved how

uncool the violently chic French

can be - and get away with it.

Who would have thought a

prematurely balding man with

sideburns would seal their

victory on the field of play?


[2 yr. old vermont cheddar]

For our part, it's a unique

brand of consolation knowing

that Americans don't do anything

half-assed - that when we suck, we suck

the hardest. So here's evidence

to refute the culture ministers

of the world: Not only is

humanity's most beloved game

something we can't do, but we

had to make up our own

nonsensical name for it as well.

Still, there's cause for

concern. Back home, there's a

crisis brewing over our poor

showing in France, because it

reflects badly on one of our

proudest institutions: Soccer

Motherhood. While soccer moms

continue to enjoy all the perks

and privileges of being a bona

fide American demographic, they

don't seem to be producing any

soccer pros.


It hardly matters, though.

Anyone who watched more than 10

seconds of any random World Cup

game knows who the real

winners of this spectacle were:

Nike and Adidas. The event was

branded ubiquitously, most

prominently with Phil Knight's

All-American juggernaut. Not

only did Nike supply nearly

every team with uniforms,

cleats, and goldenseal, they

completely underwrote the

Brazilian team. You could say

they were just covering all

their bets. Or you could say

they've taken the concept of the

overseas sweatshop and upscaled

it considerably, to include

professional soccer teams.


[the walrus 2 person windshere]

If the rest of the planet isn't

taking potshots at us from some

cheap Holiday Inn in Ottawa,

they're capping our ass on some

vacant lot in France. In spite

of these indignities, we'll

persevere. We don't mind losing

on the field of play, if it

means we can monopolize the

marketplace. To the rest of the

world, then, we offer once again

a paraphrase of the Harvard

cheer: "It's all right, it's OK:

You'll work for Nike some day."


courtesy of E. L. Skinner