for 19 December 1996. Updated every THURSDAY.

 

 

Killjoy To The World

 
No cheating, kids. Close those Best &
Worst Of Special Double Issues. Now,
quick: What do you remember of 1996,
anyway?
 
There are a few universal highlights.
Jim Carrey's bravura performance in
The Cable Guy... The stunning
capture of Ted Kaczynski, and the
thrilling inventory of his personal
effects... George Bush puking his
guts out at a state dinner in
Tokyo... Er, that's 1991. Worth
remembering, though... Yeltsin doing
the hippy-hippy-shake at a Moscow
rock concert.
 
 
Or do you have clearer recall of that
rude guy who cut in front of you in
line to see Independence Day than of
the movie's plot? Name one Olympic
athlete who wasn't injured or a gold
medal winner... Uh... but what about
the girl who gave you a fake phone
number? Her name (if that was her
real name...) will ring in your ears
forever, not unlike the high-pitched
squeal of Kerri Strug.
 
The holiday season is indeed a Time
for Reflection in the most
narcissistic (and easily repurposed)
sense. Everyone from Time magazine
to, well, Newsweek wants a piece of
the looking glass, offering chances
to revisit touching newsmakers like
Dick Morris and Joe Klein. Alas,
despite buzzy talk of Totally
Personalized news, media
milestone-markers still haven't
obtained access to your personal
recollections of the Rude Guy. So
it's up to you to fill in your own
blanks for 1996. (Next year: handy
memory-jogging pop-up menus.)
 
 
Though seemingly flimsy, the
quick-reflection racket isn't
without its intellectual
underpinnings. Pining to
psychoanalyze Bill Gates' favorite
artist, Sigmund Freud was stymied by
the fact that da Vinci had died
decades earlier. (Rigor mortis makes
writing out checks very difficult.)
However, the great Leonardo did make
some sketchy notes about a
dimly-remembered childhood dream in
which a kite (or was it... a
vulture?) put its tail in his mouth.
 
It isn't hard to see why this might
catch Freud's attention. But could
da Vinci's memory be trusted? The
nimble professor did a theoretical
end run: For the analyst's purposes,
it would henceforth be immaterial
whether a patient's memory was
accurate. It only mattered that
Leonardo believed in the
kite-slash-vulture dream, and the
degree of lasciviousness with which
he described it in relation to his
mother.
 
Or try another such egghead,
Nicholson Baker (the Woody Allen of
lit-crit, a man who reads Henry
James at McDonald's and pays for his
meals with bags of pennies)
describes a similar fudging scheme
in his 1991 book U and I. (The "U"
is golf enthusiast John Updike.)
Baker proposes a painless "style of
book chat" which he first dubs
"memory criticism," then "phrase
filtration," then "deprived recall
analysis" - all highfalutin ways of
saying "closed-book exam."
Basically, Baker remembers as many
Updike turns of phrase as he
possibly can without cracking a
book, then compares his memories to
the real thing. Very often, his
"favorite" Updikeana turn out to be
half-Bakered.
 
Imagine the reminiscence revolution
in everything from test-marketing to
family albums (not to mention the
boon to term-paper procrastination)
should such a mode of mediated
meditation catch on. It would
require a complete overhaul in focus
group dynamics: "Please do not
discuss the Grand Marnier Tangerine
Coolers now, sir. Come back in a
month's time to recollect the taste,
and collect your fee." Or: "Happy
20th Anniversary, honey - can we
write some captions for our wedding
album now?"
 
To counterbalance the positivistic
New Year's Eve - the whole
Chanukwanzmas rigmarole ought to
leave us with more than eggnog
breath and a mountain of broken
Tickling Elmos, right? - I propose a
new tradition: Old Year's Day.
Before plunging into the "new one
just begun," a few hours of December
31 should be devoted to a
closed-Filofax contemplation of
Lennon's "another year over." Retire
to a Clue-like library with quill
and inkwell, and settle under the
ominously ticking grandfather clock
to consider the topic "'96: Wha'
happened?" If Freud and Baker are
right, your spontaneous
reminiscences should be more telling
than the contents of your diary.
 
 
While you're sucking on the end of
your pen, take a minute to cast your
memory back over the storied history
of Zero Baud, a 1996-only phenomenon
which will be folded into Suck's
daily grind come January 6. This
section was created as a place for
"pretend[ing] to know what kind of
life is to be had beyond the
desktop," and we do dimly recall
some incoherent blather about pens,
merchandising, squids, musicals,
and a yearlong moratorium on Baffler
references. Your therapeutic
letters will help to dislodge the
more sublimated nightmares of our
'Baud Lang Syne.
 
When through, join ship-jumper Mike
Ovitz and bridge-burner Bob Dole in
a nostalgic revision of that
pentatonic ball-dropping tune: "May
auld acquantaince be forgot and
never brought to mind!"
 
We'll take a cup of snideness yet...
 

[Zero Baud Archive]

courtesy of
Ersatz