NOTES FROM UNDERFOOT

by E.C. Fish on May 14, 1998

FISH LOGOFLAGRANTLY BIASED JOURNALISM: Some of you would find any claim I could make to objectivity questionable at best, but all of you should know that when it comes to the upcoming Johnson County Recorder primary my bias is there for all to see. Candidate Kim Painter was my colleague on these very pages, my sidekick on the public access cable program “Old Capitol Gang”, and is both an old and dear friend and my son Jack’s godmother. She has long since won my trust, respect, and affection, and with it my support of her candidacy and any other endeavor she cares to undertake.

I should probably point out, though, that if the primary were between County Supervisor Steve Lacina and, say, a howler monkey, I would have a long moment’s pause before abstaining. Lacina is not just a bad candidate by comparison– he’s a bad candidate, period. If  nothing else, Lacina’s last run for the office, which he continued with ludicrous tenacity after being turned down for the job by the Board of Supervisors, the Johnson County Democrats, and voters at large, showed such an arrogant disregard for the democratic process as to make me question his participation in it. His grandstanding “raid” on the Recorder’s office last year, given his candidacy for the very same office this year, comes off as one of the more transparently cynical political maneuvers in recent memory, casting suspicion where it most certainly did not belong for nothing more than his own political gain. Nor am I comfortable with Lacina’s involvement with local development interests– the Recorder’s office should be administrative, thus neutral on policy matters, and nothing in Lacina’s record shows any talent for scrupulous neutrality.

MEET THE BEETLES: Volkswagen has introduced an updated version of its former signature vehicle, the Beetle, with success so complete that some areas of the country are producing thriving black markets in the all-too-scarce machines. By bringing back a cultural icon that runs from Adolph Hitler to ’60s flower children, VW has scored a commercial coup and produced a car that I wouldn’t mind owning myself.

One quibble, though– despite its allusions to the car’s hippie past, Volkswagen’s slogan, “If you sold your soul in the ’80s, here’s your chance to buy it back,” is the most idiotic drivel to emerge from the Great American Marketing Establishment in many a moon. Let’s face it– any theology that states that you can spiritually redeem yourself through yet another material possession is a pretty weak theology, metaphysically speaking. I’m sorry, recovering yuppies everywhere, but if you sold your soul in the ’80’s, you’re most likely still going straight to hell, and deservedly so, no matter what you buy.

MARCHING TOWARD SOMA: In this on-the-go, high-speed, competitive, 24/7 world we’re all being sold, the next thing to stay open all night might very well be your eyes. The Food and Drug Administration recently began the approval process on a drug used successfully in the treatment of narcolepsy in Europe that initial reports indicate can keep a subject awake for as long as two and a half days with no discernible side effects.

What is notable, and maybe a little scary, about this news is that the FDA is examining the drug not as a narcolepsy treatment, but for general use. If approved, this could well be the next “lifestyle drug,” with the millions who currently pop Prozac and it’s analogues for confidence and “competitive edge” taking the next logical step of devoting some of that time wasted sleeping to the ceaseless quest for increased productivity and profit. Those currently inclined or coerced into burning the candle at both ends will be able to take a blow torch straight to the candle’s center.

The result could be the sudden acceleration of a culture that is already traveling way too fast to steer. Rest, repose, and reflection, already undervalued, could very well be eliminated altogether. Given the nature of competition, the new price of success could very well be our dreams.

Like I said– scary. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time I turned in.
***
This piece originally appeared in the Iowa City weekly Icon.

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