<= 2001.02.02

2001.02.04 =>


So I finally got off my ass to research the giant point of light that appeared in the night sky in December; it's neither Mir nor Jupiter, but the International Space Station. They put giant solar panels on it. Sorry, this is probably really old news, but there were a lot of us who didn't know. NASA's got an applet showing you where it is right now. It moves kind of alarmingly quickly.

Called home last night and my mother was watching Celebrity Deathmatch. She gave me a running commentary. "Now the cast of Friends is on! Oops, there goes Monica's eyeball." The referee was TV's Judge Mills Lane, who (I just found out) was actually a Reno district judge for decades before taking the TV spot. I only just made the connection, but I saw him a few years back at some literacy celebration on the University of Nevada-Reno campus, where to great acclaim he read that one light-verse ballad set in the tundra, where the guy freezes to death and shouts with joy when they cremate him because he's finally warm. You know the one I'm talking about. What the hell is its name? Oh, and Mills Lane also officiated that fight where Mike Tyson bit the guy's ear off.

This is something about Judge Mills Lane I wrote a while back when I was drunk, because as a general rule I don't like TV sober.

...drinking Manhattans and watching Judge Mills Lane because I was eating dinner and I have to something while I eat and, well, that's all there was.

But naturally I think about Judge Mills Lane. It seems to be popular for two reasons. Firstly, it goes along with this whole reality TV kick. "The people are REAL. The cases are REAL," the announcer reminds us. As far as I can tell, reality TV is a backlash against the whole Beautiful People trend common in sitcoms and hourlong dramas. Aristotle basically defines comedy as poking fun at those lower than us, but its force is diluted if everyone on the box is inhumanly attractive: they're ethereal beings, which is important because they fill the empty space in our cultural mythology which used to be occupied by the spiritual or transcendental or whatever, but it makes it harder to mock them. They're deliberately flawless. Whereas on Judge Mills Lane, we see people warts and all: they bite, they fight. These are not attractive human beings. They appear on television only to fulfill the urge to denigrate others.

Which brings me to the second reason the show is popular: we don't identify with the plaintiffs or defendants. We're meant to identify with Judge Mills Lane himself, sitting there in his austere seat, blessed with an objective sight which allows him to dispatch case after case. The theme song has women singing:

He's America's judge
He knows right from wrong
He's America's judge
And we love Judge Mills Lane

Aside from its blanket appeal to whatever withered remnants of a patriotic sense we still retain, the song is interesting because of the "right from wrong" emphasis. The song suggests an objective sense of justice - fifty years of post-structuralist theory has steadily been attacking this notion, and the idea that it might still exist, and might still be accessible to a figure so down-to-earth as Judge Mills Lane, can't help but encourage. JML badgers the claimants ruthlessly; he yells at them, he cuts them off, and we cheer him all the way because a) we're meant to feel contempt for these people - they should be badgered, and b) JML gives the appearance of deciding cases on a common-sense, down-to-earth approach, which Joe/Jane America naturally identifies with, especially if (s)he feels that (s)he's been screwed by the legal system in the past. We're all rooting for JML because he obviously knows What's Right, and if we successfully identify with him, then our own subjective worldviews become equated with What's Right. Essentially, if JML functions the way he's supposed to, we can use him to justify our whole epistemology.



<= 2001.02.02

2001.02.04 =>

up (2001.02)

The Warm South
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