Monkees vs. Macheen: “Monkee Mayor”

“Nevermind the furthermore, the plea is self-defense”

“Monkee Mayor” aired October 2, 1967, and though that was a mighty long time ago, the story doesn’t feel dated to me. The ideas are still relevant today. It’s also one of those stories where the Monkees are working to help the underdog, instead of working for their own purposes. “Monkee Mayor” was directed by Alex Singer and written by Jack Winter, the same combo that did the previous episode in air-date order, “Everywhere a Sheik, Sheik.”

At the Monkees pad, Peter and Davy prep Mike to cut a ham, putting multiple rubber gloves on him (Like they did in “The Case of the Missing Monkee” when they impersonated doctors.) The neighbors, Mrs. Filchok, Mr. Swezy, and Mrs. Homer come in and take back the chairs, dishes, and table the Monkees had apparently borrowed. Why? Because the older folks are all being evicted. Their homes will be torn down to put up parking lots (“You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone” – Editor]. Mike takes a look at the notice they’ve received and explains it’s impossible because it violates “every zoning regulation.” Just as he assures them, the sounds and the dust of the destruction begin.

Mike goes to city hall and asks the Secretary to tell the mayor that, “Michael Nesmith, private citizen, is here to see him.” He explains that innocent people are being thrown out because of the parking lot the city is building. She condescendingly asks if he’s making a complaint, then shows him through to the “Complaints” door that leads him back out onto the street. Mike walks right back in, determined to see Mayor Motley. She shows him through another door which leads him to a brick wall. Adding injury to insult, Mike gets hit in the head with a random mallet.

Mike comes back and now he’s angry. His yelling draws out Mayor Motley, played by Irwin Charone who was also the Producer in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Mike introduces himself and stammers through his complaint. Motley keeps messing up his name, calling him “Niswash” like Bernie Class did in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.” Motley distracts Mike with the following subversive speech: “Our country was founded in 1612 from across the shores,…from across the shores the pilgrims landed and found Indians, luckily they moved those Indians. Why, throwing people out of their homes is the American way!” He shakes Mike’s hand, thanks him for his opinion. Mike leaves, stammering and not realizing he’s been brushed off until he’s outside again.

Motley goes into his office to discuss the diabolical plan with a Mr. Zechenbush (Monte Landis). Zechenbush, who has a vaguely southern accent, wants to “ring” the entire city with parking lots so no one can go in our out without having to pay them. The mayor points out they would have to tear down museums, schools, hospitals, etc. Never mind that nobody would bother come to the town to park if they get rid of everything people would potentially visit. [I’m reminded of Flint, Michigan in the late ’80s. – Editor] It doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s evil! They don’t explain exactly who Zechenbush is (plot description on Wikipedia says he’s a ‘crooked construction tycoon’) but he owns Motley in some way; he probably gave Motley a lot of money to get him elected we can assume. He’s a crooked lobbyist. Motley’s eagerly agrees with whatever Zechenbush says. I’m also curious about what town Motley is mayor of? They’ve established the Monkees live in Malibu. The story for this episode has such a small town vibe, that’s hard to imagine.

Mike goes home and finds the neighbors have moved in. He still wants to help them, he has motives for the greater good, “we don’t want a dictatorial government running the city” and “the rights of an individual citizen have got to be respected” and also pragmatic motives, “we’ve got to get all these people out of our house.” Micky comes to the conclusion that Mike should run for mayor. He’s the only one with “a hat to throw into the ring.” At that moment, he’s not wearing it. Repeating the gag from “Monkees on the Line,” Mike asks “where’s my hat” and someone throws it to him from off screen. Then Micky tosses it “in the ring.” Micky calls Motley to warn him that Mike is running for mayor and they’ll see him in the polls on Thursday.

The Monkees work on Mike’s political image. First Mike impersonates George Washington. (Peter did this first in “Monkees a la Mode.”) Davy vetoes this (“too honest”). Mike protests, “How can you be too honest?” Next, he’s “bearded weirdo” Abe Lincoln. Davy declares he “doesn’t have the looks.” Actually, Mike makes a terrific looking Lincoln. The third option is Lyndon B. Johnson, who was the president when this episode was aired. Mike as LBJ promises, “And so until this crisis is over, I will hunker down like a jackass in a hailstorm, dot dot dot.” Davy protests, “no politician would ever say a thing like that.” And yet…

Deciding Mike’s everyday look is perfection, they launch the campaign with Micky as campaign manager, Davy as aide-de-camp, and Peter as his campy aid. I always thought aide-de-camp was a military term. It’s Peter’s title that really amuses me though; this show is campy enough, no “aid” required. Peter treats Mike as though he were a ship being christened and tries to brain him with a champagne bottle. Fortunately Micky and Davy intervene.

They launch the campaign, counting down into the romp for “No Time” (Hank Cicalo). I dig this song, sort of a gospel sounding number. The tempo suits the violence of the romp perfectly. This song was written by the Monkees themselves, but credited to Cicalo as a “tip” for him because he was their recording engineer for The Monkees, More of The Monkees, Live 1967, and Headquarters. He also engineered some tracks for Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones as well as Michael Nesmith’s The Wichita Train Whistle Sings.

The romp itself is one of the best; funny, subversive and moves the story beautifully. The basic narrative is the Monkees promoting Mike’s campaign, and it all goes go horribly wrong. Mike judges a beauty contest; after he picks a winner, the losers beat the crap out of him. Micky helps an old lady cross the street and she beats him with her umbrella. Davy stops to kiss a baby and the Mom assaults him with kisses. This is juxtaposed with the Secretary smacking back Zechenbush for kissing her. Mike meets and greets the public, one of whom steals his watch. (Stand-in David Price is among the crowd.) Mike stops Peter from using a toy bazooka on Davy but then a bunch of well-dressed people pull guns on Mike. We see Zechenbush paying off all of these people to humiliate the Monkees. Delightfully cynical. Other visual highlights include Peter disappearing into a bottomless baby carriage and Micky hanging a “Mike Nesmith for Mayor” sign on his date’s behind.

After all that fruitless work, the Monkees come back to the pad to find that it’s been ransacked and the campaign posters vandalized. They consider who would have done this and Micky mentions that the cleaning lady comes on the second Thursday of every month with an “r” in it. (Yet in “The Chaperone,” she came Tuesdays.) Mike guesses the culprits were “goons from Mayor Motley’s office.” Speaking of Tuesdays, I found a fun interview with Michael Nesmith, promoting his new memoir, Infinite Tuesday. Check it out.

The Monkees go back to the mayor’s office to find out what he’s hiding. Conveniently, no one is around so they can sneak in and search the office file cabinets, closet etc. Very forward-thinking of them, in a criminal way. (This is five years before the Committee for the Re-Election of the President busted into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters.) Peter opens the closet and finds a skeleton dressed in a suit. (Nice visual pun!) Micky removes a key from the skeleton’s pocket to open the locked file cabinet, knowing it will work because “it’s a skeleton key.” In the cabinet, Davy finds the plans to turn everything into parking lots. Peter materializes an 1880’s Eastman View camera (similar, but not the same medium format camera from “The Picture Frame”) out of nowhere. He takes a picture of the others displaying the incriminating evidence. Before they can escape, Zechenbush and Motley come back. The Monkees hide in the closet, Micky taking the skeleton’s place inside the suit. There’s a funny gag when Micky, “the skeleton,” hands Zechenbush the key and Zechenbush thanks him. Zechenbush notices the camera. As the Monkees improbably sneak out in plain sight, Motley and Zechenbush obliviously discuss their paranoia that Monkees have seen the parking lot files.

At the pad, Peter develops his film. Turns out he took a picture of the file cabinet, not the plans. As in “Monkees on the Line,” the other three cover Peter’s eyes with his own hands in annoyance. Zechenbush, Motley, and the Secretary discuss finding dirt on Mike while they wait for him to make a play with the evidence they assume he has, but it’s no use. According to the Secretary, Mike’s had a “nothing life.” No arrests, no firings. Really? I’m pretty sure Mike has been fired (“Monkee vs. Machine”) and arrested but acquitted (“The Picture Frame”). I guess none of the insane things they’ve done have never made the papers, like: terrorizing an airport, riding a motorcycle through a Laundromat, or disrupting a televised boxing match.

The Monkees are ready to throw in the towel since they have no evidence against the mayor, and no campaign funds. Micky enters with a bag full of checks from people contributing hundreds and thousands of dollars to Mike’s campaign. (The “little people” are mentioned here, as they were in “I’ve Got a Little Song Here.”) Micky says they can “blow this town wide open,” and the editors cut to stock footage of a building being demolished. Mike points out that’s exactly what they’re trying to prevent, so Micky re-states that they can blow the town “wide closed” and they reverse the film so the building re-assembles itself.. (The music here is an instrumental version of “Star Collector.”)

The Monkees spend cash. Micky goes to the newspaper and literally throws money at the publisher to put Mike on the front page and everywhere else. Peter wants a skywriter to write Mike’s name in the sky “with the sun dotting the “i”. But the pilot isn’t good enough, Peter wants Lindbergh! (Charles) then he decides, “On second thought, get me Rickenbacker! His penmanship is better.” Davy goes to the television station, directing the cameraman (played by Monkees stand-in David Price) when to give Mike close-ups for his TV appearance.

Back at the pad, Micky, Davy, and Peter give Mike a pep talk. Zechenbush walks in uninvited and Mike tells him he’s going on television to expose him and his “whole racket.” Zechenbush explains that the checks the Monkees spent were all from people that work for him, so Mike’s campaign is now also funded by Zechenbush. He’s figured out a way to own Mike and warns him to withdraw or he’ll “get him” and his friends. It seems they’re screwed.

The Monkees go to the TV station anyway. Davy, Micky, and Peter encourage Mike not to give up. Then, they sit and watch to see what Mike will do, and the neighbors watch Mike on TV from the pad. For the scene, they use that “Stand By” sign again, the one used for previous episodes “Too Many Girls” and “Captain Crocodile.”

Once he gets the signal, Mike begins to speak. He explains he began his campaign hoping to help people like his neighbors that didn’t have any power. He didn’t think it was right that no one would listen to them so he wanted to do something. Mike admits, “I got sucked up in the very forces I was trying to conquer” and his campaign was financed by an “improper source.” Though he was unaware and got tricked into doing this, he figures he’s “not smart enough to be mayor.” It’s very moving and aided by Michael Nesmith’s natural and non-actor-ly delivery. Trouble is, Mike is an honest and hardworking character, the kind you would want in public office. That same quality makes him unlikely to succeed at getting elected at the “dirty game” of politics. It’s a catch 22; someone who has the right characteristics to succeed at getting elected, may not be someone who should be trusted with leadership. It’s the ultimate cynicism of this story. 

Zechenbush and Motley entered the TV studio in the meantime. Motley is motivated by Mike’s words. He approaches and, in a callback to the earlier gag says his name correctly, and Mike corrects him, “Niswash.” I have to question Motley’s quick change of heart on this, but it is, after all, a 24 minute show. Just when you think Mike has accomplished nothing, Motely declares “one man’s honesty throws sand in the machinery.” Motley promises to mend his ways and make the town “a cleaner and more personal place to live.” Zechenbush slips out the back defeated.

Mike’s ill-fated campaign could be looked at as alternative to a protest. It’s interesting that the writers/producers didn’t go the protest route. Instead of Mike running for Mayor, they could have had the Monkees staging a protest of city hall. Protests were a big part of counterculture of the time. Creating chaos is a Monkees specialty, but instead of trying to change things from the outside, they try to make Mike an insider. But episodes like “Monkees à la Mode” have established the Monkees as outsiders. On the other hand, young people protesting may have been too controversial for a network sitcom. It also would have dated the episode and locked it into the 1960s. “Monkee Mayor,” as it stands, has a timeless appeal.

Next is a tag sequence as the neighbors thank the Monkees for saving their homes. The Monkees exposit that the mayor canceled his plans to put parking lots where their homes were, and Zechenbush is in jail. Micky wonders where the parking lot will be built, and a wrecking ball comes crashing through the ceiling, followed by a Rainbow Room performance of the song  “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (Goffin/King).

According to the Monkees Tripod site, this episode was originally titled “Micky for Mayor.” I imagine the original script called for Micky to run for office. But the job suits Mike better. Micky Dolenz is a fine actor, but Micky is tricky. Michael Nesmith comes off sincere. He’s compelling actor; he delivers the speech at the end and you feel bad for him. I actually teared up a bit. I get the feeling from listening to various episode commentaries that maybe Mike didn’t like acting much, or at least his own acting. On the IMDB he only has 11 acting credits. I know the world doesn’t need another actor but in a way, it is a shame. “Monkee Mayor” shows what an effective job he could do.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

 

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“Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”

“The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

Marshall McLuhan

Chris Cooling is co-host of the Walnut Grovecast, frequent contributor to VHS Rewind! and host of his own podcast, Forgotten TV. We talk about Brent Spiner, television antennas, the explosion of high definition programming, music rights, and TV theme songs.

Show Notes:
Forgotten TV site
Videoholic ULTIMATE YouTube page

Music intro:
Song: Trapped in a Box
Artist: No Doubt

Music outro:
Song: The A-Team Opening Theme
Artist: Mike Post, Pete Carpenter

Recorded March 22, 2017
Aired April 4th, 2017

www.blissville.net
https://blissvillepodcast.wordpress.com/

This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

A Tribute to Robert Vaughn (1932-2016)

Robert Francis Vaughn (November 22, 1932 – November 11, 2016) was an American actor noted for his stage, film and television work. His best-known TV roles include suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; wealthy detective Harry Rule in the 1970s series The Protectors; and formidable General Hunt Stockwell in the 5th season of the 1980s series The A-Team. In film, he portrayed quiet, skittish gunman Lee in The Magnificent Seven, Major Paul Krueger in The Bridge at Remagen, the voice of Proteus IV, the computer villain of Demon Seed, Walter Chalmers in Bullitt, Ross Webster in Superman III, and war veteran Chester A. Gwynn in The Young Philadelphians which earned him a 1960 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Written by David Lawler with Bronwyn Knox
“Theme from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” by Jerry Goldsmith

Recorded November 12, 2016

http://www.blissville.net
https://blissvillepodcast.wordpress.com/

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2016 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor
bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

Running Time: 45:56

“Men Are from Mars”

I want to start off by saying I love Burgess Meredith. He’s exceptional in just about everything he ever did. If you wanted Burgess Meredith, you got Burgess Meredith as – the Penguin in Batman, as Henry Bemis, the man who breaks his glasses after a nuclear apocalypse, as the “Dingle” here, as “The Obsolete Man” at the end of this season (which we will also be reviewing), as the Devil later on … just a top-notch actor, he has a mischievious almost youthful, innocent feel about him, about his performances.

I guess this is a crazy what-if story. You have aliens observing us. Two aliens from Mars walk into a bar – sounds like a bad joke, right? You have Dingle, this guy who I guess is a pleasant mensch, a regular guy, likes to come down to the bar, have a drink and relax while he’s trying to sell vacuum cleaners. You have Don Rickles, arguing baseball with another guy. They bring in Dingle to give his two cents, but Rickles doesn’t like his opinion, and punches him – he’s such a dick, seriously. This is how you settle differences? He asked his opinion, and then he punches him when he disagrees? The only reason Rickles gets violent with him is because he’s Burgess Meredith. Now if Dingle looked like Charles Bronson – that’s another story.

“Mr Dingle, the Strong” premiered March 3rd of 1961, written by Serling, directed by John Brahm, and was followed by the episode, “Static”, written by the great Charles Beaumont, directed by Buzz Kulik, and starring Dean Jagger. You remember Dean Jagger? One of those great, old character actors. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), Dark City, Rawhide, Warpath, The Robe, White Christmas, King Creole, The Nun’s Story, Cash McCall, Elmer Gantry, Game of Death – later in life, he appeared in Alligator, soon to be a Vintage Cable Box classic, with Robert Forster, directed by Lewis Teague, written by John Sayles. Great movie!

So Dean hates television, and his complaint is nothing new. I’ve heard so much about how television is a soul-sucker, a mind-sifter, some kind of a false god worshipped by mind-numbed zombies, but I think those arguments tend to come from an older generation raised on radio, so it’s a biased view – these older folks want to go back to a time when they were young, it’s nostalgia. I remember listening to radio. We had a show, WCBS in Philadelphia, weekends, I was 9 years old, and I listened to Radio Classics, which would broadcast “Abbott & Costello”, “Fibber McGee & Molly”, “The Shadow”, “The Whistler”, “Great Gildersleeve”, I used to love those shows. I had room in my heart for both media, television and radio. Dean is going back to a time when he was, I suppose, a young man. He’s living in – not a, I don’t want to say Old Folks Home, but he is living with a bunch of old people in a house. They love their TV. He hates it.

You can hear Mark Jeacoma’s insanely good podcasts at:
http://vhsrewind.com/
http://ontheodd.com/

Visit http://www.firesidemysterytheatre.com for more information about this odd, old-fashioned, very entertaining podcast!

Written by David Lawler
Additional Commentary by Mark Jeacoma
Original Music by Alex Saltz, APS Mastering
Introduction Music: “Do You Remember Rock ‘N Roll Radio” (Ramones) by the Ramones. “Do You Remember Rock ‘N Roll Radio” (Ramones) by KISS.
Audio Clips: The Shadow, created by Walter B. Gibson, and developed for radio by David Chrisman and Bill Sweets, Fibber McGee and Molly, created by Jim Jordan, Marian Jordan, and Donald Quinn, Abbott and Costello: “Who’s on First?”, Fireside Mystery Theatre, created by Gustavo Rodriguez and Ali Silva, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong”, “Static”.

Recorded August 24, 2016

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2016 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. Original Music © Alex Saltz copyright 2016. This podcast, “That Twilighty Show About That Zone” is not affiliated with CBS Entertainment, the CBS Television Network, or The Rod Serling Estate. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well. If you’re thinking of suing because you want a piece of the pie, please remember, there is no actual pie. We at BlissVille have no money, and as such, cannot compensate you. If anything, we’re doing you a favor, so please be kind. I do this ’cause it’s fun, and nothing else.

Running Time: 32:54

NEW PODCAST: “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken”

attwaters_prairie_chicken_lynn_mcbride2

This is BlissVille, Misadventures In BlissVille, an American variety podcast presentation that premiered December 5th of the year 2014 featuring host David Lawler and guests including Colin Hall, Bronwyn Knox, Andrew La Ganke, Nicole Phelps, Sarah La Puerta, Alex Saltz, Mark Jeacoma, and Denny Spangler, who is with us tonight to discuss all-things-Monkees.  I’ve got two Michiganders on one podcast, Denny and my wife, Bronwyn.  Basically it’s a shameless plug for Bronwyn’s new series, “Monkees vs. Macheen”, exclusively on BlissVille, which, I think basically means I’m the Raybert to her Nesmith.

So the Sixties were hip, dig?  Lots-a crazy cats, dig?  Crazy drugs – MDMA, which was a purer form of Ecstasy, if I’m not mistaken.  You could take pills.  You could buy pills at the drug store without having to show your I.D.  I wasn’t there, but that’s what I’m told.

I wonder if we can talk about Michael Nesmith without getting sued?  He seems to keep a close eye on YouTube.  “Elephant Parts” is an extremely difficult show to find.  It is available in a very limited run on DVD, the price is high so I’m guessing another run will not be in the offing, perhaps Blu-Ray if the 50th anniversary Monkees box set sells, but when you try to look at clips from “Elephant Parts”, you’ll get a nasty notice saying, “This video was removed at the request of Michael Nesmith”.  He has a net worth of $50 million, but whatever!

In the years before Cable Television, higher ratings and viewership were easier to assess.  There were only three networks, and some haphazard attempts to create fourth networks, such as Dumont, but it was mainly CBS and NBC, later ABC; the running average of viewership hovered between 55 and 60 million viewers, divided between the three television networks in the mid-to-late sixties, the time when The Monkees was broadcast, and I believe The Monkees was broadcast in a very easy time slot for their viewers, which was mainly kids and young adults.  The show aired on Monday nights as 7:30PM, and handily won it’s time slot every week, running against a western called The Iron Horse and Gilligan’s Island.

Written by: David Lawler with Bronwyn Knox and Denny Spangler
Audio Clips: “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken” uploaded to YouTube by classical56, “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken (Outtakes) from the episode, “Monkees on the Wheel”, “(Theme From) The Monkees” (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart), “Don’t Call On Me” (Michael Nesmith, John London), “Randy Scouse Git” (Micky Dolenz), Excerpt from “The Monkees Watch Their Feet”, Excerpt from “Fairy Tale”, “My Heart Will Go On” (James Horner, Will Jennings), “For Pete’s Sake” (Peter Tork, Joey Richards).

One Step Beyond – The Journey of Steve

The minute he walks through the door, my heart sinks and I can taste the bile seeping up from my tense, overworked belly. Whatever you are, Steve, you are not welcome in my already troubled head – a slim vision, chrome-dome, New Jack douche-bag slinging a red scarf over his shoulder, floating through the Best Buy doors in slow-motion, like a bank robber in an action movie. That must be the reason for the red scarf! So he can toss it aside in mid-pursuit from the fuzz. Genius!

BestBuy1
“Look at my scarf! Just flowing in the wind!”

I understand madness, for I am her prisoner, but Steve takes me one step beyond. He strolls into Best Buy (to the theme music from “Rocky” no less) and everybody’s eyes light up, presumably because they know he’ll be making an ass out of himself in due course. The employees are excited because they know they’ll be getting commissions just in time for the holidays. Only they won’t be dropping their hard-earned dollars at the Best Buy coupled with an insulting employee discount. No. They’ll be stocking up on canned food at the nearest 99-cents store. Commissions are not what they used to be.

If ever there was a cry for help like a sinking sparrow in a pool of pungent mud, it is Steve and his blood-lust for acceptance, acknowledgement, and attention in this maddening and frighteningly lonely world. Steve believes that the only way he can gain the respect and love of his peers and familial relations is to spend absurd amounts of money at his local Best Buy. I mean, is he seriously going to fork out $3000 for an Ultra HD television? Is he looking to claim an inheritance from a forgotten Uncle? You know, a visit every now and then pays off in greater emotional dividends.

BestBuy2
“I am Steve, King of the Mindless Consumers!”

Of course, we know none of this is true. Like Facebook’s “Hope” (living her dream!) before him, Steve is a figment of a zealous advertising agency’s bloated, tedious imagination. Steve is what corporations want us to be: a mindless consumer so bereft of enterprise and creativity that all he can do to not french kiss a light socket or step in front of an oncoming bus is buy a big-screen television. He samples terrible Bose headphones while snapping his fingers, looks at overpriced smart phone screens, and monitors his escalating heartbeat on a ridiculous wristwatch contraption. If Steve had any sense (any sense at all), he would turn around and walk out the door, while giving the middle-finger-salute. But he won’t. He could try to find happiness through other means – whiskers on kittens, the laughter of a child. But he won’t. He could volunteer at a soup kitchen. But he won’t.

Materialism is defined as a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. While that definition carries a bit of pretentious baggage with it, it still rings true. But I wouldn’t simply define materialism as a consideration, but more a necessity to those who cannot identify that weakness within themselves. People like Steve feel the need to fill the pitiless void at the core of their souls with merchandise. The void might be filled with smart phones, tablets, and trendy headphones or it might be filled with Fabergé eggs, Baccarat crystal goblets, or Michael Kors handbags. As the concept of love retreats, sucked down into the toothy, hellish maw, perhaps Nietzsche’s abyss, if you will, and human contact dies a very lonely death, possessions and needless materials become more prominent in our lives.

BestBuy3
They don’t let me play music at my Best Buy, so what the Hell is he listening to?

I saw a television commercial the other day where two girls are sitting at opposite ends of a sofa, giggling and tapping on their phones. Their befuddled dad asks them if they are texting each other. They both look at him like he is the most clueless moron on the planet and they say, “Yes!” This is what Steve, Best Buy, and countless other entities want us to believe. They don’t want us to consider that heartless pit to which we assign our half-consumed souls and weeping existence. They want us to buy their wares. They don’t care about us. In fact, they’re laughing at us, and they always will. Is it because they know in their heart of hearts we are nothing more than children bedazzled by the latest toy? Perhaps.

BestBuy4
One for each day! Oh wait…

When I walk into my local Best Buy (conveniently right down the block), I don’t see happy, excited faces, copious amounts of cash changing hands, or employees high-fiving each other. I see misery and suffering, envy and greed. I see unwashed faces standing in front of big televisions, shaking their heads, hating themselves for not having enough money. I see crying children pleading with their parents to buy them the latest iPad. I see quick-witted shoplifters peeling lo-jack stickers off compact discs (yes, they still sell them) and pocketing them before a Best Buy employee can bat an eyelash – the famous five-finger-discount.

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Objects in the simulated image may appear less expensive than they actually are.

There is hope, and, appropriately, it emanates from the wisdom of a child. In the run-up to Christmas (most years), I get what I can only call vehement requests from my daughter for the latest toy; the latest distraction, the latest preoccupation that will keep her busy, maybe even keep her mind engaged. I can’t count on both hands how many times I’ve sought out that toy, proudly presented it to her only to have her roll her eyes after two hours of playing with it, bored to salty tears and then having her ask me for something else, something newer, something shinier. The vicious cycle continues. We can only hope we will reach an impasse wherein adults (both young and old) will become bored and demand a newer, shinier toy to play with; perhaps wisdom begins when the child finally puts down the toy.

BestBuy6
“Make sure to get the Best Buy logo on screen as you raise your bag, or else you’re fired!”

So, Steve? I know you don’t exist. I know you don’t go to the Best Buy and make irresponsible choices with your money. In fact, most people I actually know (real flesh-and-blood humans, no less) don’t purchase ridiculous items they either don’t need or can’t afford (or both). Don’t be tempted to play that role just because a television told you to, and whatever you do, don’t wear a red scarf. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb.