Somewhere in this great United States there is a gospel kareoke bar. I don’t know where it is – probably Branson, Missouri – and I don’t much care, but I am certain there must be one.
Gospel Kareoke Bar. It’s a concept. It’s what we are. It’s what we Americans do. We sop up the booze. We revel in amateurish pretensions to talent. And we certainly sop up that old time religion. Another thing that we Americans do is mix up the cultures of the ages in various mish-mashes. We put faux terra cotta on a wall and call it a Tuscan touch. When you think about it, there could scarcely be anything more American than a gospel kareoke bar.
No, no, not Bulgarians
Once upon a time (so many things in my life seem to begin with “once upon a time”) I decided that I needed an ethnic group to put down. Everyone has one, it seems, even those who are big into condemning intolerance. Strictly speaking, it needn’t be an ethnic group – one can make do with a political party or a religion – but an ethnic group is best because they are the target of ethnic jokes.
I once read about someone from the Netherlands perplexedly asking an American why Americans told Polish jokes. “After all,” he said, “Poles aren’t Belgians.” Everyone, it seems, has their own ethnic group, usually someone living next door. Newfie jokes aren’t big in the Dakotas; however scandahoovian jokes go down very well.
So what does one do if one doesn’t have an ethnic group to put down in ethnic jokes. Apparently everyone has a dark corner in their soul that delights in ethnic jokes provided that the target is suitable. Al Capp – the creator of Li’l Abner – solved the problem by creating the Slobovians, a fictional nationality existing for the purpose of being a suitable target for ethic slurs.
Nowadays in US humor blondes are the omnibus target, at least for “dumb” jokes. They aren’t entirely an adequate substitute, because your true ethnic slur target is perceived to be dirty, smelly, shiftless, etc. The characteristics are the same – it’s just the nationality that changes.
The problem with having an ethnic group to put down is that one never knows when someone of that ethnicity might be in your audience and take exception. It seldom is the case that the said ethnic turns out to be much larger than you are and beats you to a pulp. Rather the problem is that you are exposed as a bigot and a boor. Remember – the rule is that you are not a bigot and a boor until you have been exposed as one.
Thus it was that when I decided I needed an ethnic group to put down that I settled on the Bulgarians. They are obscure. At least in America they are obscure. Americans don’t know anything about Bulgaria. They don’t even know where it is. Hell, they don’t even know South Dakota is. (That’s understandable – South Dakota is so obscure that people don’t even think of it when they are casting about for something obscure.)
Think about it – when was the last time you met an American with Bulgarian ancestry? Most likely never. (I anticipate getting 1332 outraged letters from Bulgarian expatriates.) I looked forward to many happy moments telling Bulgarian jokes and tossing out ethnic slurs with the best of them. And then, disaster.
I was reading an article about drunken driving and how it is handled in Europe. It described how people were sent away for a few months in Scandanavia if they were caught driving under the influence. And then, very casually, it mentioned that the penalty in Bulgaria for driving under the influence was death. Clearly these were not people to mess around with. Forthwith (I bought a case of forthwiths back in 2005 – I still have a few left to get rid of) I put aside any notions of using Bulgarians as a target.
For a while I settled upon Science Fiction fans as a candidate for “ethnic” slurs. Since hyperobesity is common in SF fans they double as candidates for “fat” jokes. However nobody gets fan jokes except fans and there just aren’t many SF fans in South Dakota. I don’t think I’m the only one, but I don’t have any evidence to the contrary.
Oh well, back to Slobovia.
This ezine (notablog, not even an Antique blog) is mostly apolitical. Some of my readers think that I am somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun; others think that I am somewhere to the left of Karl Marx. Who am I to argue with them. As far as I am concerned they are both correct. My readers are always correct unless I choose to disagree with them.
Still, I have decided to endorse Hillary for president, or at least to accept the inevitable with an attempt at an appearance of good grace. Mind you, it’s not that I like her; I think that she is a vicious, self-serving, egocentric opportunist. That, however, is irrelevant. Such little failings have never been disqualifications for the presidency.
More importantly, she is beginning to look like a shoo-in. On the Democratic side we have Hillary, the two fairy princes, and a motley collection of ragamuffins who will put “ran for President” in their CVs. The two fairy princes have good looks, fancy hair cuts, and lots of media attention. They also pander to the progressive left – Howard Deans without the shrill voice. Hillary has money, experience, a good shot at the women’s vote, and the nation’s beat  politician advising her.
On the Republican side we have a collection of wannabe dwarves. Mind you, the Republicans have had good luck with wannabe dwarves, so it doesn’t do to count them out. Still, in the contest between the wicked witch and the seven dwarves my money is on the wicked witch.
The besides of which I don’t think our first woman President can be a nice person and still get the job. All I ask is that she turn out to be the American version of Margaret Thatcher.
The renovation of Chez Harter proceeds apace. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog takes exception to the pace. The smallest bedroom has been redone. The larger bedroom, the one I actually sleep in, has had its floor tiled and the walls repainted. The walls are no less than spectacular – we did the base, glaze, and rag thing. It either looks like rock, old leather, or incredibly expensive wall paper. The hole in the floor has been filled, the baseboards are being stained, and the wall that was torn down is being rebuilt. When this is done the new closet will be built (after I figure out how to build it.)
On to the utility room. While I was busy tiling and painting the dryer died. What is more the washer had never been more than half alive. They have been replaced. The horror that dwelt in the utility room (aka the sink) has been disassembled and sent to the dump. There had been various disasters in the past. The part of the wall had crumbled away was exposed along with a lair of dog food that some busy rodents had once assembled. The lair went in the trash. The wall will be dealt with in due course.
A set of tired cabinets on the North wall have been removed and that which was behind them has been revealed. Yecch. Paint will, we hope, cover a multitude of sins.
Someday it will all be done, he says wistfully.
This page was last updated August 1, 2007.