The Nation Guide to the Nation
For 143 years, The Nation magazine has maintained, in its adorable way, the blue-faced scowl of an angry toddler shaking its fist at the grown-ups. But while you could go to The Nation in recent years for instruction on how to think about the latest perfidy of the Bush administration, the magazine was no help when it came to advice on, say, how to find a really good lesbian knitting cooperative within easy bicycling distance or where to buy anti-globalization comic books printed on recycled hemp.
The long wait is over. Now comes "The Nation Guide to the Nation," a travelog/catalog/almanac (whatever you do, don't call it a bible) "for and about a community of committed, passionate people who have active consciences and a lively sense of social justice." In keeping with the spirit of the undertaking, here's what might be called The Guide to "The Nation Guide to the Nation":
Sling That Antique Slang, You Crazy Cats! "Dig this premise," begins one entry, while another ends: ". . . they were operating on musicians' rather than squares' time." This book seems destined to be the last publication on the planet to print the word 'tude. On second thought, Entertainment Weekly isn't out of the running.
Remember: It's Not Cruel and Unusual if It's Onstage. If you were locked up in prison, what would be tops on your wish list to help pass the time? A little mid-century absurdist theater, of course! The Nation guide informs us that a Minneapolis group called "Ten Thousand Things Theater" is dedicated to visiting unsuspecting inmates, upon whom the actors proceed to inflict Lorca, Beckett and Brecht. Try to picture what would have happened to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison if he had taken the stage and said: "Hello, I'm here to read y'all a little Ionesco . . ."
Advance the Hilarity of Earnestness. The 1925 Soviet agitprop film "The Battleship Potemkin," we learn, is "electrifying," though it was "more popular in export than at home." You mean the people who actually lived under Soviet Communism weren't as thrilled with the movie as were Greenwich Village cineastes? Must have been the popcorn.
Demolish the Genocidal Imperialist Warmongering Neocon Cabal. With Puppets. "In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater." "Bread & Puppet Theater." "Spiral Q Puppet Theater." What is it with the left and puppets? It's like they think Marxism is cuter with a forearm coming out of its furry backside. Say what you want about Paul Wolfowitz, but at least when he advocated pre-emptive action against rogue states, he didn't do it in the voice of Miss Piggy.
Fight the Power -- Buy Retail. The Nation guide recommends a bookstore in Madison, Wis., by saying: "George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld do not want you to shop at Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative." Yeah, remember that clerk, Dylan, the guy who was named Rainbow employee of the month last June? He's in Gitmo now.