Merrill » 2011 » May

Sign of the end times: I’m in the Wall St. Journal

Posted May 21st, 2011

Here is the piece they published.

But in case any one is interested, below is the piece before it was cut down by editors. It contains a few extra theoretical jokes. And if you were wondering how a piece like this is born in the first place: the topic was assigned

A Renaissance in Rudeness by Merrill Markoe

Perhaps you read about Lakeysha Beard , the 39 year old woman who was charged with disorderly conduct for talking loudly on her cell phone in the designated Quiet Car of an Amtrak train, as she traveled from Oakland California to Portland Oregon. According to the Oregon State Troopers who finally escorted her off, she had talked non- stop for 16 hours, despite repeated complaints and warnings.

At first I viewed this story as a perfect parable of modern-rudeness. I began to make a Gilbertian list in my head of other people I’d like to see similarly restrained.

I wished for the arrest of people who refused to maintain eye contact during a conversation because they were texting; giddy at the thought of cell-phoners in theatre audiences, restaurants and long lines being taken away in hand cuffs. But my joy was cut short when it occurred to me that even bothering to have a negative opinion about the above was casting myself as a relic from another age. I might as well be quoting quaint pieces of advice by Emily Post about ill mannered people who crinkle the cellophane on their candies during a matinee.

Add up the numbers and it becomes clear that everything we  knew about the working of manners has shifted. Lakeysha Beard is the brave herald of an emerging renaissance of rudeness.

In the old rudeness, rules were made to keep people from intruding on your privacy. In the new civility, the idea that you would have the nerve to claim any place that gets satellite signals as your private space is what is rude, because you are interfering with someone else’s individual rights of expression. By entering any public or private space, even if you hold the mortgage, you are signing a generic release form, agreeing to be an extra, if not a principal player, in the blogs, feeds, videos, webcasts, podcasts and status updates of whoever else happens to be around.

Even in the Rest Room, you are with the multitudes. And everyone you see is in touch with everyone they know. The person in the stall beside you is talking to people in their dorm, who are skyping. The one on the other side is posting a picture of your shoes on their Tumblr.

In this updated model we are 7 billion people, each preoccupied with our own individual broadcast. If for some reason, someone is bothering you by talking too loudly on their cell phone, …. well, what’s stopping you from calling someone yourself, Mr. Selfish Solitude?  And if the person you call is only half listening because they are playing Modern Warfare 3…well, so? By trying to put restrictions on the behavior of others, aren’t you the one who is being rude?  What kind of an egomaniac are you to assume you are so fascinating that everyone should just drop everything else they are doing whenever you show up? Why should your story about what happened to you at work take precedence over the 439 people on Facebook who have been waiting for an hour to get a ROFLMAO?

In the new civility, it is you who is being inconsiderate, demanding the right to sit there quietly while everyone else is busily connecting. Who do you think you are, withholding LOLS and LIKES from those who have LOLed and LIKEd you? Don’t you care enough about everyone you’ve known since grade school and the friends of your friends to at least post a picture of your dinner?

So we see that LaKeysha is not a bad example. She is the  harbinger of what is to come. In her details there is much to learn. For example: after the Amtrak authorities determined that Quiet Car rules had been violated,  LaKeysha was still permitted to talk for sixteen hours before she was escorted off. That train rolled through eleven more stations before the police made her feel “disrespected” By then, she was only one hour away from her home.

Here we see that within the new civility, there are indeed limits to be imposed on public cell phoners. Sixteen consecutive hours now defines the moment where acceptable phone calling disintegrates in to nuisance.

But these limitations are temporary. One day when we all have receivers implanted in our skulls, and no one ever sits quietly, not even during brain surgery, perhaps LeKeysha will be praised in text books as the woman who liberated the skies from remaining cell phone restrictions… finally freeing men, women and children to talk non-stop on flights all the way to Australia and beyond.

And… I gotta run . Sorry to be rude but Drew Friedman just posted a new picture of Shemp on Facebook. I want to be the first to give him an LOL.


What it sounds like in my head between projects

Posted May 15th, 2011
Tags: , ,

Two Big Announcements

Posted May 4th, 2011

Okay, two announcements.  I think I said that already. Only the other time I added the word big.

1. I am now on Facebook. I resisted as long as I could in the name of being a life long contrarian.  But now I have taken the plunge. So if you would like to friend me, please feel free. I am listed under my name: Merrill Markoe. And I will probably say yes unless you are an annoying psycho.

2. I have a new book coming out in November. Its a book of funny essays. And its definitely my most personal set of essays ever. Years of writing novels have opened a trap door that is now impossible to close. I hope its stuff that the people who like my other books will want to read.

If there’s a theme to the book, its the never ending task of coping with the crazy people who surround us all. ( I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who is surrounded by crazy people. Am I? I’m not, am I?)  I have been trying to learn something, anything, from these experiences, since, as I understand it, that seems to be kind of the point. And for the sake of the book,  I’m going to go ahead and assume there is a point.

For example, the book contains  a piece about my problematic relationship with my extremely critical seemingly un-pleasable mother and the odd, thoroughly irritable travel diaries that I saw for the first time after she died.  I quote from them ver batim, which made me pretty nervous. But having gotten laughs  the few times I got up the nerve to read from them on stage, I was encouraged to turn them in to an essay that tries to add up the pieces and draw some conclusions , now that its over.

There’s  an exhaustively thorough piece I began writing as a present to some of my  girl friends, as I sit back watching them  running headlong in to the endless variations of the miseries that dating has to offer.  Its based on a lifetime of  note taking as I lived through my own version of same. Its called “How to Spot an Asshole.” and I’m pretty sure  I didn’t leave anything out.

There’s also a piece called ‘Never Again’ about the nerve wracking experience of falling in love again after swearing off love entirely. And the difference between having this experience  in the first half of life, and  in the second half.

Of course there are also a few pieces about dogs, because they are the craziest people of all.   I analyze why I love them with so much unswerving devotion, considering that they require me to tolerate behavior I will no longer tolerate from people.

I guess I’ll say more about this whole thing as it gets closer to November.

I hope its a good book . You can pre-order it already, I’m told. Its for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Borders Books all the rest of the regular places that still sell what we, the creatures from the previous century, still laughingly refer to as ‘books’.  The publisher is, once again, Randomhouse.

And those are my two big announcements.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

So today you’re saying he was unarmed and wasn’t actually using a woman as a human shield?

The laughter that pisses me off.

Posted May 1st, 2011

I am usually kind of slow to anger. I weigh a lot of possible reactions before I give in.  I move chess pieces around. I argue pros and cons with myself.
So when something instantly enrages me, it gets my attention.  And I had that experience the other morning when I watched this video, which is entitled ‘Ha Ha Ha mantra’ .  Okay I know what my reaction to it is SUPPOSED to be. I’m supposed to look at this and think “She’s so smart. See how she is teaching everyone that laughter is the best medicine?”  But only a few seconds into watching  this video,  I started to get angry.  About half way through, I was so furious I had to turn it off.

So I sat down to analyze why. After all,  I read enraging things in the news many many times a day. Most of them I file under the heading of that Serenity prayer.

Why does Gita piss me off SO MUCH?

Because of the importance I place on humor and laughter and all the elements that go into both. They are among my very favorite things in the world.  When I watch this video, I feel like I am witnessing a power mad woman who is totally co-opting the real actual release that laughter brings, when it is naturally caused by reactions of astonishment, surprise, delight or shock to a wide variety of things…good, bad or just plain nuts… that happen in life . There are few things I hate more than orchestrated crowd reactions, except possibly any occasion involving forced spontaneity and/or people telling you what to feel. This goes triple for someone saying “Very good. Very good. YAY.” after you do as they ask.

So here is someone suggesting that the answer to life’s mind boggling insanity is not to actually look for ways to find things funny but instead… to pretend to laugh, mindlessly, when she cues you. Despite the fact that she has done nothing at all to change your point of view or earn your laughter.  She is also missing what I think is the main point: that an attitude that sees the absurdity and humor in real life situations, and therefore allows someone to view the bewildering things that are everywhere in a whole different way,  is where the answer may lie. Not in a  forced version of the same thing cued by a crowd manipulator trying to forge a personal brand for herself.  There is a famous  book, in which Norman Cousins repaired his health with laughter… But he did it by watching The Marx Brothers and other stuff he found funny. Not by pretending to laugh at his own name.

And this despite the fact that his name certainly set him up for plenty of easy laughs.

Though now that I think about it, if Ms. Gittelman conducted her classes in the front rows of open mic nights, maybe she could still do some good.  Except that would be giving bad comedians the wrong idea. And in that case no one wins.

Got it. How about this: For a sequel, she can branch out in to teaching groups of people how to fake orgasms?