Last week came news of the corporate assassination of another American cultural icon. Mad Magazine will soon cease publication and go into perpetual re-runs.
Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury has been there for years save for current work in the Sunday color comics, another endangered species.
Believe it or else, I went to high school with a kid who was a real-life double for the mythological Mr. Neuman. A curly-haired Italian kid named Angelo was possessed of a wicked sense of humor. Which was his downfall.
He wrote a scathing satire of my Catholic high school’s sadistic football coach who would beat kids senseless for minor infractions. My ears rang after Coach Cruello slapped me upside the head one day. In all fairness, every guy in my class got the same thing for the sin of talking with each other because Coach was late for history class, as usual. (Most of the time, he just ordered us to “take a study period” while he worked on important things like pass plays.)
Angelo’s composition was screamingly funny. Alas, poor Alfredo-Angelo was stopped in mid-presentation and sent to the principal’s office by screaming Brother Ernest. Angelo did not return the next school year. He worked his way thru Fresno State moonlighting as night attendant at a funeral home a block from my house. Notta lotta laughs.
Brother Ernest found one of my classmates reading Mad and made a big deal of tearing it to shreds. He also caught me reading Spartacus in study hall and promptly confettied it.
Those are some of many reasons I have never attended a reunion of my Catholic high school class.
As with all youthful cultural phenomena, Mad mag was criticized for corrupting kids. Not always. I remember reading one credible review that said Mad was a much better purveyor of old fashioned morality than most. William Gaines and his “usual gang of idiots” punched holes in pomposity and rooted for the underdog. They also warned us that underdogs often lose.
Mad was acquired after AT&T ate Time-Warner which had acquired the magazine in another Wall Street deal. Soulless corporations treat great art as expendable.
In 2008, the master recordings of a cross section of the greatest American music was lost forever in a Hollywood warehouse fire. The Universal Music Group conglomerate stashed the treasures on a studio backlot and lied to the media about how much had been lost. They swore they had mostly non-existent digital backups. Any engineer will tell you that something gets lost in every copy. (“The Day the Music Burned,” New York Times Magazine, 6-6-2019)
BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” is gone forever along with hundreds of thousands of others. I could fill an entire column with the artists whose greatest works went up in corporate smoke.
Author Franz Kafka delivered the greatest insight about the dehumanizing effects of large institutions. It’s the same anywhere. People are standardized, replaceable components, round pegs for round holes.
The Washoe County School District is no different. I have a personal stake in their latest depredation because the school board chair lied to my face last week.
At the press conference celebrating their firing of superintendent Traci Davis, I asked Board of Trustees Chair Katy Singlaub Simon Holland for the cost of the political campaign she and her buds ran against Davis.
Ms. Holland committed (I’ll be gentle) a sin of omission. She sidestepped my query by asserting that school district PR people were all getting paid anyway, implying no additional cost.
A few days later, Reno GazetteJournal education reporter Siobhan McAndrew reported that taxpayer money was indeed squandered to hire the ubiquitous KPS3 PR firm to write press releases for district staff and “consult.” Cost so far is more than $8,000 at $175 an hour and the clock is still running.
The district has a large communications staff employing about 30 people and they are quite capable. So why was a political juice firm hired? I’m still waiting for the costs of shutting down the district’s administration building. Employees were given two days off with pay because it was rumored that Ms. Davis might (gasp!) show up for work before her dismissal inquisition. God save us from short black ladies.
I served notice last week that I planned to apply for Ms. Davis’ job because I am well qualified to screw up the education process and I’ll do it for half price. That’s fiscal conservatism.
I hereby withdraw my candidacy and will support Alfred E. Neuman.
He couldn’t do much worse than these dissembling clowns. At least he’ll bring us better and less expensive laughs.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 50-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com/ E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.