A parade of violence in our homes

This Just In...

October 16, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

I SEE WHERE Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York and one of the Johns Hopkins' big-time sugar daddies, skipped the Columbus Day parade because his friends from The Sopranos were told they couldn't attend. What a guy.

Last week, parade organizers smacked down Bloomberg's plans to march with two cast members of the hit HBO show because a lot of paisanos believe it negatively portrays Italian-American life. (Gee, ya think?) The mayor responded by saying he wouldn't show up if the cast members, Dominic Chianese and Lorraine Bracco, weren't included.

Now there's a man of principle!

Look, I've never sent any money to Italian-American anti-defamation groups. And I think Italians go way overboard in their celebration of Christopher Columbus because, after all, the man got laughed out of Italy and had to go to Spain for financing.

But I agree on The Sopranos. It's profane and violent. It proliferates into the age of cell phones and modern psychiatry the stereotype of mobbed-up Tony Goombahs.

"What is the fascination with this show?" asked TJI reader John Clemson in an e-mail last month, on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "Here we are, on this day of remembrance, somewhat more focused on the world and how it should be. And here we all are, most of us anyway, waiting for the start of the new Sopranos TV season."

I agree with Clemson's observations, even more so since the serial sniper started his killings in Maryland and Virginia. We deplore violence and vulgarity, and yet we're drenched in it. We want more. We want Tony!

"Here is this group of people [Sopranos] in this almost medieval setting -- the lord and his minions trying to control his territory by force of will and violence. It is a feudal system of protection money and soldiers. Family and loyalty -- not tolerance or justice or law -- are honored. It sounds a lot like the Afghan warlords to me. It seems so much like what we are fighting in our war against terror. How far apart are the Sopranos from al-Qaida? Some clever screenwriter could just as easily humanize these `terrorists' as they have the Mafia. Surely some terrorists have children and wives, too."

They might have several wives.

"So why are we so fascinated by one group trying to live above the law, corrupting officials, killing. [Why are we] so happy to welcome them into our living rooms?"

Suburban camouflage

I never realized how many white Chevy Astros there are out there until the other day. There are so many, on the roads during the working day, that they constitute a kind of suburban camouflage. No wonder the lunatic with the rifle has apparently chosen one for his killing shuttles.

It's a shame. A perfectly utilitarian machine, manufactured at the General Motors plant on Broening Highway, has become associated with a nightmare.

The Astro was having a good year until this. Sales of the Astro rose 18.7 percent in August, and that came on top a 5 percent gain in July, according to GM. The Broening plant, sole supplier of the vans, was slated for a one-week closure to save money. But the sales spike convinced GM to scrap that idea.

Strong sales are expected to continue. But I've a feeling we might see more of them leaving the assembly line a color other than white.

Spottings

Spotted (by TJI reader Nancy Kavanagh O'Neill) on Cold Spring Lane westbound: A guy pumping iron with one arm while driving with the other. "I actually saw him change arms," Nancy says, "passing the 10-pound dumbbell from left to right while driving. Gotta keep things even, I guess."

Spotted (by TJI reader Michael Knoll) in the window of Cafe Hon in Hampden: a cut-down bumper sticker translating that highly visible, one-word admonition to the city into appropriate Bawlmerese: "Blieve, Hon."

Spotted (by TJI reader Alyson Harkins) along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway: the familiar "Hon" placard attached to the welcome-to-Baltimore sign. "I was driving, keeping a watchful eye for snipers while worrying simultaneously about whether or not my 16-year-old stepson will end up fighting Iraqis in the desert," Alyson says, "and I noticed that Hon Man had struck again. It was a comforting reminder that some people are crazy in a good way."

Curses foil again

Old friend Ingmar Burger, the oracle of the Daily Grind, enjoyed the Yankees' loss in the postseason almost as much as I did. "I have a theory," he said over a cup of the house blend. "In the tradition of `The Curse of the Bambino,' I submit to you, `The Curse of the Mussina.' Any team saddled with that sourpuss Mike Mussina is destined for also-ran status."

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