Archive for June, 2004

And So, A Scandal Grows

Tuesday, June 15th, 2004

As many longtime viewers of this program are no doubt aware, I have watched the growing steroid scandal in professional sports with a rage that borders on apoplectic. Indeed, how can we live with the notion that each and every one of Barry Bonds’ four billion home runs last year was possibly aided by a performance enhancing substance? And what about runner Regina Jacobs, who may be prevented from running in the Summer Olympics this year because she, too, is suspected of using a performance enhancing substance that helped her to win 24 national titles, including 23 races where she broke the sound barrier on foot? That sound barrier stood for years, I’m telling you, before some hot shot runner comes along all hopped up on goofballs and suddenly breaks the damn thing and where were her morals, I ask you? Apparently U.S. shot putter C.J. Hunter had 1,000 times the allowable amount of the steroid nandrolone in his system when he shot those puts in the 2000 Sydney Olympics—look, when I take 1,000 times the allowable amount of any substance, they call in the frickin’ National Guard, but this guy just got to keep putting shots?

It’s an outrage, but sad as it may be, this scandal has spread from the august realm of professional sports into the formerly dignified world of arts and culture. The implications reach into the highest echelons of music, dance, theatre, film and literature. Apparently, artists of all stripes have been using performance enhancing substances for years now­—and the world is only now catching on!

“I have absolutely no comment whatsoever,” said Sir Paul McCartney, when confronted with direct evidence that many, if not most, of the Beatles’ best compositions were created under the influence of performance enhancing substances. But international authorities are reportedly outraged, and are considering serious measures, including revoking the long-held gold medal for Concept Album from the band’s seminal Sgt. Pepper album. This would indeed be a tragedy, for after realizing how many concept albums throughout history are tainted by performance enhancing substances, the medal may unfortunately fall to Mannheim Steamroller.

Meanwhile, officials for the upcoming Techno Olympics in Detroit, Michigan, are reportedly overwhelmed by the sudden wave of bands and DJs testing positive for performance enhancing substances. Members of the Crystal Method and the Chemical Brothers are denying all evidence as purely circumstantial, but as one official said, “Look, we all wanted to believe the lie, that music so good and so real and so right could just pour out of these artists, but now it seems clear­—without performance enhancing substances, they’d all have joined Barry Manilow cover bands or something.” The entire back catalog of the Orb has been stripped of its gold medals in the This Shit Is Fucking Weird events from previous Techno Olympics. Upon hearing the news, Dr Alex Paterson called a hasty press conference at which he came clean, saying, “I admit, I was under the influence of over 1,000 times the allowable amount of a performance enhancing substance when I named that song ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Center Of The Ultraworld, Loving You’. But in my defense, that huge pulsating brain does love you, whether you admit it or not.”

Rigorous new testing methods are being proposed by the International Artistic Regulatory Commission. Unfortunately the standard battery of tests won’t work, since the effects of many of these performance enhancing substances remain in the artists’ systems for literally years after the body has purged all physical traces of them. Instead, highly sophisticated algorithms have been developed to analyze the actual produced work itself for traces: realistic depictions of altered states in literature or film are clear signs, as are unnaturally abstract expressions in dance or painting, or a particularly “phat beat” that could not possibly have been conceived simply by sitting sober at a Pro Tools console. “Perhaps the most pernicious cases”, said one laboratory technician, “are those in which the performance enhancing substances produce actual honest insight about the human condition, or spirituality, or aspects of culture. Those will be the hardest to detect and root out—but safety demands it.”

In the meantime, the world of art and culture has been shaken to its very foundation. “How can anyone look at a Picasso the same way?” mused one art expert. “I mean, it’s so clear now—that lunatic had to be high on something.” Even mainstream conservative America has been forced to admit that its long and strange enthusiasm for the works of Aerosmith is now forever tainted. Only a deluded few cling to the notion that performance enhancing substances are an asset to the creation of art; said one San Francisco DJ, “I don’t care if I never compete again. They can throw up all the boundaries they want—I’ll just keep dissolving them, alone if I have to.” A dangerous thought from an artist who is clearly throwing his life away. We have an enormous amount of work to do to keep budding young talent from following in his booty-shaking footsteps.

Some tentative first steps have already been taken. The United Nations has formed a new commission, the Multinational Task Force on Keeping Art Safe & Boring. Already, dozens of homogenous boy bands are springing up in such far away places as Liechtenstein and Madagascar, giving hope to all that someday we might feel secure in the knowledge that our arts and culture are produced with integrity, with sincerity, and with no artificially enhanced creativity whatsoever, just the way God and the corporate world intended.

In the meantime, I can only urge caution. If you find your children suddenly displaying an unusual interest in hipster jazz, Terry Gilliam movies, or—God forbid—Phish albums, isolate them immediately. You may never know for sure if performance enhancing substances were involved, but why take the risk with impressionable young minds? Especially now that John Tesh has his own syndicated radio show. Kids need to learn once and for all that the only thing this culture will tolerate is performance detracting substances, like alcohol and most of the food we produce. The joy of mediocrity is something they will only learn from you.