Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thingamabob = thing-in-itself? Ask Bob, Bart and Immanuel.

The reason I’m positing the question, boys and girls, is simple. Or, maybe, not so simple. Bob Newhart, with his presumably put-on stammer, is such an antithesis of what you’d expect an all-guns-blazing, red-blooded, brimful-of-Testosterone American male to be, so subversive to Truth, Justice and the American Way in a way. The subtext doesn’t quite gel right. To give you a concrete instance, on page 25 of his book, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! (Hyperion, New York, 2006), he writes about his childhood: “I really didn’t get much recognition from my father. I don’t think it scarred me for life; it’s just the way it was.” (Italics mine.) This admission reminds me of Homer every now and then throttling Bartholomew Jojo Simpson with his “Why you little…” snippet of angry outburst and his fourth-grader son insouciantly ignoring the repeated indignity and nonchalantly ─ nay, coolly ─ taking it all in his stride and being disrespectful as ever of authority. I don’t mean to say Homer is not paying Bart attention. It’s attention of the wrong sort tantamount to no attention at all and therefore bound to be psychologically scarring to the child according to any right-thinking American’s way of thinking. The same, I reckon, would be true of the lack of paternal recognition Bob writes about. In fact, the way Bob describes his childhood and youthful selves in his book, he sounds like a self-proclaimed underachiever like Bart. On page 109 of I Shouldn’t…, Bob confesses to not having a driving license at age 32, even after he had “… finally moved to Los Angeles, with its crisscrossing ribbons of freeways”. But that’s where the similarity to Bart ends given that, at age 10, Bart can drive a car and already holds an official driving license given to him by the Springfield powers-that-be for having saved the town from fire. (Even before he got it, Bart used to drive a vehicle with fake papers. But that’s neither here nor there.) I found another link between Bart and Bob, though, on page 233 of the latter’s book. Bart has been a lifelong fan of Krusty the Clown. In the episode of The Simpsons dealing with Krusty’s death, Bob was one of the speakers at the funeral. It’s a small world in the idiot box universe too. My acquaintance with Bob goes back to the 1990s when Newhart revolving around the life of the inn keeper-writer Dick Loudon used to be telecast over cable in Mumbai. The quirky Bob somehow caught my eye ─ and my fancy ─ there and then. Back to the future: 15 years later, I get to borrow his book from the #32 Eagle Rock branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and enjoy it. What luck! Who wouldn’t believe, given the circumstances in the existence of noumenon, “thing-in-itself”, in other words, a posited object or event as it appears in itself independent of perception by senses. Thank you, Immanuel ─ to wit: Herr Kant in case you didn’t recognize the given name of the author of Critique of Pure Reason.