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Labor For a Day, Be Uncool For a Lifetime

I just want to note that Monday was Labor Day, but if you snuck home from work and turned on the teevee you wouldn't have known it. Unlike Memorial Day, when TV falls all over itself to let you know Hollywood made some war movies, TV gots nothin for Establishment chattel.

Instead, the History Channel ran something about food, and the Food Channel ran something about history of food. Even the Running Channel ignored Labor Day and showed something about running. Or cutting and running. Or maybe it was about noses. I don't remember -- I was watching war movies.

The theory goes that, unlike work, war is exciting. People already see way too much of work, so that by the time they finally finish a workday and straggle home with nothing to look forward to but doing the same thing tomorrow, the idea of seeing a documentary about people fighting for the right to work seems like a bad joke. Instead, working audiences want to see people fighting for the right to kill each other. Marches and strikes are passé; parades and airstrikes are the Bomb.

Unlike overwork and underemployment, war is exotic. Anyone can pick up a tool and get paid a pittance to use it, but hardly anyone in the whole world takes up arms against anyone else. See -- unlike work, war is forbidden. This makes it incredibly cool.

If you doubt, consider war's capacity for helping its participants to get in touch with themselves. Close your eyes and imagine what has really happened in so many combat epics: you're in a war, lying in a ditch, and some heavy-caliber round hits your helmet and spins it around 360 degrees without touching your skull. You're still alive.

All of a sudden, you realize how much life it worth living. You want to stand up, take a deep breath, go home, tell your wife how much you love her, and inform her that she must start making babies. But first you have to kill all these Germans.

In all the world there is no greater miracle.

Now compare that life-enhancing bullet to a ten-cent raise. A ten-cent raise is appropriately named, because it raises you very, very slightly from the dead. At least enough to find some uncontaminated liquid to wet yourself down with before you shamble off to your double shift. But not, fortunately, enough for you to be driven crazy by how little your employers think of you. Being driven crazy requires brains, and zombies are always hurting for lack of those.

Even when TV and movies can tear themselves away from armed combat and show something about work, the shows tend to focus on jobs that are so cool you would do them for free. Take CSI. If you're like me, you just can't wait for the next drug-war victim to get garroted so you can draw some chalk lines, tote the body home to your "lab" and fire up the old ultraviolet. Strictly for medicinal purposes, understand.

But these shows gloss over the grotesque working conditions, such as the stress and strain of dealing with evidence of violent crimes. For example, in LA, heavy smog can taint blood samples with trace amounts of exotic materials, making every death look like the work of a highly skilled assassin. Christ, you mean I have to go track another ninja? Why do these guys kill so many other people's shrewish ex-wives?

Not to mention LA's miasma of amorality that seeps into everything and turns every crime scene into the meth-fueled beating of a single parent with the skull of his or her own trick-turning eight-year-old. Who, of course, had a spec script that was THAT CLOSE to being read by Spielberg's assistant. Yes, criminal stereotypes are a terrible thing. But lack of appropriate monetary compensation for dealing constantly with criminal stereotypes is an even more terrible thing.

Sadly, no CSI investigator is ever going to petition for a ten-cent raise. In fact, the only time they'll ever see a dime is when they find five or six pre-1965 silver dimes lodged in the bodies of a kitchenful of fast-food employees. At first the investigators will assume the employees planned to smuggle the dimes out of the restaurant safe, in locations that would be missed by your run-of-the-mill employee strip-search. But then things will take a dark turn when the employer falls under suspicion of hiring illegal-immigrant werewolves for five cents an hour, then killing them with silver and frying their meat -- with the aim of turning his customers into werewolves! Fortunately, the manager's proven parsimoniousness will save him, since he wouldn't spare one silver dime to kill his sainted mother, let alone a kitchenful of illegal werewolves.

See? Penny-pinching is a virtue!

What was I talking about? Oh, yes. The fact that labor isn't exciting. I'd talk a lot more about this, but it's Friday and I have some serious forgetting to do. Not to mention pennies to pinch. It's not cruel. They love it, really.

P.S.: I have never watched an episode of CSI. Really? You could tell? Wow -- you are such a detective!