Marc Maron’s Node

Marc Maron’s IFC show “Maron” depicts a character poised between two distinct groups: those swimming successfully in the mainstream, such as his famous podcast guests, and the oddball folks who wander in and out of his life. The latter category includes a neighbor who shows up at his door holding a car tire declaring he’s stopped using money. Henceforth he will only obtain goods by barter. Marc appears as the strangely compassionate, fragile asshole who navigates both realities.

I wonder if these colliding worlds represent aspects of Maron’s identity. Looked at in the context of the series as a whole, they could point to the stakes of him picking up booze: two doors.

My favorite episode, The Node, occurs in the middle of the 3rd season. Frustrated by his unreliable internet connection, Marc engages in a series of surreal interactions with his cable company. First we meet the customer service rep, an inmate putting on an Indian accent. Nonsensical and hilarious, this struck me as possibly commenting on absurdly intertwining messed up systems — corporate and social, as well as personal.

Next, a disconcertingly affectionate in-person service guy takes a meaningless stab at fixing the problem. After him, a second repair guy  shows up on Marc’s doorstep. While removing his company shirt in exchange for the oddball neighbor’s tire the second dude explains why it is not within the power of lowly repair people to address the connectivity issue that center around “the node.” During this exchange, Marc’s bipolar father pulls up in his mammoth RV, mutters suicidal threats, then runs down the street.

More breakdowns ensue. We see Marc at the intersection of his fucked up family and our fucked up late stage capitalist society. Corporations lack accountability as they widen the social divide between the exploited and the entitled. Choosing to live boils down to tolerating endless unsolvable problems in an increasingly polarized indifferent world.

One of his podcast subjects cracks some light on his cable issue; the company provides elite customers with a contact number for something called “Tier 4 assistance,” a resource the guest does not share. Marc kvetches and, in his way, flows with the unrelenting distress. Then, in the middle of the night, the phone rings.

We see a polished, middle-aged man sitting at a pristine glass desk in a completely white room. A pure white, old-style landline is the sole object on an immaculate desktop. The vibe is surreal. This guy — dressed crisply, almost angelically, in a white 3-piece suit, white shirt and shoes — comes across as a vintage-stylish Hollywood incarnation of a mystical presence.

Marc (in darkness) picks up the phone: Hello?
Mystical, polished dude: Hey, man. How’s it going?

Who’s this?
Oh, come on, Marc. You know who this is. This is Tier 4.
Hey. Do you need my 10-digit repair number?
Why do you give it out if you never need it?
Well — to give people something to hold on to. Hope.
Yeah, I’m not feeling that.
Things aren’t always what they seem, Marc. Sometimes what’s going on is deeper and more impactful. The real truth is underneath.
Okay. I get that. But I still need the internet.
Well, everyone needs the internet. But that doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling right now is about the internet, because it’s not. It’s about a deep-rooted need for justice, and fear of not being in control.
Yeah. I understand that. It’s about something deeper.
You need to stop yelling at your girlfriends. You need to make up with your father. And you need to stop watching porn. You don’t watch a lot but you watch enough.
I don’t watch anything that weird.
A couple of weeks ago it got a little weird.
Yeah, but you know, when you get into the Baltic stuff you really don’t know what’s gonna happen. . . . . All right, so what’s your point? You want me to engage in my life and — and be a better person?
Yeah. Be a stand-up guy.
Okay. Done.
Okay. I just split the node.
You can just do it from there?
Yeah. I’m the node splitter.

Marc hangs up and talks a little to his father about hope.


Allen v. Farrow

HBO’s Allen v. Farrow documentary begins with footage of Woody accepting an honorary Oscar smack dab in the middle of the #metoo Hollywood era. We hear his daughter, Dylan Farrow, describe what she felt watching her abuser celebrated by a cultural elite that has supposedly awakened to the horrors of powerful men in the arts exploiting vulnerable women.
The series portrays Mr. Allen as a manipulative predator who expertly crafts vile narratives that weaponize our society’s profound misogyny. Assuming an earnest demeanor, Allen takes control of the media to deliver a one-two punch that invalidates his daughter’s trauma while painting Mia as a vengeful, deluded harpy.
We learn about Woody’s well-documented penchant for dating high school girls, including Christine Engelhardt (just after Sleeper), Stacey Nelkin (during Annie Hall), and his step-daughter, Soon Yi Previn. His 8-year affair with a 16 year-old Engelhardt began in Allen’s early forties; both she and Stacey claim to have inspired the Mariel Hemingway character in “Manhattan.” Oh, yeah: Hemingway also describes Woody’s attempts to seduce her after the movie wrapped; she was 17, and her parents urged her to cash in on the Parisian invite.
These days I find myself wondering if humanity’s greatest frailty lies in our unwillingness to call out cruelty. While I understand the importance of redemption and reconciliation, a key condition for making such repairs is the ability for perpetrators to honestly own their transgressions — and for witnesses to stop making excuses for charming bullies.
I find myself magnetized by accounts of celebrated bad behavior — including Mia/Woody, the royal family, assorted Supreme Court justices — because they illustrate how abuse amplifies to an agonizing pitch when survivors lack clear support from family, community, the criminal justice system and society as a whole.
I await a moment, perhaps it will feel like a tremendous sigh, that clearly expresses collective will to let go of excuses and lies. Social spin will slow. There will be a stillness.
We will feel a hum of empathy, respect, and dedication to dismantling systemic distortion and lies that tolerate, enable, perpetuate and support the worst among us.

The problem, with Jon Stewart

For those of my friends who are channelling the likes of The Morning Show, and the Lasso — i.e., AppleTV types — the premiere of The Problem with Jon Stewart (no comma) just dropped and has been viewed by Yours Truly.
The title of the first episode, “War,” is a bit of a misnomer. Most broadly it’s about the discrepancy evidenced by the supposedly universally held non-partisan belief that our country stands behind our troops viewed in light of the gross negligence of the VA. Vets exposed to incredibly toxic waste (for example) are routinely denied health insurance. Suicide stats rise.My quickie review follows.

Jon Stewart is back! No longer in business attire, this iteration speaks with his writers, does interviews in the field, and speaks from a massive table that looks like it came from one very large tree.
Initially I was all in. After about 10 minutes my interest began to fade. I engaged in that quick, familiar internal calculation: Is this subject bumming me out more than I want to tolerate? Are they repeating variations on the same information? The show shifted to a scene around the big, beautiful table and I was rapt for the remainder of the episode. The final solo interview with the VA dude is a tour de force. And the graphics are to die for.

O, how I have missed the Jon — self-deprecating wit and supersmart Jewish Liberal savoir flaire — doing his homework and the extra credit. In a world of tweeting and clickbait, I’ve been yearning for this kind of substantive investigative work to counteract my own reactivity and splintered attention.