Monday, March 27, 2006

The Observatory

Those of you who attended Burning Man a couple of years ago may recall an exhibit called "The Observatory." A single-file line stretched out the door into the desert night. One waited for ages as the line inched forward, eventually carrying patrons into the central dome of the observatory. The line circled around a central platform and led to the top, where people (one at a time) could peer into a scope mounted upon the platform.

The sequence of events was repeated with little variation: the viewer, a bit giddy with anticipation, entirely ignorant of the delights waiting through the lens, would squint into the scope, furrow his/her brow for a moment or two, and then burst out laughing. Then the viewer would be escorted into a back room.

Here was the Observatory's secret: the scope was linked to a hidden camera on the floor that offered a spectacular view of the viewer's ass-- and, if the viewer lacked undergarments, of the viewer's pubes. In the back room, a crowd of new initiates gathered below a big screen that featured a live view from the hidden camera. There were jeers, cheers, and howls. Does this sound as if it could get old quickly? It really didn't get old for me.

Were I feeling particularly clever at the moment, I would draw a devastating parallel between this exhibit and our current geopolitical situation. Or an aspect of contemporary literary criticism. Or Ray Liotta. I mean, this is a tailor-made bit of cultural crit right here. A layup. But my palsied, skinny arms can only send the ball clanging off the front of the rim. Time to retreat to a bubble bath with my pint of Ben & Jerry's and a fifth of Jameson. I need to treat myself. I deserve it.