There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism. Alexander Hamilton
Howard, it’s Bateman, Patrick Bateman. You’re my lawyer so I think you should know: I’ve killed a lot of people. Some girls in the apartment uptown uh, some homeless people maybe 5 or 10 um an NYU girl I met in Central Park. I left her in a parking lot behind some donut shop. I killed Bethany, my old girlfriend, with a nail gun, and some man uh some old faggot with a dog last week. I killed another girl with a chainsaw, I had to, she almost got away and uh someone else there I can’t remember maybe a model, but she’s dead too. And Paul Allen. I killed Paul Allen with an axe in the face, his body is dissolving in a bathtub in Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t want to leave anything out here. I guess I’ve killed maybe 20 people, maybe 40. I have tapes of a lot of it, uh some of the girls have seen the tapes. I even, um… I ate some of their brains, and I tried to cook a little. Tonight I, uh, I just had to kill a LOT of people. And I’m not sure I’m gonna get away with it this time. I guess I’ll uh, I mean, ah, I guess I’m a pretty uh, I mean I guess I’m a pretty sick guy. So, if you get back tomorrow, I may show up at Harry’s Bar, so you know, keep your eyes open. Patrick Bateman
You know that being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break. Harry Truman
Hey, I’m a child of divorce, gimme a break! Patrick Bateman
And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were merry, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire… Milton Waddams
“There no longer does seem to be any organic relationship between the American history we learn from schoolbooks and the lived experience of the current, multinational, high-rise, stagflation city of the newspapers and of our own everyday life”. Fredric Jameson
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Dr. Johnson
(ed. note: Sorry if this makes less sense than usual as it’s being done in a bit of a rush. There was a second longer segement to this post that’s pretty complicated, but it will have to wait until next weekend. Long story short -I have a limited amount to time this afternoon to knock this much out, shower, shave, and press some clothes so we can go sit politely and listen to several local pols extol the virtues of some guy we never met.)
This was the week where all the kids could talk about was a phone conversation between a one-time game show host and a former tv comic. As of last Friday that means we’ve gone from “What about her emails?” to “What about his phone calls?” while being told to keep the record player going for the sake of the children.
When did we start going backwards?
At this rate next year’s debates will center around the wheel and fire.
Bill Buckley used to say that he’d rather be governed by the first hundred people listed in the Cambridge phone book than the Harvard faculty. Any more I’d rather be governed by the first hundred Harvard kids walking across campus than the 100 Oldest People in North America. (tm pend.)
But that’s not why we’re here today.
We’re here because life has been out of control. While I said I’d blog more often it’s just been noblesse obilge-this and noblesse oblige-that. I’m pretty much at the end of my rope when it comes to pretending to be a respectable member of society as it takes me away from this platform and puts me weeks behind on the news cycle. Case in point – it’s been two weeks since Associate Bro of the United States Supreme Court, Brett Michael Kavanaugh wound up on the front page.
Did he do all those things he’s accused of?
Oh hell yes he did.
How do I know this?
Because I’m coming to it with a different perspective. First, let me say -at no time – will I claim to be all woke up and call myself a feminist. In fact, I can only stand aside and understand women’s stories of physical and emotional abuse in the abstract. Overall guys only have two opportunities to inadvertently come face to face with another guy’s junk – high school wrestling and college fraternity initiations. Since I took a flyer on all that character building/camaraderie the only thing I’m left with is my experience with the Go-Go 80s MBA psycho weasels.
Between 1985 and 1995 I worked for five different companies which no long exist. Each demise had many things in common. Some Patrick Bateman type would show up wearing a pink tie. He’d make a point of taking off his jacket so you could see his expensive suspenders and then he’d gather everybody together for a enthusiastic pep talk that featured no end of buzzwords and corporate weasel speak.
You know, corporate weasel speak.
For example – a few years ago when Chipoltle added botulism to the menu they wound up having to close for a week or so. The sign on the one in the neighborhood said, “This Experience Is Temporarily Unavailable.”
Hang gliding off the bluffs above the Oregon coast is an experience.
Chipotlte is an excuse to see if those Rolaids in the glove box still work.
Early on in that 10-year span the weasel would talk about how we are all family and family looks out for each other. Near the end of that stretch “team’ replaced ‘family’ and we were told a team has each others’ back on game day. Either way you’d come to work the following Monday to find that everybody on the third floor was gone which left you with the distinct impression you were next. If you were lucky you survived the first or second wave of layoffs, but sooner or later you were gone. Kinda like the high powered MBA schools based their root philosophy on the neutron bomb instead of Ayn Rand.
And how does Kavanaugh fit into all this?
I have no doubt that under those robes he’s wearing a power tie and holding his pants up with Brooks Brothers suspenders just like the other weasels and that’s why I believe everything those women said is the God’s honest truth.
Is that rational way to look at this?
Hell no, but then who has a rational take on anything these days.
My only consolation is all this is that Kavanaugh represents Peak Weasel. While Alaska Wolf Joe calls what we’re passing through ‘Late Stage Capitalism’ I prefer to think of it as the approaching era of Assisted Living Patrick Bateman. Sooner of later one of these guys is going to look around and find there’s nobody to layoff but himself. My hope that in their retreat the Miltons of the world will rise up like the proto-mammals after the demise of the dinosaurs. The Miltons will take their grief over what became of their staplers and they will channel into something constructive and the scourge of the Go-Go 80s will be behind us.
Congressional impeachment hearings and a trial in the Senate?
The only denizen of the Go-Go 80s who could be called a Hegelian world historical figure will be at the center of it all as neoliberalism’s golden age will reach its Wagnerian third act.
While we’re on the subject of the 80s, let’s roll this one out one more time as it seems to be in vogue again.
“In their paper, titled Preference for realistic art predicts support for Brexit, Noah Carl, Lindsay Richards, and Anthony Heath conclude that respondents who picked all four realistic paintings ‘were a full 20 percentage points more likely to support (Brexit) leave” than those who preferred all four, or three-out-of-four abstract works. The result remained the same even when the team controlled the data for demographic variables, such as gender, age, education, ethnicity, or country of birth. Speaking to the Guardian, lead researcher Noah Carl said that he thinks the conclusion “largely reflects differences between social conservatives and social liberals. (Brexit)Leave voters were not much more economically right-wing than remain voters, but they were substantially more socially conservative,” he said. The paper suggests that social conservatives, who are more likely to have voted for Brexit, “display lower tolerance for ambiguity and greater need for closure than their liberal counterparts” and thus “experience more elevated psychological discomfort when looking at objects depicted in a non-representational way.” Henri Neuendorf
“While the story of the (extreme) Wings may be one of division and conflict, a very different story is found in the rest of America. In fact, the largest group that we uncovered in our research has so far been largely overlooked. It is a group of Americans we call the Exhausted Majority―our collective term for the four tribes, representing a two-thirds majority of Americans, who aren’t part of the Wings. Although they appear in the middle of our charts and graphs, most members of the Exhausted Majority aren’t political centrists or moderates. On specific issues, their views range across the spectrum. But while they hold a variety of views, the members of the Exhausted Majority are also united in important ways:
“They are fed up with the polarization plaguing American government and society.
“They are often forgotten in the public discourse, overlooked because their voices are seldom heard.
“They are flexible in their views, willing to endorse different policies according to the precise situation rather than sticking ideologically to a single set of beliefs.
“They believe we can find common ground.
“The distinction between the Wings and the Exhausted Majority takes us beyond a simple story of the left and the right. Based on their strong views and values, we believe both Traditional Conservatives and Devoted Conservatives belong in the Wings. On the other side, Progressive Activists belong in the Wings, but Traditional Liberals belong in the Exhausted Majority. They have clear liberal views, but unlike the three Wings tribes, they have a more diverse range of opinions, seem more concerned about the country’s divisions, and are more committed to compromise. While partisans argue and score political points, members of the Exhausted Majority are so frustrated with the bitter polarization of our politics that many have checked out completely, ceding the floor to more strident voices. This is especially true of Politically Disengaged and Passive Liberals, while Traditional Liberals and Moderates remain engaged. Members of the Exhausted Majority tend to be open to finding middle ground. Furthermore, they aren’t ideologues who dismiss as evil or ignorant the people who don’t share their exact political views. They want to talk and to find a path forward.” From Hidden Tribes
“There is nothing, I think, in which the power of art is shown so much as in playing on the fiddle. In all other things we can do something at first. Any man will forge a bar of iron, if you give him a hammer; not so well as a smith, but tolerably. A man will saw a piece of wood, and make a box, though a clumsy one; but give him a fiddle and a fiddle-stick, and he can do nothing.” Dr. Johnson
“Turns out that I’m nowhere near white enough to be outraged by this.” Savannah Man (link)
Many of us don’t inhabit this medium as frequently as we used to. (I am reluctant to use the word ‘blog’ as a verb here.) As such we get a little out of practice and – given the passage of time – we’re not quite as young as we used to be and our stamina has waned some. While we still think we can, as my father used to say, go bear hunting’ with a switch, the sad fact is that it’s difficult to sustain a long stream of content once you’ve fallen out of the daily habit.
Compounding matter is the daily distraction that surrounds us. Sometimes it’s social media and sometimes it’s something so odd that you can’t help yourself – you will be absorbed by it and you can’t break free. One of those things came along this week when word got out that someone had stuck google eyes on a statue commentating General Nathanael Greene who was part of The American Revolution.
Needless to say the Savannah, GA police reacted the same warm, jolly sense of humor you’d associate with a high-school gym teacher. At last report the police are still looking for Ossama bin Glue Gun and generally acting pissy about the whole thing.
Normally this would lead me to run out at least 2500 words on the subject, but you know what?
No can do.
I’m still keeping company with a hot water bottle and some Icy Hot because I over did it with the last entry. That’s why I’m turning today’s post over to Alaska Wolf Joe. (Pictured above)
No, it’s not about Kanye.
I have a whole post on a scratch pad about Ye, the gift who keeps giving. The central point of that draft revolved around the idea that the word ‘celebrity’ will eventually evolve into meaning someone who has an opinion. Think of it along the lines that when Shakespeare uses the word ‘villain’ it meant a genuinely bad guy whereas today a villain is acharacter in a movie.
“SHAGGY TOO DOPE YOU ARE A GOOD MAN BUT YOUR DROPKICK IS FUCKING DRIZZLING SHITS … BUBBA I LOVE THE PEACE NOT THE WAR UNLESS THE SON OF A BITCH JABRONI DESERVE TO GET SUPLEXED. THIS WAY THE SHAGGY GOOD MEN. GOD BLESS YOI.” – The Iron Sheik
Here now – a word or two from Alaska Wolf Joe:
The Insane Clown Posse as a Project of Midwestern Utopianism
In a discussion with a colleague yesterday, we had come to a certain problem regarding the vulgar application of Marxist theory to the Midwest. I argued, in a naïve sense, that the reason that traditional morality regarding family and gender was still present in the Midwest was due to the fact that physical labor as the bulk of economic productivity had not disappeared; whereas the disappearance of traditional morality regarding family and gender was more erased in the cities due to the predominance of intellectual labor over physical labor. But they pointed out, correctly, that the major economic force even in deeply agrarian America (which Ohio isn’t completely) was that of a migrant worker economy. Given this, the workers being produced are not products of the family as such, but foreign imports. Why, then, does a traditional Christian family morality still exist in the Midwest and the agrarian parts of the country? If not the family unit as a social formation, what social structures are effects of the economically necessary steps of subjugating migrant workers in order to have productive labor?
This might be the sociological mystery of the Midwest, why tradition maintains an errant spectre and conservatism still is abound in the rustbelt, and why the post-industrial wasteland remains only a wasteland and hasn’t transitioned as efficiently as the cities have into places where information has processed. Nonetheless, some ideological structure pervades.
What, then, do we make of the Insane Clown Posse? It seems to have come out of the crucible of a post-industrial Midwest and represented … something … par excellence. I have been informed by my colleague that their film professor was very interested to know of our experience of going to this concert, and in fact, wants to meet with me at some point soon to discuss it. There have apparently been somewhere less than a dozen or so serious anthropological or sociological analyses which have attempted to analyze the Insane Clown Posse, despite their 31 year old career (started, reportedly, in 1989.)
Again, I can make no claims to any astute empirical knowledge of the current social formations in the Midwest, of its economic duress, or of its changing attitudes and demographics. Nonetheless, there are some facts that seem to pervade our entire discourse. Kanye West in his hallucinogenic speech to Trump two days ago touched on the same things: Why can’t a working man get a job in Chicago? Bring the jobs back to America. We produced steel! Beautiful, clean coal! And its flipside: The first thing I saw on my entrance to Oberlin was an advertisement saying “Heroin kills.”
The fantasy of the Midwest I have received is one of idleness in the wake of globalism. The invisible hand of the market does not fondle all parts of the globe equally, and the message seems to have been it has been a long time since that self-same hand gave the Midwest a tender caress. In its wake, consumption attempts to service the awful absence of industry. Post-industrial abandon is left with the dualities of productive-consumption: the consumption of spectacle, or the consumption of narcosis. In the latter, the opiate of the masses is itself opium. The former need, the consumption of spectacle, is perhaps what the Insane Clown Posse is born out of, and explains their curious apolitical dimension.
Habermas describes one of the features of late capital as “the exhaustion of Utopian energies.” This central thesis is that the idea of utopia centered around the notion of utopia as an ideal social structure which provided a form of just and unalienated social labor. The welfare state solved this up unto a point: it provided enough necessity and mediation of social labor that social labor was not a wholesale form of alienation, but it did not provide enough to fix the continual social crises and misery of capitalist social organizations. As such, the notion of utopia began to dissolve as a public way of thinking, and more notably, the central political focus on the notion of social labor began to disappear. With it came the welfare state’s forms of utopianism, which focus predominantly on fantasies of communicative harmony and communicative utopias. The dimension of utopia through resolving the forms of inequity and domination that subjugate people into productive labor have been left to various outsider groups or academics. In political discourse, it has all but disappeared. But I would suggest that it has found another outlet: the fantasy of a system of utopian labor fulfilled through aesthetic representation.
What could be a better model for a utopian fantasy of non-estranged social labor than a circus in which one both participates in delirious enjoyment and produces with the same movement? What better represents a certain heyday of a working class figure of spectacle than the figure of the carnie? The myth of Dionysian ecstasy, of the pure consumption and production of bliss, does not go far enough into producing a product. The circus goes further: not only does it enable the consumption and production of bliss in an ecstatic state by its participants, but it produces a commoditized experience which can be bought and sold. This is one dimension of the spectacle which ICP represents.
The other dimension is seen through the hallucination of the body as a productive force. Both members of the ICP, as early as six years before they started rapping, were amateur wrestlers in Michigan. A full analysis of professional wrestling here would be needless, but it is curious that professional wrestling has more of a cultural affinity with the Midwest than many other parts of the country. I would speculate that this is because it still allows to see man as fundamentally laboring, even if the actual spectacle of wrestling is one of profound artifice. Even in the disjointedness of performance, the body still appears as working, and as violent. Wrestling doesn’t represent a regress to the “human nature” of violence, but of the professionality of violence; of the pure domain of physical force and its exertion, but in such a way it can be consumed as spectacle. It is, I would say, a return to directly confronting a form of social labor. Even if wrestling does not feature in the ICP’s performance, it hangs as a backdrop and as a theme, as part of the mythos and aesthetic of the ICP – even if abstracted. There is some affinity between their artistic presentation and the aesthetic of professional wrestling and its implications and their music, but as to what I’m not fully capable of saying.
Through these two dimensions, the Insane Clown Posse accomplishes the aesthetic representation of a certain fantasy felt missing in the Midwest: Not only the return of productive social labor in the post-industrial wasteland, but the return of productive social labor in its unestranged form through consensual non-subjugated labor and ecstatic bliss.
And at the same time, it cannot abide by the same traditional structures of morality and socialization which otherwise are/were functional for the Midwest. The circus by itself presents a certain sight – if not its European incarnation of “the Other Victorians” then at least of us Other Americans. The circus is not only the sight of apexes of the human body, the subjugation of man over nature in the form of performing animals, but also that of the freak show. And this is the theme that is most stressed by the ICP: The notion of the ‘dark circus’, the continual presentation in their stage show of actors wearing disfigured clown masks, of a sense of horror lurking under the circus and the site of the circus as a location for those quantified as ‘other’ in America to live without judgment. It is at the same time a utopian space for the other as well as a place of subjugation. Only through presenting and performing as ‘Other’ does the freak show enable itself to be economically profitable. Yet, through its presentation of ‘Otherness’ it reifies the concept of otherness, the presentation of being Other means you are consumed as being Other in the spectacle, and hence really are Other.
This central theme is perhaps the purest theme of utopianism in the Insane Clown Posse: We are awash in our otherness. We are so awash that we do not care if you dignify us or do not. We are immersed in our ecstatic bliss and will never change. It is up to you if you want to pay for the circus or not, but we know if you pay, you will enjoy it to no end.
Yet, from this self-production of Otherness the ICP must needs necessarily exclude itself from the domain of politics. To concern itself with the political or with legitimate problems of social labor would be disingenuous. And if, for some strange reason, the ICP engaged with the modern liberal-democratic utopia of pure communicative engagement, it would fail to be Other whatsoever. The presence of the Other as a theme represents an anxiety of dis-communication. One can see this notion fairly intuitively in contemporary discourse: “The only reason the white supremacists are still racist is because they have never lived with a black person and experience the suffering of their community. If only they talked to one another, they would realize that we are all human.” The fantasy of utopian communication mirrors the inherent tendency in the digital age to connective immediacy. Through the reference of all to all, human differentiation disappears, and all differentiation only belongs to the proper domain of differences between “generalized human themes” – not the racial or class separation of “white and black” or “rich and poor” but the generalized experiences of man being differentiated, the difference and otherness of state between “the [human] experience of being in love” or “the [human] experience of suffering” or “the [human] experience of anxiety.” The liberal-democratic dream of reducing all American life to a vast commonality which is continually communicated and reciprocally understood by all to all dissolves the Other as a category of social experience, and reduces Otherness to the difference between one generalized experience of a mental state to another. But the presentation of the Insane Clown Posse, the presentation of the Juggalo in general, can only thrive of its association with the category of Other. The FBI classification of the ICP as a gang reflects this inherent trend – the ICP is not Other to the law, but it is Other to representational politics. Perhaps the most radical notion of the ICP is itself its wholesale rejection of representational politics as a theme in its works whatsoever, not because it has been “subjugated” into having no voice, but rather as an intentional choice and a necessity of its cultural sensibility. This is, some would argue, a political stance, but it is nonetheless antithetical towards an American political sensibility, and hence, “apolitical.”
Through these points, I hope to have pointed towards an ideological stance of the Insane Clown Posse, and its specific brand of American utopianism.
Two other themes, disconnected from the above also presented themselves to me:
The Pleasure of the Commodity
The trademark of the Insane Clown Posse is still Faygo soda. It is the local brand of Detroit, and extremely cheap. At their concerts, they have between 50-200 or so 2 liter bottles of Faygo, which they shake up, spray on the audience, and throw at the audience. The audience members do not feel effaced in any way, but revel in it. But I wonder if in some way this isn’t itself a form of animating the commodity. The animation of the bottle itself seems to suggest in some way its coming to life, its own ecstatic state. It’s a representation of the working class nature of Michigan, where the ICP hails from, and also a sort of faux representation of the Bacchanalia. It really appears as a product of uniform mass production, and it does not provide any form of intoxication. It would be very easy to do a tired Freudian reading: Oh, it’s just phallic ejaculation! But something seems unsatisfying to me. I can’t put any deeper finger onto it, but it feels like a certain jouissance of the item itself. It is as if the soda is alive and wants to be spread in the most perverse way possible, finding it another part of the pleasurable voluptuousness of the spectacle.
The Dream of Death
Like all vaguely metal or ‘horror’ themed musical acts, the hint of death remains heavily. But this is a very joyous death, the continual joy and ecstasy of murder or gothic themes. It is the ‘dark circus’, the carnival of death. Where this takes on a jubilant theme in other cultures representing a certain attitude towards death (compare Dia de los Muertos), it is very contrary to the American fear of death and the continual prolonging of life for the sake of further productivity. I wonder if in some way this is not because it is another form of utopian thinking, the ability to fantasize about death in an orgiastic was a sort of exit from the state of destitution and the forced will to live present in the disciplinary institutions from the 20th century to the 21st century which still haunt the post-industrial landscape. Death remains always opposed to the system of capitalism, and as Baudrillard points out, maybe the only point of resistance which really wholly and completely opposes the current state of things. It remains, however, only a fantasy.
(Ed. note: Alaska Wolf Joe’s previous essay on The ICP and the nature of performance can be found here.)
“I think it’s rooted in who I am and my background and how I grew up. I was always a really political kid. I grew up on punk rock (and) very much into anti-establishment stuff.I had always loved this band called the Dead Kennedys. Their singer, Jello Biafra once said ‘Don’t hate the media, become the media.’ That’s always stuck with me. Over dinner after the Women’s March (in Washington, D.C.) I was talking to my good friend … and we were talking about how difficult it was to keep up with the news. And for us, we’re all affluent white people, we’re so privileged. One: That we have downtime, and two: that we’re able to spend it knowing what’s going on in the world. How would a normal person in the world that has a family, a job or two jobs ever keep up with this stuff? No one likes to follow politics unless they’re like a junkie, you know?” – Matt Kiser “Without knights no chivalry, without court no courtliness, without salon no charm, without material support no deference will last indefinitely, not even as make-believe. In the same manner what shrinks in a world that cheats us out of leisure and other preconditions of our privacy, are the subtleties of our emotional private lives.” Günther Anders “In questions diffuse and compounded, this similarity of determination is no longer to be expected. At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all march together along one straight and open road; but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene; we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward, are still at a greater distance from each other. As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied; not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.” Dr. Johnson World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. H. Marshall McLuhan 1970
Last Tuesday’s off-year elections mean that some time has been freed up in Mom’s and my respective schedules. For the past several months we’re been expected to go to campaign kickoff events held in small windowless basement, fund raisers held at some unspecified locations at some unspecified public park, and election night galas usually held at a bowling alley or Elks Club.
As you’ve probably gathered, these events are not tied to some high-powered campaign for a readily recognized local office. Most of the ones we’re asked to attend involve irrigation commissions, fire districts, and other public offices that no one had any idea that the people who held those offices were elected. One position was so small that someone asked, “Where’s that victory party, in a liquor store parking lot?”
Hey – don’t laugh.
I expect that invite will be coming along at any time.
In the meantime we all go back to doing what we were doing before the election started which in my case meant wrestling with a problem so complex that it cannot easily explained.
Not even if you even use puppets.
Have a look –
Here’s an illustration.
Using a neutral example – let’s say that there are those (Group A) who squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom while others (Group B) squeeze from the top.
So let’s say that in either case one group really doesn’t pay any mind to the other. In fact, they rarely if ever cross over to talk to the other. Therefore, following what the video showed, Group A will most likely never see what Group B is up to and vice versa. Moving even further into what the video shows, it is then possible for people in a given group to also be unaware of what the entire group is doing because the algorithm moves people further and further into the margins.
Let’s say that one day someone in Group B discovers this:
It is then possible that it would go unnoticed by some portion of Group B. So some poor guy in Group B who married a Group A individual could be unaware that there’s something out there that could bring peace and balance to his home medicine cabinet.
Rolled up together it means that the Net, which was supposed to be the greatest assemblage of information ever devised is largely becoming a narrow range of possible outcomes. So what’s changed is that it is no longer a democratic vessel for knowledge. The people who came forward to dump their vast knowledge of some obscure topic on Geocities have been replaced with problematic formulas which are only concerned with who you know and not what you know.
And as Master Yoda said, “Meditate on this I must!”
While I do that you can have a look at Pew’s numbers on cable news viewership. The single most important factoid shows viewership up 55% over this time last year which means cable news in prime time is now being watch by over 1.5% of the American population. Or you can take a few minutes to read about icky and creepy Facebook is getting.
And when you’re done we’re all gonna hold hands and sing along.
“Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism. And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support.” – Richard M. Nixon “The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts.” – Klaatu “And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter. tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning … So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald “Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Dr. Johnson
One housekeeping note:
Welcome to The Cloud.
A couple of months ago the company that had this page and a couple of other of our projects on a shared server got sold to some mega-corp. Since then the service has gone to hell. Case in point – every time you filed a help ticket or made a phone call you had to deal with Oleg.
Oleg’s favorite word is “Dunno.”
Doesn’t make any difference what you asked, why can’t I get into my site, what’s with all the error warnings, what’s your hat size, given any thought to what you want for Christmas, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
“Dunno.” says Oleg.
The only full sentence he uttered over the last couple of months came in a phone call two weeks ago. He was brief and to the point, “You to go into terminal tonight and change DNS with instructions you will get in email.”
Pretty much knew the answer to that before I even asked, but I successfully fought off the urge to say, “Is your cousin who rigged our election there? Tell him it’ll only take a minute.”
So that evening I went into my terminal as instructed and moved this web site to somewhere in The Cloud where Oleg can’t find it. He’s still got a file with some images I need, but I should be able to extract those when I get a spare moment or two over the 4th of July weekend. Otherwise please enjoy your nice new fluffy cloud-like surroundings. Did that gum you like come back in style only to lose its flavor on your bedpost overnight?
This post comes at an auspicious time. The new episode of Twin Peaks won’t be out until next week For those of you who haven’t seen any of the new ones Alaska Wolf Joe brings you up to speed on how it’s been going.
In general, Twin Peaks 3, Twin Peaks 2017, etc. tends to have a sense of identity loss. It is, I believe, not particularly clear as to what identity is lost – Lynch’s, the soul of nostalgia, the characters, etc.
What little I can say is that in essence it follows from Lynch’s tradition in both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive as opposed to early efforts such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and the original two seasons of Twin Peaks. Eraserhead might be the clearest explication of the world Lynch seems to continually hint at. The industrial process of the world has left behind something which is not only soulless, but which is ultimately completely alienating to the human subject. All relations are foreign, biology fails to predict the structures of its constituents, and even the duties of the Father fail in the face of near schizophrenic horror. Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet attempt to offer something a bit more reassuring: the banality of life offers a guise to the horror that is lurking. Our subjects are normal, our predictions of them have not failed, yet something is deeply, deeply wrong at the fringes. What is this surplus we cannot account for? No longer in the machinic hellscape but the comfortable world of petit bourgeois homeliness, something evades ethic – avoids custom. There is always a cruel logic which structures these worlds underneath suburban or rural homeliness, perhaps not a machinic or capitalist schema, but something paranormal, or deeply sexual. There is a trauma which waits in accordance with the spirit and/or the psyche.
In Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, we exit even the realm of societal or filial relations and end in the wake of Los Angeles, where the city has eroded the few things which thread the subject together. Subjective knowledge, the manner in which any character (subject) gains knowledge that pertains to themselves alone, is abstracted into nothing but series of signs. The main character in Mulholland wakes up with no recollection of themselves, and finds that only through the world can they attempt to recollect themselves. The world is a vast place filled with signifiers that construct identity. In the end of Mulholland and the middle of Lost Highway, Lynch shows us as much: names change, events switch and become new referents, and no one but the audience notices – the audience alone wondering if from this new display of chaos they can even construct an identity for the film. Twin Peaks is caught in this last stage of work, but it seems even more hopelessly lost as it situates itself in the vessel of ‘modern television’ – endless references to the series’ history, but also Lynch’s career, and the style of shows that took blatantly from Twin Peaks mystique. But it resembles something more like a disorganized manner of thought than a cohesive product of entertainment. Aesthetically, it’s poor, and the storytelling is so badly paced and vague so as to become tedious. Yet it is the furthest explanation of this hollowness of the subject in the final stage of Lynch’s work: what refers to us? Who are we, if not the signs outside of us, however they may be situated?
Therefore let’s remember what Mr. Lindemann meant when he sang “Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn kann man uns am Himmel sehn wir haben Angst und sind allein, Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein!”
Right as Rain
I haven’t been watching the new Twin Peaks much less American Gods or whatever else you’re supposed to gorge yourself on these days. Instead I’ve been reading up on morality and ethics and will probably blog about that in the near future.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re saying, “Morality? You?”
So noted, but let’s not look past the possible entertainment value.
How I got down this path all started with a major Tweetstorm that went around on a Sunday morning in April. It centered about The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Earlier in the week NPR had mentioned the book as the fastest selling bookclub selection since the election. Left leaning groups were eager to get the book to see if could provide some insight into how the other side thinks. Supposedly there had been many substantial and lengthy discussion of the book both online and in person.
Half of the Tweetstorm was all for reading the book and starting conversations and the other half pretty much said, “STOP NORMALIZING REPUBLICANS!”
OK – that got me to thinking – how can you normalize a group of people when their whole brand has been built around being normal?
Ike and Mamie? A plain cloth coat? The Silent Majority featuring special guests The Johnny Mann Singers? Wasn’t it no less than Norman Mailer himself who said the GOP was the party of small town authority figures and shop owners?
How normal can you get?
Face facts – Republicans are the people who stayed all the way through the tv show so they could hear the PSA suggesting everybody attend the church of their choice on Sunday. (Not like they had to be urged much less reminded because that’s what they were going to do anyway.) Then, and only, then, once the PSA finished did they leave the couch to heed, what civilized people refer to as, the call of nature. Not like us dirty Leftists. The second we heard the words, “Book ’em, Dano!” we were off to give in to our base instincts, no better than the beasts of the field, and wiz like a racehorse. At least the neighbors were thankful that we used the indoor plumbing. They knew if it wasn’t for the public decency laws us rancid Bolsheviks would be out voiding our molotov cocktails on the front lawn. They knew darn well that if we tried that then it would only bring the law and the last thing we wanted was The Man sniffing around our suburban dens of iniquity where the weed smoke hung in the living room like it was pea-soup fog.
But that was then and this is now – the time when drug laws have become more relaxed. In some states we’ve lost all fear of law enforcement coming to the house because a neighbor believes hemp is being set alight. And there’s no telling where this will go. Maybe we’ll not only lose all fear, we’ll loose what little sense of decency we’ve been getting by with, maybe at the end of the Dancing with the Stars we’ll forgo the use of household porcelain and wander outside to commune with nature.
Then you’ll have a whole new reason to tell us to get off your lawn.
A reason you never thought possible.
Just you wait and see. Just you wait and see.
But how easy is it to be normal these days?
Thankfully there are pundits out there like Kaeley Triller Haver who describes herself as a typical, normal mom who happens to do a column for an online publication. The short piece linked shows that, like all good pundits, she does her due diligence which in her case means that once dinner is finished and the kids are in bed she sits down at the computer and Googles about for people trying to freeze their limbs off, drink blood, or be so out of touch that they still twerk.
Look, I get it, it’s strictly research and if she’s driving over to pick the kids up from soccer and thinks to herself, “Wow, I’d better take a minute tonight and see if any elementary school principals are going around in drag!” then we should think nothing of it.
Again – this adroit participation in the public discourse has been going on for years. My father hired a guy who used to tell my grandmother, the Democratic machine operative, “With all Due respect Mrs. O’Malley, I am a Republican and always will be.” My father eventually fired him because Mr. Republican would lock the store up early so he could inspect the restrooms in the public parks. He’d come to the house, own up to it, and give my father a full accounting of he found on his rounds then use our phone to share his findings with the police. I remember the last time he pulled that stunt. My father was so outraged he actually shut off Gunsmoke (Something I believed to be impossible) and fired Mr. Republican right there in our living room. Flabbergasted that the tv was off and stayed off, I watched Mr. Republican pull away in his Chevy station wagon that had a “Nixon’s the One” bumpersticker placed on the driver’s side of the rear bumper. Thinking back it’s fitting that the bumpersticker was on the drier’s side. It said he was the man of the family, the decision maker, the one who wore the pants, the one took a flashlight every night into every crapper the city parks department had to offer.
Put another way – Kaeley Triller Haver and Mr. Republican are involved in what the Alinskites in my Rolodex would call, “civic engagement” and if it takes thinking about how some one-off weirdo exercises his and/or her libido all day so they could become engaged citizens then so be it. Tolerance is not without its protocols and while she might not be tolerant of me, I am very much tolerant of Mr. Republican, who is no longer with us and Kaeley Triller Haver. If an average American woman can raise a family while going out of her way to make sure she can find out as much about pregnant transsexual women and faithfully track down little boys wearing dresses then who are we to judge?
Am I outraged about what she said in her column?
No, far from it.
In fact, I see her column as her way to becoming a more fully actualized human being. As the elders of the American Left used to say long ago, “She’s getting her head in good place.” and she getting it there even if it means she stays up until 3am night after night scouring the Internet(s) for every last person who just might be a “nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual demonkin.”
So to her let me say, in the tradition of our elder Leftists, “Hey righteous Momma, right on.”
Speaking of conservative women … “One should never see sausage and nice-nice being made.”
Mark Zuckerberg says his long term goal is connect all the people in the world with one another whether we like it or not. So I guess it shouldn’t some as a surprise that I got a ‘MEMBER ME?!?!? note on FB a couple of weeks ago from the woman Alaska Wolf Joe calls, Debbie the Psychedelic Republican.
The midnight recitations of Gatsby? The constant updates on her three-week shopping trip for the perfect peyote button? The time she barged into my dorm room to give me a full accounting of all the orifices in her body only to run out as quickly as she barged in? Or all the trouble she went to when she offered to be a guide to a Grateful Dead concert only to blow it off at the last minute, and leave several us drowning in a sea of those nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual, demonkins known as Dead Heads? … yeah … it’s starting to come back to me
At the end of her note she asked that I write and catch her up on what I’ve been doing for the last 35 to 40 years. I sent a pretty tight paragraph that covered the highlights, but I haven’t heard back.
There’s several reasons – the first would be that I left no room for doubt, I’m still pretty much what her friend Calista’s husband would call an Unrepentant McGovernik. Hot on the heels of that was the breezy tone of my note, similar to the prose you see here, which would probably lead her to say what she said to me me time and time again, “I was going to invite you to (function) but nobody wanted you to come. They’re afraid of what you’re going to say.”
I was never hurt by that as I realized at a very early age that I was completely nice-nice challenged.
And what is nice-nice?
Mom defines nice-nice by putting her hands under her chin, wiggling all her fingers, and in her tiny, sparkly, precious-princess voice says, “OHHHHHH let’s make nice-nice! We’ll go over to some one’s nice house with all the other nice people and we’ll have some nice tea and some nice little cookies and it will be so nice because we’re making nice-nice. (Expletive) nice-nice.”
You can look it up, but it’s a well known fact – couples who exhibit compatible antisocial behaviors stay together longer.
Where were we?
American suburban nice-nice usually begins with getting invited over to see some new patio furniture, a dinette set, maybe a large appliance, or any item an economist would define as a durable good. Think of nice-nice as the participation trophy for having shopped at Sears.
Debbie’s pals, like many people in my past, were afraid that if I came I’d bring with me a certain kind withering sarcasm that would curdle the nice-nice. (Never mind that it was the only hostess gift I could find on short notice.) The point of nice-nice is to celebrate the normal, and like cheese, most people just don’t want to ask the question, “Who moved my normal?” They like their normal right where it is. They don’t want some moonbat libtard coming around asking if the think their normal might look better over there.
But that’s all pretty much conjecture.
What I believe was the real reason I haven’t heard back is Mom and Alaska Wolf Joe.
Maybe Debbie thought I was in a trailer park somewhere overseeing the giant cloud of radioactive natural gas trapped a mile beneath unincorporated Rio Blanco County, Colorado. Instead I was out having a life and there’s these two very important people who’ve been at the very core of it.
In fact, until we open our mouths or if viewed for a distance, we look pretty normal too.
Now and then we could even be mistaken for Republicans.
In the meantime sit tight as I have some reading to do. After all this time it makes sense to try a different approach. Instead of reading the jacket blurb and flying off the handle like we did in the old days, I’m going to take a serious gander at Haidt’s book. But I’m not going to get crazy and run a highlighter through parts or even start an outline to create a cogent argument about what he said.
After all we do have to uphold a few of the old blogging traditions lest we get mired in digital apostocy.
In the next couple of weeks I’ll also be working my way through Davis Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends, the new book about the rise of and fall of prog rock. Here however you rest assured that if I go through Weigle’s index and find no mention of Can, Popol Vuh, Guru Guru or any of the other German bands I will come right back here immediately and go bat-shit ballistic without reading another word.
Join us then, won’t you?
“The revolution will be brought to you by the Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia, the revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal, the revolution will not get rid of the nubs the revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner … There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays pushing that cart down the block on the dead run or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance NBC will not predict the winner at 8:32 or the count from 29 districts
“The revolution will not be televised, Brother!” – Gil Scott Heron
“ ’They Live’ from 1988 is definitely one of the – forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood left. It tells the story of John Nada. ‘Nada’ of course is Spanish means’nothing’. A pure subject, deprived of all substantial content. A homeless worker in L.A. who, drifting around – one day enters into an abandoned church – and finds there a strange box full of sunglasses. And when he put one of them on walking along the L.A. streets – he discovers something weird; That these glasses function like critique-of-ideology glasses. They allow you to see the real message beneath – all the propaganda, publicity glitz, posters and so on. You see a large publicity board telling you – have your holiday of a lifetime – and when you put the glasses on – you just see just on the white background a gray inscription. We live, so we are told, in a post-ideological society. We are interpolated, that is to say – addressed by social authority – not as subjects who should do their duty, sacrifice themselves – but subjects of pleasures. Realize your true potential. Be yourself. Lead a satisfying life. When you put the glasses on – you see dictatorship in democracy. It’s the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom. The explanation for the existence of these strange ideology glasses – is the standard story of the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. Humanity is already under the control of aliens. – Zizek
Miller: A lot o’ people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch o’ unconnected incidents ‘n things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice o’ coincidence that lays on top o’ everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinkin’ about a plate o’ shrimp. Suddenly someone’ll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o’ shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin’ for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconciousness. Otto: You eat a lot of acid, Miller, back in the hippie days? Miller: I’ll give you another instance: you know how everybody’s into weirdness right now?… – from the movie Repo Man
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” – Dr. Johnson
Here’s a couple of things and then I’ll move along. “I COULD BE A SHAMAN! I’D BE REALLY GOOD AT IT TOO!”
This week I tried to go to my Happy Place only to find out I’m not welcome there any more. The old hippies who run my Happy Place said that they got too many complaints that I was always “putting a heavy thing down” and it was “getting everybody’s head in a bad place.”
Of course, that’s the problem when you’re of a certain age – the old hippies are part of the original equipment that came with your Happy Place. Truth be told – I’d rather have a Happy Place that looks new and shiny sorta like one of those hipster barbershops where everybody has lots of tattoos and you get a complimentary IPA when you walk in. Not that I know why they give you a beer as it would seem to be a chore to keep hair our of your drink not to mention that it might dull your wits to the point that you didn’t notice your haircut looks like it was done by a the guy who had to stay behind and clap the erasers after barber college let out.
But I digress.
The reason I wanted to go my Happy Place was wholly apolitical. For the better part of a week I suffered with the flu that’s been going around. The low part of the exercise came when I decided I’d spent enough time in bed and I might feel better if I lollygagged on the couch.
It didn’t go well.
First, after dropping the remote I discovered I didn’t have the physical and mental wherewithal to find it. Thus I was stuck watching The Chronicles of Riddick starring Vin Diesel in the title role and featuring Dame Judi Dench as an interdimensional composed of second-hand cigarette smoke. The movie is well over 5 hours long and at no time does it ever bother with the simple courtesy of making a damn bit of sense. So after being stuck on the couch with aches, pains, and a nagging cough with nothing to watch Vin Diesel in swim goggles I thought a trip to my Happy Place would be in order.
And there was nothing new about it. For years and years I’ve heard how my bad attitude/negative statements/withering look either ruined everything for everybody/seriously advanced the expiration date on the cottage cheese. (Circle all that apply.) The attitude I can pretty much turn on and off, but the withering look is one of those things I’m not aware of until it’s well along. Case in point – Friday morning two people I marginally know came up to be and were all weepy, glassy-eyed, and choked up. One said, “The White House web site pulled everything on climate change and doesn’t say anything about LGBTQ rights!!!”
Calmly I asked, what did you expect?
(Insert withering look here.)
Look, it’s not like Trump called everybody in around the start of the month and said, “On New Year’s eve I was outside of Sante Fe doing peyote with a shaman and right at sunset a column of smoke appeared to me and spoke…”
In a voice that sounded remarkably like Judi Dench and in that moment everything changed?
Seriously, what do I have to do?
Do I have to come over there and beat you with your own copy of Mother Jones until you come to your senses?
It’s not like I won’t have the time as that brings me to the other half of this missive. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO FIND IN THE COUCH.
I’m taking an extended FB hiatus and it’s all your fault.
Specifically: 1. You’re hysterical. Look, I wasn’t any more pleased with the election than you, but I really don’t want to stick around and see how you’re on FB every day talking about your new dedication to changing the world.
Why? 1a. You never shut about the tv shows you’re watching. First you’re all, “OMGS, OMGS OMGS I’M WATCHING THIS TV SHOW THAT’S SOOOO GOOD I WISH IT WAS BUTTER SO I COULD PUT IT ON TOAST AND EAT IT ALL UP!!” Then two weeks later all I see is, “OMGS OMGS OMGS I’M WATCHING THIS NEW TV SHOW THAT’S SOOOOO GOOD I HAVE TO TOUCH MYSELF EVERY TIME I THINK ABOUT IT!!”
After years of putting up with that I’m scared to think what your bake sale would look like.
And it goes without saying – I won’t be answering your FB bake-sale invite. 2. Glad you had a good time at Hamilton. You do realize that when it gets to be one of those live-tv Broadway events it’ll be shot through with pop culture references? So please don’t act surprised when Burr is played by that Urkel kid who will look right into the camera after the duel and say, “DID I DO THAT?!?!?” 3. Dog pictures, every day my feed is nothing but dog pictures. I can’t put up any dog pictures as we don’t have one. We have a cat and even though he’s getting up there in years he has never learned to sit up or beg, and he certainly wasn’t going to fetch the remote for me as he likes Vin Diesel movies. 4. FB assumes you’re being your real self whereas blogging lets you become something like Norman Mailer’s quasi-fictional construct of himself that he rolled out in Armies of the Night. These are strange times and they call for a strange narrative and it occurs to be that I need to be somewhere strange enough to pull that off and for 17 years there’s been no place stranger than this one. 5. Lastly I’m sick of how FB infantilizes your musical taste. Currently there’s a thing going around about how you’re supposed to associate Abe Maslow like peak experiences to every record you bought before you were old enough to drive.
Like I can remember that far back?
OK, I can, but I kinda have to stretch and warm up first as it’s a long trip back there, but is it one I want to make? Even if I were to put the effort into I’m not sure I’d find any album that I truly believed changed my life.
OK, maybe one …
“‘Personal density,’ Kurt Mondaugen in his Peenemünde office not too many steps away from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, ‘is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth. Temporal bandwidth is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar ‘∆ t’ considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.'” Thomas Pynchon from Gravity’s Rainbow “Here’s the divide: The young and educated see the possibilities of life without borders and nationality, not necessarily so much as grand ideology but certainly for the convenience and opportunity. Older and perhaps less worldly people see borders as defining autonomy and identity. They are less sanguine about sharing their homes, cars, photos or their space with strangers and aliens. The former view, the premise on which so much new wealth is founded, is the high value opinion. The latter view obviously is the low value one because the people who espouse it are so much poorer. In that, there is a confusing zeitgeist issue. In the modern era, particularly since borders and regulations began to drop in the 1980s, the zeitgeist has slavishly followed the money. But culture, a sense of well-being and personal identity has, before this, in a more classic conservative sense of valuing bonds with the past, often superseded economic considerations. One of the truly bad words of classic conservatism in fact is ‘innovation.’ Edmund Burke refers to the ‘innovator’s lust for power.’ Curiously, much of the new, left, young, urban zeitgeist is, while theoretically anti-wealth, in full cultural alignment with those innovations that create such wealth.” – Michael Wolff “The left says: ‘Look, it’s very simple. The political press ultimately serves the interests of the people who own it— the corporate capitalists, the ones with money and power and ‘access’ to politicians, the people who run things and always have. Those who are unwilling to make peace with this fact don’t make it very far in political journalism.’ The right says: ‘Look, it’s very simple. Press coverage reflects the bias of the people who produce it— and they’re liberals!’ Conservatives who are against abortion, suspicious of gay rights, skeptical about global warming, against the redistribution of wealth and instinctively wary of government regulation don’t make it very far in political journalism. ‘Look, it’s very simple,’ our journalists say. ‘The press isn’t on the side of the left or the right. Of course, journalists are human. They have passions, they have interests, they have opinions. But these are irrelevant to the way they define and do their job, which is to find out what’s happening and tell the world about it. Ideologues don’t make it very far in political journalism.’ In the puny camp that I’m a part of the first sentence is: This is complicated… Jay Rosen “Kim Kardashian West’s boob is so soft it makes velvet feel like splinters. It makes the fur on a baby bunny’s tummy feel like a plastic bag of syringes. It is so soft that touching it is like scooping up the delicate pink dawn sky with your fingers, or holding a ball of lotion in your hand. It is softer than the thick, warm, all-enveloping smoothness that caresses a globule of wax as it travels up a lava lamp. I know this because Kim Kardashian West has just put down her passion-fruit iced tea and peeled back her sleeveless Adidas x Kanye West bodysuit so that I could place my hand on it (the boob) while we eat dinner under the furious early stars at the Beverly Hills Hotel.’Even though I’m an ass girl, Kanye always says my boobs don’t get as much credit as they deserve,’ Kim explained. At the time that she invited me to touch the upper-left quadrant of her left breast, I was merely an unkempt person Kim Kardashian West had met one time. And yet, on just our second short meeting, I felt comfortable enough to ask her to ‘please describe what your boobs feel like.’ That’s how we got here. ‘Really soft!’ exclaimed Kim, seated primly in an out-of-the-way patio booth. She was eating half a salad. I was eating a hot dog and fries on her enthusiastic recommendation. (‘I love the hot dog here.’ she said with a sparkle, neglecting to mention I would have to order this item from the kids’ menu.) (Real good hot dog.) ‘You wanna feel?’ she asked. ‘Yup.’ I said.” – Caity Weaver “Our language, for almost a century, has, by the concurrence of many causes, been gradually departing from its original Teutonic character, and deviating towards a Gallic structure and phraseology.” Dr. Johnson “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” Chairman Mao
One of the tidbits coughed up by institutional economics states that the division of labor, as we understand it, dates back to the Middle Ages. Closer to home Mom divvied up all the chores and the duty of attending that semi-regular civic function known as a Rubber Chicken Dinner (RCD) fell to me. Some of you might be familiar with such things, for those of you who have never had the pleasure it goes like this; in a large hotel banquet room at least 100 people gather to eat Monsanto’s chicken-like substance, but not before being served a “salad” composed of that sorry excuse for lettuce known as “greens.” Hiding beneath the “greens” are all manner of f’n sticky little walnuts. Oh sure, you can try scraping them off, you can even try to use the knife provided, but it only makes things worse. While you’re at it you can pretty much write off scraping the damn things off with a roll. Yes, there’s a bread basket. There’s even a decorative pat of butter on a little plate with a tiny butter knife, but the second you ask some one to pass the rolls they become hysterical deaf or instantly involved in someone else’s conversation.
While I am not required to attend any RCD which is strictly a fund-raising exercise I am under strict orders to attend those that award those about to retire for their many years of compulsive behavior. Such was the case last weekend when I went to a RCD honoring a man who had tirelessly attended to the drainage of low-lying areas under the aegis of some “sanction tax entity” that may or may not report to the governor. Our alleged host for the evening was some high sheriff from the legislature who was driving from the other side of the state to put on the feedbag, acknowledge roughly half the audience, take 45 minutes to “say a few words”, and hand out some sort of engraved clear acrylic lump which probably came from the came vat as tonight’s dinner.
Such was not the case.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like the night didn’t start off al swank ’n stuff. There was an open bar where you had your choice of COSTCO’s Kirkland label microbrew or wine out of a box. One box of wine had been drained by a couple of gents standing near me. Both were slightly older than me and while not consuming box wine Olsen and Johnson loudly took turns finding one another terribly amusing. This seemed to be moving along well enough until the master of ceremonies, a lesser functionary of the legislature, came in and announced that the high sheriff couldn’t make it. While we were repeatedly assured that he was on his way it turned out he never left his house for reasons unknown.
This did not go unnoticed by the slightly older comedians at the end of the “bar.” The Olsen hollered across the room, “If we were givin’ out an award to a one-legged Harley ridin’ Chinese transsexual he woulda been here yesterday!”
With that his Johnson doubled over in laughter. As he straighten up Olsen went about brushing off Johnson’s lapels and in an even louder voice said, “OH I AM SO SORRY! DID I GET MY P-C ALL OVER YOU! HERE, LET ME BRUSH THAT DARN P-C OFF!”
Before they could get all that out of their system our host returned to tell us that the honoree was a no show as well. Through clenched teeth he got out something about a hip replacement gone bad and to make his point he snatch the beer out of my hand, waved it at the dining room, and told everyone to go have a seat as dinner was being served.
Commotion broke out all around. That’s two entrees too many and you can’t just put those back in the ‘fridge. Monsanto has a whole cube farm full of Philadelphia layers who have nothing better to do than swoop down on the poor sap who would re-heat, re-serve, or chop up into salad. And it’s not like you can put it back in the 55-gallon drum it came in. There are procedures for these things, strict procedures, and if you don’t follow them to the letter then the Moon will turn blood red and across the land chickens, who at the molecular level somewhat resembled tonight’s entree, would cease to lay.
None of this mattered to me.
I was transfixed.
The Gnostics said that you can receive enlightenment by hearing only a few words. God knows, that moment had arrived for me. I had not lost 2/3rds of a warm bottle of COSTCO’s finest IPA, I had been given a passage, an opening, a gateway into the far reaches of the cosmos. My mind was racing through time and space and out there is some far reach of existence, a place that looked like it had been personally designed by Jack Kirby, there was a phone pole and on that phone pole there was a post that said, ‘TONIGHT ONLY! ONE-LEGGED HARLEY RIDIN’ CHINESE TRANSSEXUAL!”
No cover charge.
The salad came, the salad went, dinner arrived. Mostly it was a blur of motions around me. Now and then I would notice Olsen and Johnson across the table. They would erupt in a mild spasm and you could see them mouth the words,“…one legged… huff…. huff good one!” Not me, I could hear the whole thing. In fact I kept hearing the whole thing in my head over and over and over until it was almost mantra-like.
You see, at that moment, I’d been given a gift. Between now and November I didn’t have to have an opinion. If some one asked me about Trump and the Brexiteers all I had to do is look them in the eye and say, “So I was at this dinner the other night and do you know what I heard some guy say?”
The rest of the evening is pretty much a blur. By the time I got in the car I came around and started to wonder if the convenience that statement gave me outweighed the efficiency or the efficiency was greater than the convenience?
But as Mom likes to say, if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas. Such was the case the next morning when I was overcome with the question of, “How did we get here?”
Stick around – I’m about to take the blame for Trump.
Over the past few weeks a couple of things stood out, one concerns the large scale media and the other involves class structures.
Let’s start with the media.
When the Brexit vote was counted no one was as shocked at the British media. CSPAN picked up ITV’s feed which provided no end of dumbfounded looks. Save for one guy, the pundits could not clutch their pearls fast enough. None of them saw this coming.
How could this be?
Let’s start with something Jürgen Habermas said:
The publicity effort, however, a carefully managed display of public relations, showed that the public sphere (deprived, for the most part, of its original functions) under the patronage of administrations, special-interest associations, and parties was now made to contribute in a different fashion to the process of integrating state and society.
Large scale media has internalized all that to the point that it’s a bit like knocking on wood or throwing salt over your shoulder – how that all got started is lost to the ages, it’s all internalized now. The daily function of reporting and informing becomes automatic and unconsciously worked through as if its all like breathing or blinking your eyes. Sure, there’s been financial turbulence, but when you look at the reaction to the financial drain there’s no indication that anybody wants to do anything differently. At least in this country a few of the Beltway types figured out they have no idea what the Average Joe thinks or does. No that it makes any difference. Reporting goes on and at this very second no one in the old large scale media has a clue about what’s happening – in an election year – but we do have a gloriously rendered 5000-word write up about the upper half of a Kardashian’s anatomy.
Yeah, I know – there he goes again.
But at some point the old large scale media itself has to move on from being numb to the scorn its received for years and get to a point where it understands that it serves no one when it talks to no one but the insiders and itself.
Which brings up a second point – media and class.
Last week Michael Wolff ran this out in The Hollywood Reporter:
Here’s the divide: The young and educated see the possibilities of life without borders and nationality, not necessarily so much as grand ideology but certainly for the convenience and opportunity. Older and perhaps less worldly people see borders as defining autonomy and identity. They are less sanguine about sharing their homes, cars, photos or their space with strangers and aliens. The former view, the premise on which so much new wealth is founded, is the high value opinion. The latter view obviously is the low value one because the people who espouse it are so much poorer. In that, there is a confusing zeitgeist issue. In the modern era, particularly since borders and regulations began to drop in the 1980s, the zeitgeist has slavishly followed the money. But culture, a sense of well-being and personal identity has, before this, in a more classic conservative sense of valuing bonds with the past, often superseded economic considerations. One of the truly bad words of classic conservatism in fact is ‘innovation.’ Edmund Burke refers to the ‘innovator’s lust for power.’ Curiously, much of the new, left, young, urban zeitgeist is, while theoretically anti-wealth, in full cultural alignment with those innovations that create such wealth.
For years we’ve been told that the Internet(s) would force us into idealogical silos, single-minded echo chambers that would turn us all into tribes. Interesting up to the point that it fails to take the global recession into account. Once you factor that in then you can make the case that we’re not moving into silos, we’re moving deeper into our respective social and economic classes.
And I’m as guilty as anybody. Back in 2007 we got rid of cable and started sourcing our news from places like the BBC. We’d heard enough yelling on the cable channels to know that it wasn’t journalism or even informative. (Unlike most of you – and you’re not going to like this – we didn’t think much of the yelling topical comedians either.) By cutting the cord we removed ourselves from what Wolff calls “a far more loyal audience and much better economic bet” – those who kept the cord.
Because our level of education and income allowed it.
Also along those lines – only thing that was even remotely surprising in all of this is that Olson and Johnson were not in my face about the demise of newspapers. What they said didn’t surprise me as most of the time when I encounter folks of a certain age their all bent out of shape about the fate of the newspapers, local tv, or NPR and some how that’s my fault.
But enough of all that.
I’m in the media and I never saw Trump coming. Even worse, I’m one of those cord-cutting elitist libtards who’d rather get his news from some dirty foreigner because I think the American media’s product is no better than anything that came out of Detroit c. 1977.
Put it all together and I guess I must be to blame for Trump.
I’ll save some other thought on Britain and the US crossing paths for later. But I will leave you with this thought. Boris Johnson used to be some sort of automotive reviewer. The idea that some one who used to do that sort of thing is as ridiculous as thinking someone in this country writing for some innocuous publication like TV Guide could rise to proinence by being a cheerleader for some unnecessary military expedition in the Middle East.
… oh … wait
In closing – Trump, my bad.
On Friday night, the country was treated to a visage of history, as thousands of demonstrators, a multiracial Coalition of the Offended, streamed out of the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, where the Trump campaign had abruptly cancelled a rally, “for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that had gathered in and around the arena,” the campaign said in a statement. On CNN, John King opined that many of the demonstrators had come “just to cause trouble,” and Neil Bush, brother to George W. and Jeb, pointed out the similarities between the images coming out of Chicago that evening and those of the chaotic 1968 Democratic Convention. This was a miscasting of history, and yet another demonstration of why the Republican establishment has been so inept in its attempts to contain the Trump phenomenon. It wasn’t the demonstrators who recalled the insurgent fury of Chicago in 1968, it was the masses of Trump supporters, fists clenched in a fervor to reroute the country’s trajectory, to seize it from those who’ve taken us down the path of national shame—to make America great again, even if they have to break a few eggs.The Chicago Democratic Convention protests were directed at a political establishment that was responsible for Vietnam, and more broadly for a sense that skewed national priorities had victimized ordinary citizens. Trump’s supporters are not animated by any literal war, but they are fully invested in a rhetorical one, and all the indignation, victimhood, and chaos-brokering of 1968 finds its reactionary equivalent in the current Republican front-runner. – Jelani Cobb To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody. – Quentin Crisp
It has always been the practice of those who are desirous to believe themselves made venerable by length of time to censure the new comers into life, for want of respect to gray hairs and sage experience, for heady confidence in their own understandings, for hasty conclusions upon partial views, for disregard of counsels which their fathers and grandfathers are ready to afford them, and a rebellious impatience of that subordination to which youth is condemned by nature, as necessary to its security from evils into which it would be otherwise precipitated by the rashness of passion and the blindness of ignorance. … Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation. He recounts the decency and regularity of former times, and celebrates the discipline and sobriety of the age in which his youth was passed; a happy age which is now no more to be expected, since confusion has broken in upon the world, and thrown down all the boundaries of civility and reverence. – Dr. Johnson
This was a week of self examination that managed to get tangled up in much low-rent epistemology. It kicked off with the two of us waiting for our take-out order. As we had nothing else to do Mom picked up a small magazine in the lobby. She held it up and asked, “How long has Archie had a hashtag in his hair?”
I said that Archie’s crosshatching predated Twitter by decades. As a kid I thought those were window panes reflected off this bright red hair.
That’s where that riveting discussion ended.
We were joined on the bench by a young couple who were flirting up a storm. They arrived just at the point where the young man undertook the compulsory male fluffed-up braggadocio. He began, “After I got out of college I wandered around, bartended, was a waiter, then two years ago I really found my calling. I’m the lead buyer for a a consortium of recreational marijuana stores.” Oh brave new world, that has such people in’t.
In a magnificent example of circular breathing he went on excitedly about traveling here and there and getting to know every half-naked and barefoot Ma and Pa Kettle east of the Cascades. Then he deftly shifted into the need for stores to make sure the dab and oils at the front of the shop are always clear because it sends a message that quality counts!
All the while he was doing that a little voice in the back of my head kept shouting, “DUDE, SHUT UP! SOMEONE WILL HEAR YOU!!” In the car on the way home Mom said something similar, “I wanted to tell him, ‘NOT HERE! NOT HERE!’”
The legality of it all is still very new for us and obviously it’s done nothing for our way of thinking. We’re still locked into thinking about marijuana the way we did 35+ years ago. Changing the law did not change the bits and pieces of shop-worn facts and half-wrong memories that float around at the bottom of our brains.
An rudimentary version of that last thought had occurred to me earlier in the day when I happened up a Newsweek article written by my favorite grouch, Slavoj Žižek. At long last Zizzy had gotten around to writing about Donald. Trump. Somewhere in the article he says –
The problem here is what Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel called Sittlichkeit: mores, the thick background of (unwritten) rules of social life, the thick and impenetrable ethical substance that tells us what we can and cannot do. These rules are disintegrating today: What was a couple of decades ago simply unsayable in a public debate can now be pronounced with impunity.
It may appear that this disintegration is counteracted by the growth of political correctness, which prescribes exactly what cannot be said; however, a closer look immediately makes it clear how the “politically correct” regulation participates in the same process of the disintegration of the ethical substance. To prove this point, it suffices to recall the deadlock of political correctness: The need for PC rules arises when unwritten mores are no longer able to regulate effectively everyday interactions—instead of spontaneous customs followed in a nonreflexive way, we get explicit rules, such as when “torture” becomes an “enhanced interrogation technique.”
The crucial point is that torture—brutal violence practiced by the state—was made publicly acceptable at the very moment when public language was rendered politically correct in order to protect victims from symbolic violence. These two phenomena are two sides of the same coin.
That took me back to something I’d seen a few years ago.
The article and the video have many valid points about what the kids call “late stage capitalism.”
Yes, late stage capitalism.
That’s how they say it.
You know, as in “23 skidoo, late-stage capitalism, Chicken Inspector!”
Where were we?
Zizzy’s solution for all things that ail us is a neo-Stalinist state.
Which got me to thinking – where’s the hate for that?
Chomsky’s an old man now. He’s only got a few years of being the go-to for being the public intellectual the Right loves to hate. Never mind that the foundation of Chomsky’s entire critique of society was shaped by the Vietnam War. Never mind that the old hippies who still hang on Chomsky’s every word also have a worldview shaped by that war. More likely sooner rather than later Noam Chomsky won’t be around nor will most of the people who love and/or hate him. If one side or the other is looking for heroes and villains – then it’s time to start looking around and Zizzy is my new default value for “grumpy.”
More to the point- look at the pull quote from Jelani Cobb at the top of this post. We couldn’t even make it out of Friday night before somebody brought up 1968.
Why can’t we move on?
Is this something that comes with age?
Do we finally reach a point where the body of knowledge that we’ve been walking around with for years finally fails us?
Now, I’m not saying that the sum total of our experiences is bad. (e.g. hand on hot stove = BAD! NO! STOP!!) What I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of is how entropy fits into our memory. Do we unconsciously come to a point where – on any given topic – we say, “OK, stop there. That’s good enough.?” Or do we get distracted by time and daily routine so as to never re-visit a topic or a given certainty?
How else did we reach the point where Mom and I got nervous around a guy who very openly buys and sells – what was for us for many, many years – an illicit substance?
The kid wasn’t talking to us. He probably didn’t even notice us. We had no interaction, but our brains were on fire.
So what about the things we unconsciously take for granted as fact, but no longer have a place in navigating the world?
On the evening after encountering the kid at the take-out place I downloaded the first episode of Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete. Like all good theatrical production, all the characters are completely unaware that what they know is no longer serving them well. Whether it’s Jessica Lange’s drunken shirttail relation proudly proclaiming her liberalism while calling Hillary Clinton a cunt or being very matter of fact as to how Cam Newton needs to learn his place, then it’s Allan Alda’s elderly Uncle Pete who says he’s not a racist as his family let all sorts of “coloreds” come in the bar the years. The entire first episode is nothing but people who have let ideas that no longer serve anybody rule their lives.
Again – I’m not saying all previously acquired knowledge is bad. this is more of a summary of how several things came together on a certain day which lead to a larger examination. Put another way – beyond the hot-stove example there are those things you remember that can be put to use. Sometimes those factoids can be used in casual conversation. Now and then I like to bring up how I became a fan of the band X after Exene called Stevie Nicks “The witch queen of Beverly Hills.”
Not to mention how this song becomes relevant every now and again.
“One did not go to the other (1960 GOP) convention. It was seen on television, and so too much cannot be said of that. It did however confirm one’s earlier bias that the Republican Party was still a party of church ushers, undertakers, choirboys, prison wardens, bank presidents, small-town police chiefs, state troopers, psychiatrists, beauty-parlor operators, corporation executives, Boy-Scout leaders, fraternity presidents, tax-board assessors, community leaders, surgeons, Pullman porters, head nurses and the fat sons of rich fathers. Its candidate (Richard Nixon) would be given the manufactured image of an ordinary man, and his campaign, so far as it was a psychological campaign (and this would be far indeed), would present him as a simple, honest, dependable, hard-working, ready-to-learn, modest, humble, decent, sober young man whose greatest qualification for President was his profound abasement before the glories of the Republic, the stability of the mediocre, and his own unworthiness. The apocalyptic hour of Uriah Heep.” – Norman Mailer from ‘Superman Comes to the Supermarket‘
“There is an old Vulcan proverb, ‘Only Nixon could go to China.’” – Mr. Spock “We’re surrounded by people who, despite a narrow perspective, insist the music of their youth is superior to the sounds of any other period. Most people who prefer old music mean no harm and it’s often a pleasure to listen to them talk about their favorite artists of the distant past. But others are bullies who intend to harangue is into submission, as if their bluster can conceal their ignorance. They ignore what seems to me something that’s self-evident: rock and pop today is as good as it’s ever been.” – – Jim Fusilli “Nothing is more despicable than the old age of a passionate man.* When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amusements pall with frequent repetition, his occasional rage sinks by decay of strength into peevishness; that peevishness, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expresses it, to devour his own heart in solitude and contempt.” – Dr. Johnson
“Won’t you please come to Chicago or else join the other side.” – Graham Nash
Time to clear items off the desk and out of the reading list.
As such this post might have a part-2 at some later date.
Before we get started here’s a word or two about the use of ‘hubris’ in what follows. At no time am I trying to compare, much less say, that what Alaska Wolf Joe calls, Boomer Cultural Hegemony is more important or a greater problem than unacknowledged white privilege. Instead the point here is that both stem from the same root, in that hubris relies of a certain amount of self awareness. Put another way – someone who is guilty of Boomer Cultural Hegemony or unacknowledged white privilege isn’t so much falsely proud as unlikely to have drilled down far enough to really get at the bedrock of his or her thinking.
Hubris assumes that you’ve done some accounting of your thoughts.
Having said that.
One of the various wags I follow on Twitter ran out something that said – more or less – “Where’s this kind of political reporting these days?” The link lead to Esquire’s series on their classic articles, in this case Norman Mailer’s Superman Comes to the Supermarket. The upshot of the podcast is Mailer’s ability to see that Jack Kennedy’s nomination meant that Hollywood had entered politics. Things were changing and something called “charisma” was about to become one of the key elements of any candidate’s run for office. Mailer was holed up in LA typing as fast as he could trying to prove that the old guard, Ike’s generation, were moving from the main action, the center ring, if you will, to the margins. In that hotel room Norman summed up the generation that had run politics from before the war until 1960 and saw that their collective age was pushing them out of the limelight.
Election years are like that. Election years are supposed to imbue you with that kind of prophetic insight. All the more so if the election comes after you’ve established certain distance between major events and the present. After 9/11, two wars, and the most serious economic collapse in 80 years you’d think there should be at least one person out there with such insight. You’d think that after all that there’s gotta be at least one pundit-cum-loudmouth who’d burn with such fire that it would shame a whole room full of even the most ardent Pentecostals.
So what happened?
Boomer weltanschauung suffers from two main problems. The first is its constant drift towards zero-sum thinking. The second is our extreme faith that past is very much prologue and we have lived through the most critical historical epoch of all time. (This is not to say that monumental events did not happen at other times. It just that I’m not sure anyone who came of age the Napoleonic Wars and lived well into the next few decades would agree with the average Boomer.) The second was always manifest is the constant search for the next Beatles or the next Dylan. At no time was the immediate past any less than the key to the immediate future.
As Mr. Fusilli said in the article linked above –
You go down a dead end with some people, who say to you, Where’s the new Bob Dylan? Where’s the new Beatles? Well, there is no new Bob Dylan. There is no new Beatles. There is no new Thelonious Monk. There’s no new Duke Ellington. These people and their achievements are beyond the reach of anyone, so maybe it is interesting to empty the vaults and study how they got to be who they are. But for most artists, they had something to say in their own times, and that’s really where it belongs. … Maybe this is an unfair example. I don’t know the guy, so I’m not picking on him. But Don Henley put out that album last year, and it got a lot of buzz. Why did it get a lot of buzz? Because he used to be in the Eagles.* Anybody who follows Americana and traditional country can tell you that there are 50 better albums than “Cass County.” Totally accessible work, with traditional storytelling, great vocals, great arrangements, absolutely proving that the art of songwriting is still alive. But then there’s Don Henley everywhere. Maybe this is harsh, but maybe the industry thinks it should throw a bone to grown-ups. Rather than saying this is an excellent album by a new artist, they just say, Here’s the new Don Henley.
Again – a past so magnificent that it holds all the prologue any reasonable person would need.
At the heart of all that is the tendency towards zero-sum thinking which can be traced back to the times we grew up in. The 60s were no time for the middle ground. It was drilled into me, as early as the 6th grade, that not having an opinion was not acceptable. The rush to one side or the other was so great that it was hard to find the time to research an issue much less think it through. At some point ‘for-me or a’gin-me’ crept into everything no matter how small or how trivial.
At this point I was going to say something that pulled all that together. It started off with how I’ve come to like The Kinks more than The Beatles, but I forgot to write it down so it’s gone now. Mailer said he spent most of the 1950s “burning a hole in my brain” by smoking copious amount of marijuana while watching Mike Wallace’s Night Beat. My Kinks digression got lost because I too have burned a hole in my brain, but I did it by just by getting out of bed in the morning day after day after day after …
Aging is what got me started on all this flotsam in that – very soon- I’m about to become another year older.
Whether I like it or not.
Given that, you’d be well within your rights to ask, “So you’re saying that looking back and seeing how we’ve handled things all we’ve done is disappoint you?”
That’s not what I’m saying here.
I’m saving that for another post.
No, I think what I’m saying is, that despite our diminishing mental acuity, we are not excused from leading examined lives even at this late stage. We don’t have to come to great conclusions. (Hyperbole being another one of our sins.) But we should be able to see value in the present and not be nostalgia’s victims.
Speaking of that – OMGS OMGS OMGS!!! Have you seen HBO’s Vinyl? Mom and I stumbled into it last weekend. Did the entertainment industry run out of old hippies to sucker in? Do they have to rely on us now? The police didn’t chase punk rockers down the street. The kids the punk rockers went to school with chased the punk rockers down the street. And Andrew Dice Clay as some sort of coked-up maniac? Is that method acting or did he just pull something out of memory? MY GOD! You can think of your youth as a perfectly made puttanesca, but after Vinyl gets its hands on your coming of age you’ll think you’re stuck with an expired can of Chef Boy-ar-Dee chunk-style Beef-ar-roni.
DON’T MAKE ME CALL THE CABLE COMPANY AND CANCEL MY SUBSCRIPTION!!
YEAH, I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU **EXECUTIVE PRODUCER* SIR MICK!
Where were we?
Oh yeah – nostalgia. Despite Mr. Fusilli’s many fine points you can still appreciate a thing for itself as long as you’re willing to appreciate a thing for itself, which is not to say that same thing cannot evoke memories just so long as you understand that your brain is acting on more than one impulse. Your job is to find the balance.
And give up trying to figure out this election.
We’re not equipped to deal with it.
Instead let’s dance to this interpretation of The Ring Cycle.
* BTW – it’s Ok to hate The Eagles around here and tip o’ the tin-foil lined M’s cap to Mr. Sharp who sent this along.
“There is no pleasure which men of every age and sect have more generally agreed to mention with contempt than the gratifications of the palate, an entertainment so far removed from intellectual happiness that scarcely the most shameless of the sensual herd have dared to defend it: yet even to this, the lowest of our delights, to this, though neither quick nor lasting, is health with all its activity and sprightliness daily sacrificed; and for this are half the miseries endured which urge impatience to call on death.” Dr. Johnson
After struggling with finding some material to put on this site, it struck me this week that a carefully worded, albeit lengthy, post revolving around how to deal with the waiters who are constantly asking the noxious question, “How is everything tasting?” might just be the ticket. But Mom put the kibosh on that idea saying that I’d need a whole ‘nother blog to recap the many times we’ve been kicked out of restaurants by waiters who found my responses to not be what they were expecting. The now quashed post began with such an incident. After the kid asked how everything was tasting I smiled and said, “Suspiciously like it came from the take-out place up the street.”
His manager supervised our trip to the curb.
Instead what follows are some observation which need to get rolled out before the subject matter becomes too stale.
Are You an Audience or an Oil Painting?
A very tardy elf finally dropped of my last Christmas present a couple of days ago, Kliph Nesterhoff’s The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy. Thanks to WFMU’s now defunct web site, Beware of the Blog, I’ve been able to keep up with the always fascinating Mr. Nesterhoff for years, but none of what he wrote prior before prepares you for his absolutely addictive page-turner, Comedians.
– The chapter on Vegas includes a page about Shecky Greene and Buddy Hackett getting into a fistfight in the middle of a Las Vegas street in the middle of the morning. The dispute had started over paying their mutual gardener to have his teeth fixed after a recent dispute over services rendered. Greene hauled Hackett into some off-Strip joint, willed three 7’s to pop on the craps table and handed the money to Hackett. Despite the quick resolution the fight ensued. Hackett was left in the street after beaten beaten by Greene.
Hackett called Green a few hours later and said, “Ya know, if anybody saw us they might think we don’t like each other.”
– Joan Rivers thought Johnny Carson was far smarter than Dick Cavett. She told Mr. Nesterhoff she loved Cavett, but anybody could talk to Orson Wells and come off looking great.
She added, Johnny Carson could talk to morons and make them look good.
Therefore Ms. Rivers conceded point, game, and match to Mr. Carson. My That’s a Big Hat! Can I stand Under It if It Rains?
The militia/patriot/ol’ boys in big ol’ hats has been something of a constant in life for almost 40 years.
My first encounter with such folks, or at least the Australopithecine version of those folks, came shortly after I got my first job as a professional pain-in-the-ass. Back then my Monday mornings were spent chronicling the wit, wisdom, and unchallenged decisions of county commissioner, G. Harold Steffens.
G. Harold had been county commissioner for so long that we were – even then- rapidly reaching a point where no one could prove that anyone else had been commissioner. Ask most people that they’d tell you G. Harold had been commissioner since “Jesus was a buck private.” Talk to the Catholics and they’d go with the more classically themed, “Since Hector was a pup.”
What can I tell you?
Where were we?
G. Harold was a curious man. After seeing me in the back of the gallery for several weeks he approached me and introduced himself. Obviously he looked past the long hair and unruly sideburns to see that I probably wasn’t carrying fleas, ticks or mites, much less anything else us dirty hippies had to offer. I stood, shook his hand -firmly- and looked him the eye while he asked me a couple of questions about downstream water rights. I gave him what I thought was a reasonable, informed, and well thought-out opinion on the matter. That’s when he let go of my hand and said, “Nobody wants to hear about your book learnin’, son.”
From that moment forward I was on G. Howard’s shit list. Not that it bothered me because being on his shit list was much like being born with blue eyes- that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s gonna be until you die.
Here’s the part where you have to deal with my ancient first-world problems.
Finding lunch at that job was a bitch. The only thing nearby was a lunch counter/newsstand operation which thankfully had pretty good food. For $1.98 you could get a chicken fried steak with coleslaw and mash potatoes. If you wanted fries instead they wouldn’t look at you funny and still you’d get just as much gravy. A biscuit to go all that was 25 cents more, but G. Howard always got a biscuit for free as a small thanks for his many years of public service. One afternoon I stopped in to get a large coffee to go and a pack of Marlboros. My purchase, as well as G. Howard’s swiss steak, was interrupted by a group of men who loudly told G. Howard that they had no intention of paying their property taxes for the following reasons:
– The dollar was not backed by gold.
– G. Howard’s meeting sported an American flag with gold fringe so no decision made with that kind of flag in the room was legal.
– There’s lots and lots of Old English law to back this up!!!
– Besides – they needed the money to buy weapons as the Black Panthers had raised an army and were – at that very moment – doing drills in the hills above Oakland.
At that point two things were immediately noticeable. The cash register clerk was so nervous she tried to give me a pack of those lemon-lime dainty dame smokes that were all the rage in the 70s. One of the protesters stood on the table of an empty booth and shouted, “A WISE MAN SAID,‘IF YOU’RE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION, YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM! CAN ANYBODY TELL ME WHO THAT WISE MAN WAS?”
I spoke up and said, “Eldrige Cleaver, one of the founders of The Black Panther Party.”
What can I say?
G. Howard got up and walked over to the main standing on the table. In a very quiet voice he asked the gent, “Does a man take care of his family?”
A wobbly nod was seen.
G. Howard wiped his mouth, paused for a few beats and said, “One way a man takes care of his family is to do the right thing and pay his bills. Are you man enough to do that?”
The man on the table got down and slunk out with the rest of his pals.
G. Howard fixed me with a look and went back to his swiss steak.
As far as I know – to this day and throughout eternity I am still on his shit list.
But I’d like to believe I’m still on his shit list with an asterisk next to my name.
Goodbye David and thank you, thank you thank you, thank you.
Home entertainment systems are such interesting things. Mr. Sharp’s first one was a cassette player that came with TWO speakers. In what must have been an idle moment of no import, Mr. S was going through the bargain bin at the local Woolworth’s when he came upon The Man Who Sold the World, something that had no proved to be a local best seller. He phoned and said I had to hear this.
This week the tributes to David Bowie came in two types. First there were those who said he gave us the permission to understand that we are fluid selves that we cannot be bound by conventions. Others said he was their gateway into a world of adventuresome listening that has lasted a lifetime. Bowie leads to Roxy which leads to Eno, which leads to Robert Fripp getting out of ditch digging, which leads to…
I turned on the CBS morning news and when Charlie Rose said David was dead there were tears streaming down my face.
One of the first Bowie songs that got our attention was Andy Warhol. Mr. Sharp sent this a few days ago. It’s a video of Dana Gillespie, the singer who Bowie wrote the song for.
“What is Time Magazine calling it this week? Drug-culture? Mini-culture? Micro-culture? They have a million hyphens over there at Time Incorporated. Throw them around! – George Carlin
“The mind is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity… The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.” – Dr. Johnson
“While gossip among women is universally ridiculed as low and trivial, gossip among men, especially if it is about women, is called theory, or idea, or fact.” – Andrea Dworkin
Here’s something like 1300 words about how our family dinner-table conversations differs from yours.
Not that it’s ever been anything I really want to talk about, nor had it ever come up at dinner, but it does come up from time to time in general conversation. You see, when I was 15 I was possessed by a demon who claimed to be an imp named Bizmuth Rosea.
Steve to his friends.
How I got in that situation is still pretty murky. Other than a sudden infatuation with 12-tone music nothing much came of it nor did it last very long. One day during 10th-grade English we were paging through Jonathan Livingston Seagull as required reading when all of a sudden I began to sweat, my heart pounded, and my head was buzzing so badly I thought I was going to explode. That’s when I heard a clap of thunder. In the next instant there was Steve right in front of me. He looked like he was in tremendous pain as he was tried to crawl away as quickly as he could. Looking out I saw he made it as far as the curb before the dry heaves set in.
After class I went out to the sidewalk and helped him to get back up on hooves. We had a smoke in the parking lot and that’s when he asked, “What’s next? You have to analyze American Pie?”
No, we’re doing Mrs. Robinson first, then Don McClean’s Starry Night and then American Pie.
Looking way off into the distance he stamped out his cigarette and said he was done with me. He was just going to go back and face whatever his superiors dished out. Despite that he did keep in touch. Over the years he’d drop a line now and then. The last note came in around 1990. He was teaching trigonometry at a Catholic girls school near Des Moines which seemed more like Purgatory to me than Eternal Damnation.
But what do I know?
Where were we?
Oh yeah – Joe DiMaggio.
The 1970s started off so very sincere and earnest that by the end of the decade cynicism became its own art form. Starting on the front end of the decade, teachers really believed that song lyrics (e.g. Mrs.Robinson) could be used as a path to some sort of emotional enlightenment. In this case, we had to examine if people still had heroes and look at the people who were once held in high regard. In this case DiMaggio had a quantifiable record. His employment with the Yankees came with statistics, written records, and film of some of his better moments. Given that we could put pencil to paper and prove that he surpassed others in his line of work made him an acknowledged hero. If we were going to have a reference for who a hero might be then DiMaggio was just as good a place to start as anywhere else. But we forget in all this is that, even as kids, we weren’t very good at identifying the exceptional as that sort of thing had been outsourced to the media decades before we were born. DiMaggio is the exception to the rule in that the media didn’t have to work very hard to identify him as a hero – he did that for himself. This differed from how the media dealt with many people – appointing them to be the icon, or the face, of a given thing.
Which brings us to today’s topics at supper – Bruce Jenner and Andrea Dworkin.
It all began simply enough when Alaska Wolf Joe asked, “When are people going to shut up about Bruce Jenner and why does the media think this has absolutely everything to do with gender issues?”
As parents we had to step in and say- big media has no clue. This is strictly reflex – they are only doing what they’ve always done and done best. Right now that loud rattle you hear at Time magazine’s HQ is the pace maker of some rheumy-eyed old codger who serves as some sort of executive editor who is – right this second – working up a cover with Jenner’s picture on it with a bold-faced caption that reads, “THE NEW FACE OF TRANSGENDERED AMERICA.”
Not that there was an old face of transgendered America, but you know…
Work with me here.
Jenner got to be Jenner partially, like DiMaggio, by demonstrable ability and partially by media appointment. DiMaggio was a clean pick – everybody knows something about baseball. The Olympics are far more complicated and the media has always stepped into to anoint some one as America’s hero. Recently Jenner got elevated again as he is part of one of the last things the old media truly understands – reality tv. That’s kept his mojo going and that’s how he is now the centerpiece of what little the old media understands about transgendered people much less any gender issue. Not that they have to understand much – they just hit the highlights and make some one the face of the movement and move on to the next thing. At that point Andrea Dworkin came into the conversation, first as a side note and then as an example. Alaska Wolf Joe said that he and his ilk have moved on. They’re not waiting for a new Andrea Dworkin to be appointed by the media as the leader when it comes to coming up with thoughts and theories about gender issues. They’ll just run out their own thoughts and theories, thank you, and take their own chances.
That’s not real good news for either the old men at Time or the Baby Boomers. You know, us Boomers like nothing better than easily chewed concepts. We like it that some one stuck their neck out and did a tepid job of gathering up a few facts from the surface of an issue and then calling it good.
We don’t like getting our hands dirty with theory.
We like pictures on the cover of magazines with big bold headlines and cable tv know-it-alls.
Meanwhile at Time the nightmare scenario has happened. What was the artistic fringe is now the mainstream. We’ve gone from this video (WARNING:BAD WURDS!!) made in 1984 where a scant few say they are tired of the cultural hegemony the media. Instead of needing a 14-minute video starring taxidermy poodles and Cesar Romeo we now unconsciously hold a single thought.
We are fully aware that the old media has lost its ability to create cultural signifiers.
That’s not to say that Time is without utility. Last week at the 10-minute oil change place the guy sitting next to me found there was a hole in the bottom of his cup of coffee. He picked up a copy of Time that was lying around and used it as a coaster.
Anyway – the point is that us Boomers are on our own. We have to study trends and sort that kind of things out for oruselves. We are now our own best cultural anthropologists and post modern philosophers. Yes, this has come along late in life, but there is some good news. Us freelance theorists have an unofficial theme song and it’s a toe tapper!
“Nothing is more despicable than the old age of a passionate man. When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amusements pall with frequent repetition, his occasional rage sinks by decay of strength into peevishness; that peevishness, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expresses it, to devour his own heart in solitude and contempt.” Dr. Johnson
“The first time Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy, 47, heard the phrase ‘dad rock,’ he was reading a Pitchfork review of his band’s 2007 album, Sky Blue Sky, which a writer said ‘nakedly exposes the dad-rock gene Wilco has always carried but courageously attempted to disguise.’ This was followed by a series of negative adjectives synonymous with dad music, including ‘passive,’ ‘domestic’ and ‘lackluster.’ Tweedy’s response, he recently told an interviewer from Esquire (a dad magazine if there ever was one), was visceral: ‘Ouch. Wow.’”Rob Tannenbaum Homer: I was in a record store, and they were playing all these bands I’d never heard of. It was like the store had gone crazy. Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact. Marge: Record stores have always seemed crazy to me. Music is none of my business. Homer: That’s all well and good for you, but I used to rock and roll all night and party every day. Then it was every other day… now I’m lucky to find half an hour a week in which to get funky. I’ve got to get out of this rut and back into the groove.
A few days ago Alaska Wolf Joe brought up the fact that we had not been to his preferred greasy spoon for lunch in some time. As I was between scheduled naps lunch seemed like a good idea. When we got there the placed was jammed and we were put on the wait list and told it would be 20 or so minutes before we’d be seated. To kill time we went to the nearby record store and looked around because, as AWJ said, “I’ve never spent time in one of these.”
Going up and down the aisles we came upon the display for the new Sonics release. For those of you who are not from the Greater Puget Sound Area, The Sonics were the local big-deal band in the mid-1960s. They bridged the gap between The Kingsmen and Jimi. Their local legend was cemented when they broke up and didn’t bother to reunite until last year. The new Sonics redux came with your choice of a cd recorded in modern hi-fidelity (mp4’s can be found here) or a 12″ vinyl release which only comes in glorious mono. Alaska Wolf Joe took all this in, picked up the vinyl, looked it over, and dryly sniffed, ” … dad rock.”
That lead to a lengthy discussion at lunch of what really constitutes “Dad Rock.” After an hour we came to the heart of the matter, but not before breaking the term into a few categories.
Per AWJ –
– The classic rock pantheon (Beatles, Stones, Zep, Skynrd et al.) is certainly Dad Rock, but it doesn’t define the term completely.
– Anything that Dad is listening to from the rock idiom (he prefers idiom to genre) is rock that Dad is listening to, but it doesn’t not necessarily mean what’s being listened to is Dad Rock. Dad Rock cannot be considered anything that is heard passively. Just because The Cars are playing on the overhead speakers at Home Depot doesn’t make it Dad Rock by default.
– Anything that Dad actively listens to – by his own choice – that can be considered to be within the rock idiom which Dad is listening to – because he wants you to think he’s younger and hipper than his actual age suggests – is therefore Dad Rock.
AWJ then added, “Look I know all that music was very popular with everyone back when you were in high school. Bowie never did anything bad, Floyd was fine until The Wall, and there’s Joy Division and Robert Smith so there’s lots to like even though rock’s creative process is dead.”
I had to stop him right there and point out that if I had experienced all those bands in high school I would have had to have spent 15 years trying to go from being a sophomore to being a junior. He was then surprised when I said that what we now consider classic rock was not universally popular during my teen years. That lead AWJ to ask, “So how did people consider it?”
Simple – there was good music and then there was loud, awful music. Good music usually meant sensitive singer/songwriters or the music your parents would let you buy. (e.g. Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Rod McKuen’s spoken-word albums.) That last one got him. After being stunned for a few seconds he said “I thought the band kids at my school were sheltered. Couldn’t they sneak it home?”
Yes, but eventually you’d get caught. Back when music was transcribed onto vinyl it came in large cardboard sleeves. Therefore if you bought Smell the Glove you had a fair chance of sneaking in the house, but sooner or later your mother was going to vacuum your room and then you were busted.
AWJ was quiet for some time. After his fourth cup of coffee (his prefered lunch at this place is the bacon cheeseburger and 6 cups of coffee) he looked up and asked, “Do you think those people evolved to have different musical taste?”
I really don’t know.
The ones I’ve heard from over the years only called to tell me how successful they’d become. The calls, all on their dime, revolved around awards, honorariums, certificates, and other accomplishments. Not that I was paying strict attention as I found that, if I concentrated on hearing Delibes’ Flower Duet in my head, all the angst attached to the call would disappear, no matter how long the phone call took.
Start this video, find the LinkedIn page of some one you can’t stand, and start reading their work history.
Isn’t it amazing how that works?
Not that the topic of music taste has come up much even in the most recent calls. Mostly I’ve noticed a subtle shift. The calls are no longer about careers. Now the calls are not-so-humble brags about how what a good job they’re doing of being old. They’re shopping for RV’s, sitting on the local board of whichever non-profit is dealing with their low-level ailments. They’ve got a bucket list and they’re checkin’ it twice, they’ll visit each grandchild per annum no less than thrice.
Now instead of Delibes I have muster this one up to get all Zen.
The idea is to eventually slide your graybeard hipster credentials into the conversation to disorient them.
But you’ll have to use caution.
Hang on we’re going the long way around the park –
As has been previously brought up in this space, The Perfesser has put forth the theory that Dylan fans are the Trekkies of rock-n-roll. If true, then rock-n-roll must have its equivalent of Civil War reeneactors. That would be those people who have selected a band, memorized their discography, and such minutia as the birth dates of the former members, and the bass player.
Don’t go there.
Instead, when these people bring up the holy-of-holies, front-row seats at Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, you can say, “Isn’t he touring with (name)? I remember the first time I saw him. He still had his own hair back then.”
If you’ll excuse me I have to go now. All this talk of grandchildren has left me no choice but to ask Alaska Wolf Joe if there was a lab section attached to that health class he took as a high school freshman.
While I do that you can dance to this.
“Each child is biologically required to have a mother. Fatherhood is a well-regarded theory, but motherhood is a fact.” – P. J. O’Rourke
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” ― John Wilmot
“Much therefore of that humour which transported the last century with merriment is lost to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of the ancient Puritans; or, if we know them, derive our information only from books or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life; we judge of the life by contemplating the picture. It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to imagine the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, which perplexed doctrine, disordered practice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and awe was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator who could hatch a half-formed notion produced it to the public; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.” -Dr. Johnson “I believe these are the days of lasers in the jungle, lasers in the jungle somewhere, staccato signals of constant information a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires, and baby these are the days of miracle and wonder, this is the long-distance call, the way the camera follows us in slo-mo, the way we look to us all, oh yeah, the way we look to a distant constellation that’s dying in a corner of the sky, these are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry baby don’t cry. Paul Simon
Once again we’re staring it right in the face.
SXSW is about to ramp up.
Our streams will explode and our various media will bloat. For an entire week there’ll an endless parade of hype which will revolve around new companies that have the half life of a cheap isotope. Sure, there’s cool moments like the congressman who was so clueless he sent the festival a registered letter and last year’s keynote by Bruce Sterling was pretty damned amazing, but despite all that you do wind up with lots and lots of hurt feelings.
Speaking of your age and your credit score being the same number …
Before the sun came up last Tuesday morning Mom presented me with two facts as I was making coffee. 1. The most famous daddy blogger of them all had died. 2. Per her further reading on Mr. Miller she found that one no longer is a stay-at-home parent, instead one is a parent blogger. As Mom said, “See? You were ahead of your time again! You stayed home and you had 367,152,459 blogs!”
That number might be a single percentage point or two high, but otherwise accurate.
For those of you just tuning in – 10 or so years ago I was the only hairy, smelly, mommy blogger who needed a shave. Back then there were only mommy bloggers and the oddity known as the stay-at-home dad. Back then you didn’t claim another title like daddy or mommy blogger. You focused on the the daily routine rather than claiming that your avocation was documenting each and every twitch or hiccup your child made. Back then – as has been pointed out here before – parent blogging was never a long-term affair. Sooner or later kiddie soccer leagues are joined and that is, as they say, that. Which is why the culverts and the frontage roads of the Infobahn are overrun with rusting and abandoned parent blogs.
Too bad really as it gets far more interesting as you go along. Case in point – this was the week where we watched Alaska Wolf Joe (formerly Mr. Man) drag ever stitch of bedclothes he has across the living room. It took a few trips and after a long silence we heard the washing machine start. Shortly thereafter he emerged and announced, “I am washing my sheets for the first time in months. I am going to rise up out of the state in which I found myself – not unlike a 19th-Century, tubercular, Russian poet, encompassed by gloom and lying in my own filth!”
I don’t know about you, but that beats the hell out of “I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH!!!”
Why stop parent blogging now?
It’s just getting interesting.
At that point Mom once again added, “You were ahead of your time.”
Yes, but only by default.
This is a point that’s been driven home more than a few times in the past year as I’ve been forced to explore the mystery that is the luddite nature of people roughly my age. I’ve met people in their late 60s who are digital audio and Photoshop wizards. I’ve even run into people in the 70s who are designing web sites. But for some odd reason there’s something about those of us who barely stuck our toes into the Murder-She-Wrote demographic that I just cannot understand.
Two examples –
– Completely out of the blue a guy from my high school graduating class sent me an email last summer. He hadn’t been in touch and I hadn’t had any contact with him in at least 30 years, but his kid found a magazine article that I was supposedly mentioned in. The email was very long as he had copied and pasted the whole damn article. While I was giving it quick scan to see if it tested positive for being tl;dr my email notifications said he sent yet another email. This one read, “My daughter is helping me with this email. She said I shouldn’t have sent what I sent and I was to send you this. She will fix it for me now.” Below that was a link to the previously copied and pasted article.
This from a man with a phd.
From an Ivy League school.
And an AOL account.
Which isn’t to say that he got lucky and the kid was home doing a load of washing which lead him to hollering down the basement stairs, “SWEETIE CAN YOU COME HELP DADDY WITH THE EMAIL?“
– More recently I was contacted by some one I used to work with, 54, who insists on staying in touch. He bought some whiz-bang $500 vape pen which he said up and quit working. As I seem to be his tech guru he asked if I could come over and have a look. Upon arrival he handed me something the size of a shoe box that contained the pen, two software cd’s, a very large owner’s manual, and a variety of cables. Poking a finger at the cables he said, “I think this is for overseas … gray market.” Then he plucked out one cable, and added, “I think some one busted off a piece of this one.”
I told him it was a USB connector.
He studied it for a long while and finally said, “Ahhh … Russian…”
“So like, I can get something at Radio Shack to make it work?”
Sadly the vape pen was the most expensive thing in the room. Life for the guy is largely his ancient dirty couch and a coffee table featuring a mostly empty jar of peanut butter with a spoon sticking out of it, half a bag of marshmallows, and an aging bong. In discussing this some one asked, “So what does his wife think of all that?”
OK – so a young woman Alaska Wolf Joe knows once told me that I would never understand post-structuralist feminism because I am a man. Which is true on at least one count, but despite that I have reason to believe that the decor described doesn’t exactly evoke images of June and Ward Cleaver’s home much less anything any woman in her right mind would want to live in. More to the point – the wife took off over a dozen years ago. She met a guy who had both a steady job and a short list of vices which did not include a penchant for – what was then – illicit substances. As Mr. Vape Pen said of his ex, “She liked to talked all the time and she said this guy listened to her and if she asked a question he had like answers. Like he heard her ‘n stuff!”
Be that as it may – I seem to be the tech guru for those people in their 50s who have matured to the point that they are now using their brand new AARP card to clean the seeds and stems.
Imagine my joy.
If I had to give it a reason maybe I achieved an arrested stage of development at my uncle’s house eons ago. He had a 20-year supply of Popular Mechanics in the garage. At any given time he brought about two year’s worth into his family room. I used to read those endlessly and think how great it would be to live in the future and have a whole life revolving around what’s going to come next. Sure, we don’t have flying cars or the Pan-Am clipper to the moon, but my phone does more than Cap’n Kirk’s communicator and my stereo is an Bose Bluetooth speaker and my old iPhone.
And the fidelity is better than any component stereo I ever owned.
Be that as it may – while I go off to once again wonder if I will ever be able to grasp post-structuralist feminism, please feel free to watch this short film about parenting which I am pretty sure has nothing to do with post-structuralist feminism.
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.” – Raymond Chandler
“The LA Times called me a renaissance detective, Sportello. A renaissance detective. Chotto, Kenichiro, Dozo! Motto panukeiku… motto panukeiku! MOTTO PANUKEIKU!” LAPD Lt. Det. Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen
“This is the city. Los Angeles, California. I work here… I carry a badge. It was Tuesday, February 9. It was raining in Los Angeles. We were working bunko, my partner’s Bill Gannon, the boss is Captain Spaulding.” LAPD Sgt. Joe Friday
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Dr. Johnson
Nineteen weeks of professional football ending with a Super Bowl loss left behind a collective emotional morass that was not tempered by the early arrival of spring here in The Great North Woods. That left us with little choice but to travel to Los Angeles if for no other reason than to keep our cultural-anthropologist credentials in proper working order. On the short-shank end we were once again reminded of how low the bar is set when it comes to what constitutes a SoCal rain storm and how one celebrity sighting is all you need to remember we are all aging in place. On the other end of the spectrum we discovered that LA and The Great North Woods are now trying to be a good example of what Obi-won meant when he said to Qui-gon, “Look Master, symbiotes!”
Where to begin? – Outsourcing Your Cool Factor
The bar menu at the LAX Hilton features an entire section of Portland beers. The one I chose is not strictly a Portland beer, but it’s close enough. Earlier in the day Alaska Wolf Joe had sniffed out a coffee place off Gower near Roscoe’s which claimed to be a fully authentic Portland-style coffee place. Certainly the place was decorated minimally enough, and sure, it had lots of vinyl records lying around, but the staff dressed like most of the girls I went to high school with (i.e. elephant bells, platform shoes, and a denim shirt tied at the waist) and there was enough persistent sun streaming through the windows to ruin the overall effect.
Los Angeles was the city who gave us Valentino, Bogart, James Dean, and Jim Morrison. Los Angeles was the city that took on New York City to see who could manufacture the cool.
Guess that’s Portland’s job. – A Momentary Lapse in Good Judgement
Goddam Portland. It was bad enough when the Yelp reviews said the best vegan food in Portland was at the strip clubs, now they leapfrogged over us again with their brand new openly bisexual governor.
This is all the goddam football team’s fault. All that Super Bowl nonsense let the uncool people feel good about themselves. Years and years and years of keeping the hoi polloi in check with an endless assault of music, poetry slams, and craft beers was all for nothing. Lately life here is all about wearing NFL authorized merchandise and sucking on bright colorful hard candy. You don’t see that in LA because they know the truth and the truth (below) is something you can’t buy in Seattle.
That, the aging child star, and a man intent on eating an entire lemon meringue pie while sitting on the hood of his car were all at the Ralph’s off Ventura in Studio City.
We used to have a serious A-game when it came to weird.
Fucking 12th Man. Gravitas Defined –
Fact checking the alleged selection of Portland beers at the Hilton proved to be harder than it looked. The lounge has a series of very large tables which everyone shares while I seemed to be the only singleton in the room. The balance of the place were couples who shared one thing in common – one spoke English and the other didn’t. (OK maybe a little.) The couple nearest me was a chipper young woman with a British accent who was very enthusiastically talking about her trip to this year’s Davos conference. Her partner was a man with an indiscernible accent who sucked on her fingers as she talked. Not that she minded, in fact you’d think that Euro Squeeze was sitting there, looking her in the eye, and tossing off the occasional, “How interesting!” for all the difference it made. Instead he kept sucking and smacking and coming up for air now and then with a “Oh … oh… jessssss” or “I hammm lissssening to you … slurp…smack (drool) smack… slurp… smack… (yummy noise).
The New Yorker made the case that Inherent Vice was really a Tom and Jerry cartoon. While I’m still thinking about that one I have no doubt that was I was sitting next to a human reenactment of Pepe LePew’s Greatest Hits. – Chivalry’s Evolving Nature
On the plane ride home we seemed to be the only people who had not recently been subjected to that crime against humanity known as The Team Building Session. As we arrived in the boarding area it became obvious that we were the only people not wearing bright blue long-sleeve t-shirts with some sort of company logo. Once on the plane we noticed that the back of the shirts mentioned the Washington and Oregon cities where all these folks were from. Not one city in the batch cracked the 15K mark for population, but that didn’t keep the 50+ souls from giving out a big company cheer when the stewardess welcomed them over the PA system. I had the aisle seat next to two of them so I asked what it was all about. They were a couple who owned a home furnishings franchise and their district had won some kind of award so they were feted with a trip to LA for a week long team building exercise.
The Lord giveth.
The Lord taketh away.
Without a trace of irony or humor the husband said, “We were real worried about comin’ down here, what with the gangs in cars full of guns.”
His wife, who was suffering from sort of high yield head cold tried to talk. Between bringing up huge wads of phlegm she got out, “Didn’t see … no… prostitutes…either!”
Hubby jumped in and asked, “Is that what th’ gangs do, drive around with guns to protect their prostitutes?”
I smiled and said, you’re thinking of Orange County.
Speaking of that… – Who’s the Thought Leader of the Club That’s Made for You and Me?
This was the week when we learned that Foreign Policy magazine was not only interested in discovering Francis Fukuyama’s influence on Iggy Azelea’s career, FP was also intent on running a picture of Ms. Azelea singing into another woman’s butt.
While Ms. A is a few years older than our own Alaska Wolf Joe, they are both Millenials, and they see the world as Ben Jonson wrote,”Helter skelter, very much hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman.” Perhaps it’s their young age that makes their worldview seem more diffused or perhaps it’s our worldview that expect greater consistency. In either case I was subject to a lengthy Alaska Wolf Joe lecture all the way down La Cienega about the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland is not only colonialist, but a sin against human intelligence by being nothing more than “dumbed down Conrad.” Not wanting to be told, “Mr. Goofy, he dead.” AWJ decided to hang out at the youth hostel in Venice where he explained American police brutality to Germans in exchange for a Pabst.
Prior to going our separate ways he did ask us to see if the Hall of Great Americans in the animatronic Abe Lincoln display on Disney’s Main Street had taken down their Hannah Montana posters.
Animatronic Lincoln was a bit of a family joke. When Alaska Wolf Joe was young we’d go to Disneyland and each time Animatronic Abe was out of service. Then a couple of years ago we were there and – at long last – Royal Dano’s voice was once again synched up with Disney Magic. Leaving the performance you get to walk past the portraits of great Americans. The first one you came to was the big smiling face of Miley Cyrus as that Disney Channel favorite, Hannah Montana. This time we skipped Abe and went straight to the gallery where we found that the Hannah Montana poster had been replaced with a large portrait of Bob Hope entertaining the troops.
Putting some thought to the matter – it’s the obvious safe choice. Hope is dead and not likely to tarnish his image. Even if he were alive I’m not sure anyone would care that a 115 year-old man would look straight into the camera and say, “HEY how ’bout that Miley Cyrus, huh? Isn’t she somethin’! rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr The other day I saw her at the recording studio and I had to ask her, ‘Hey Miley, twerkin’ hard or hardly twerkin’?'”
While Cyrus and her fellow Mouse alum, Lindsay Lohan have been banished from The Magic Kingdom and made non-persons in a way that would have made Khruchev and Brezhnev collectively blush (pardon that term) AWJ’s much derided Jungle Boat ride is being rehabilitated. The attacking hippos are now shoo’d away and the threatening natives have been reduced to jokes about old paramours. The rhino that chased the natives up a pole is now referred to as the guys who discovered a unicorn named Gwendolyne. Our captain, the best I’ve encountered in years, asked us to wave and blow kisses at Gwendolyne so she’d let those poor men comes down from that pole.
Despite that, this man blew no kisses, which brings us to our last point. – Maybe You and That Selfie Stick Should Get a Room
Those of you who’ve been on the Jungle Boat ride know the ins and outs of getting on and off the boat. While he stayed with his party through the line, his party gave him lots and lots of room just prior to boarding so he and the stick could have some quality time together. Perfectly understandable as it’s the good kind- a wi-fi remote stick. Not that the stick did much for his constant fidgeting and fussing. The man was just a whirlwind of preparation during the two minutes prior to launch.
My only hope is that Gwendolyne will find some one who loves her as much as that guy love his stick…. no wait …
My only hope is that Gwendolyne will find some one who loves her as much as LA loves the selfie.
Made no difference where we were – Ralph’s, Disneyland, waiting to get a table at a restaurant, coffee joints, hotel lobbies, parking garages – you name it. People were constantly taking selfies. That’s a far cry from the days when your Aunt Rose would take a few snapshots, have ’em run off at the drug store, and then stick ’em in a drawer to yellow and crack. Now everyone makes love to the camera and everyone is a photographer. Long ago and far away that sort of thing was left to the professionals – the people who took the pictures and the people who got paid to be in those very pictures.
But that’s all gone now.
And these women are all grandmothers.
“Television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the program materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production, and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programs, but can be discharged only through the highest standards of respect for the American home, applied to every moment of every program presented by television.Program materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer, provide him with wholesome entertainment, afford helpful stimulation, and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has toward his society.” – Newton Minnow
“All media work us over completely.” – Marshall McLuhan
There’s something that need to be said and there is no way to run it out in some kind of nice-nice way or even shrouded in a mess of euphemisms so it’s just going to be said:
Your tv watching is raising blisters on my ass.
This week alone your underpants wadded themselves up and crawled into up your butt because Ashely Banfield ran out some dubious punctuation in a story about a certain disease that has spread across part of Africa. One little question mark on tv and everybody thinks th’ ISIS is coming to give everybody th’ ebola. One little squiggle at the end of a tv graphic and we’re all living in fear when all you have to do is check out this one-step quiz to find out that once again tv has scared you needlessly.
Now that we got that out of the way – do you know what you really have to fear on tv?
The likelihood that some ISIS guy is going to kill you by going door to door with the plague is far, far smaller than Guy Fieri leading you into to some joint that’s going to put you in the market for a bypass.
Come on – you know how this works. GUY FIERI: Today we’re at Spin and Marti’s Ranchhouse off the frontage road to see how Marti makes her world famous Hangover Cure. Let’s have a look. MARTI: We start with some salt pork, we rub that down with butter… GF: a little salt, a little pepper… M: Yeah, then we let that sit in a can of lard overnight…
(dissolve to can coming out of deep freeze) GF: See that nice sheen from the lard, MAN! M: Next we roll the whole thing in Cap’n Crunch… GF: a little salt… a little pepper… M: Then straight to the deep fryer. GF: OH MAN! That’s gonna crisp up and brown so nice, are we done then? M: No, we take that out, we get a big handful of shredded cheese that’s been soaking in canola oil, cover the whole thing, and stick it in the broiler for a couple of minutes… GF: (mugs for camera) Then you plate that up and what’s that over here? M: On the side we have a stick of butter smothered in powdered sugar.
How good is it?
We’ll never know. Between Fieri’s yummy noises and his constant habit of talking with his drooly mouth full we have no idea. We’re only left to interpret, “OHHmunnnn, vat’s fohfff fuh vlook!!” Sure his eyes roll back in his head and he acts like he wants you to scratch his tummy every time he takes a bite, but we’ll never know. Meanwhile you think the ebola is going to get you when Guy Fieri is right there in plain sight running a terror campaign against your arteries.
I only know about Mr. Fieri’s adventures because the cable company keeps offering me a few cable channels here and there despite my ongoing efforts to only pay for their rock-bottom package. They give me little freebies hoping that I’ll join the rest of you and cough up $95 extra a month so I can watch that goddam Game of Domes nobody wants to shut up about. All I have to say to that is that Game of Domes better be $95 more interesting than this if the cable people want me to get in line with the rest of you.
Beyond watching that three or four times while I was posting this I gotta wonder, why do all these people feel the need to stick up for their favorite tv shows like their lives depended on it? Around the 4th of July this guy I know buttonholed me and had to talk about his favorite show. He got all wound up, and like Guy Fieri, his eyes started to roll back in his head and he got all drooly, “OK, OK,” he says, “so there’s this town and everybody in the town is trapped under this giant invisible dome!!”
You mean like the Simpsons movie?
There was a buzz squelcher. In that instant his mouth dried up and he discovered that not all revelations are wonderful uplifting things. He kinda went all blank so I was spared having to tell him why I wasn’t watching tv the night before.
I was at Mudhoney, motherfucker.
Seriously amazing black-box venue, barely holds 100 people, 90 degrees outside, 115 degrees inside – I’m stuck in a corner with a bunch of German tourists who threw their hands in the air and yelled, “JA! JA! JA!” every time they heard a song they like. Meanwhile the band keeps up a steady 96 db attack because God knows it’s hard to get the sound to cover all 60 feet of that space. Afterwards I’m out on the sidewalk talking to some guys I know (all the the same ballpark age-wise) when this kid who looks to be all of 25 walks up. His eyes were wider than Dresden China saucers and in this real Mr. First Nighter voice he says, “Was Steve Turner here tonight? Oh yes he was! Did he play his guitar? Oh yes he did!” Then he walked right into the middle of the street and banged away on the hood of a car waiting at the stop light like he was playing a cheap set of bongos.
And that’s another reason why you should shut off the tv and get out of the house – you learn things.
Until that very moment I had no idea that there was DMT-flavored meth.
Telling this tale to some one I knew, her first response was, “Really? Why didn’t you say anything on Facebook?”
Oh fuck Facebook!
My central news feed looks like the bastard child of TV Guide and the April 1953 edition of The Ladies Home Journal. The goddam thing is nothing but what’s on tv tonight and people constantly making what Mom calls “nice-nice.” If I hear the words, “So true.” one more time I’m gonna puke. That’s why if I said as much as one word about my post-show encounter with Junior Ibocaine you’d hear the screaming for miles around and there would be bloomers further up asses than if Ashley Banfield screwed up the punctuation on a tidal wave. Once, once, just ONCE I would love nothing better that to look at my Facebook page and see that some one strap a GoPro to his and/or her head and ski down the side of a mountain pass, dodge a couple of semis on the way down, and yell “BOO-YAH!” at the end.
Is that too much to ask?
Look, while I have a huge problem with your viewing habits I’ve got nothing against tv in general. I watch it all the time for research and educational purposes. Currently I’m testing a theory that health management in this country would take a quantum leap forward if we rounded up all those people who tell Guy Fieri, “OHHH we love this place! We eat here allllll the time!” and ask them the question we used to reserve solely for Keith Richards, “So why aren’t you dead yet?”
Also, Mom and I have learned so, so much while watching Starsky and Hutch reruns. We now know all about walk-in bathtubs, slim-fit adult diapers, mail order catheters, and a cell phone so good that it’s only sold at Sears. We’ve also learned that when it comes to buying funeral insurance America’s trusts Morgan Fairchild to help us make that choice.
No, really – Morgan Fairchild.
I’m so goddam old that I can remember when that woman could burn toast at ten paces. For decades the tv executives of America used to stick her on the tube in a slinky dress fully confident that the men of America would throw their hands in the air and yell, “JA! JA! JA!” the second they saw her.
Where were we?
Oh yeah, I have run out some of this post in bits and pieces here and there. People always said the same thing, “That’s kinda rant-y. Do you really want people to hear you talking all rant-y like that?”
I’m fifty-fucking-seven years old, this is how I’m supposed to be talking.
Now watch this before you turn on the tv.
There will be a quiz.
“The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate; those soft intervals of unbended amusement, in which a man shrinks to his natural dimensions, and throws aside the ornaments or disguises which he feels in privacy to be useless incumbrances, and to lose all effect when they become familiar. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.” Dr.Johnson
“When I said ‘that is, I am a mind, or intelligence, or intellect or reason’, what I meant by these terms was not mere faculties, but things endowed with the faculty of thought. This is what the first two terms are commonly taken to mean by everyone; and the second two are often understood in this sense. I stated this point so explicitly, and in so many places, that it seems to me there was no room for doubt.” Rene Decartes
This is the week that brought a whole new meaning to the old phrase, “You’re one sick puppy.”
More importantly this is the week where I came upon a new mantra. Not that I was looking for one, but it arrived at the door a couple of nights ago. We’d ordered a pizza and when I got to the door the delivery guy said loudly, “YOU ARE HAVING A GOOD EVENING!!” While I hadn’t thought about it his greeting caught me off guard. After a quick moment of composing my thoughts I said, “Why yes, yes I am! Thank you for noticing, here is a generous tip my good friend!”
At this point some of you are saying, “You’re taking advice from the pizza delivery guy now?”
Hey, it’s not like he’s some punk kid. Everybody at the only place that delivers to our house came from a Warsaw Pact nation. Not of one of ’em started life in this country. They been places. They’ve seen things. That guy managed to get out while the rest of his family had to stay behind and tie sailor knots in Yulia Tymoshenko’s hairdo*. Make no mistake – that’s no small feat.
That man has travelled halfway around the globe. He’s seen and experienced things you and I never will and if he says I’m having a good evening then goddamit I am – in fact – having one. damn. fine. evening. Thankyouverymuch.
Now I will grant you the possibility that I am overcompensating for the shitty week that proceeded the pizza guy arriving with my new mantra. Several days prior to ordering a pizza the slop storm started – multiple postcards arrived in the mail announcing my impending high school reunion. Those were followed by a phone call from some one named Cindy, who, between audible drags on a cigarette, said, “Yeah, the kid is 41 next week so we figured this must be our 40th class reunion.” While I was busy doing the math on that one she went on, “We got some great skits planned, better ‘n th’ skits from last time. Wanna be in a skit?”
At that point I was about to inform her that the word ‘skit’, as far as all Scandinavian-Americans are concerned, is the filthiest of all the four-letter words. If you’ve ever gone fishing with us then you’d think we invented the conventional and more often used s-bomb, but skit? That one makes our flesh crawl. But before I could bring her up to speed on her lack of cultural sensitivity she opened fire again, “Me ‘n Ed still got the shop. ‘Member Ed?”
“Had the shop for 30 years, still goin’ strong even if Ed don’t get around good after his ass got wide…”
At that point the Cindy person either trailed off in an coughing fit or hung up. I was prepared to compliment her on three decades despite Mao’s many predictions that capitalism should have failed us all by now. Not that I’ll ever know because letting the line go dead seemed to be the best of all possible options. What the Cindy person really didn’t want to hear is that I won’t be coming and it all comes down to two things, both of which take far too long to explain over the phone.
Buckle up, we’re going the long way around the park. REASON 1: Inez and/or Debbie
Sometimes you can suddenly and unexpectedly receive a homeopathic dose of a thing. That was pretty much the case 25 years ago when I was sitting on the couch one evening quietly watching televised baseball while Mom was at work. At the time we lived in an apartment that had a sliding glass door that faced out onto a closed courtyard. Since it was summer the sliding door was pulled back so the evening breeze could come through the screen. That’s why it was more than a little alarming when all of a sudden a guy in a suit and tie appeared at the screen door and said, “Are you Matt E. Hallenn…”
Jalankulkija – be Zen with it, just say it, don’t think about the vowels or you’ll hurt something.
“Do you know an Inez Lacosta?”
“Do you know some one named Deborah Gunther?”
I went to school with a Debbie Gunther.
“Did you two date in high school?”
If by “dating” you mean sitting around the Dairy Queen and grunting at what the other one mumbled, then yeah, we were “dating.” Mostly it was passing time during those uncomfortable years where neither one of us had adequately sussed out the workings of the opposite sex yet. The balance of that thought went off the end of the cliff as completely out of nowhere he produced on of those gargantuan devices which at the time was called a handheld cellular phone and began punching the buttons. After a couple of seconds he waved the five-plus pounds of Motorola circuitry at me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”
Seconds after I hoisted the contraption up a voice same on the line, “Matti? Matti? Matti Matti Maaaahhhtiiii!!!!!”
“It’s me Inez, ‘member me?”
The guy in my living room says you’re really Debbie.
“Oh I used to be Debbie before Brother Dick renamed me. Why haven’t you tried to look me up?”
You went in the Peace Corps, remember, and then no one heard from you again?
“I never made it to the Peace Corps. I only got as far as Aspen and that’s when I met Brother Dick. I lived in his commune for 12 years, we had an amazing view of the Maroon Bells.” For a couple of seconds after she was drowned out by some mechanical noise on the line. She came back on, “Sorry, that’s Roderigo, we’re refinishing a Corvair…” there was yelling in the background, “Sorry, a Corvette Corvair! We’re doing that in our garage! We have a house! In Pueblo!”
I shared with her my father’s wisdom that we all gotta live somewhere. Undaunted she moved on, “But you didn’t try to find me or look me up, you were supposed to find me. Everybody knows you’re supposed to find your first boyfriend or girlfriend after you leave high school. Why didn’t you try to find me?”
Once again I was bitten squarely in the ass by the unwritten rules of high school. After making a mental note to find some one who was popular in high school and getting him or her to write the rules down I told her that if we set aside her sudden, unexpected, and unannounced move to Aspen – for even a moment – there was the small matter of most of us just getting on with our lives. She took that in and followed with, “OK, OK, I get that … sorta … you couldn’t have phoned me me because Brother Dick said we all had to make choices and the first choice was whether we wanted to use the pool or electricity.”
Brother … yeah… Sensing that I’d probably missed the middle innings of the game I decided to cut this off before we got to the seventh inning stretch so I gave out a marginally jovial and nearly enthusiastic, “Glad to hear you’re out there and alive. I’ll tell my wife and the cat you called.”
Jimminy fucking Christmas was that a poor choice of words.
Immediately the hollering started burning up the line, “YOUR WHAT? YOUR WHAT? YOU GOT MARRIED? WHO PUT THAT IDEA IN YOUR HEAD? WHO GOT TO YOU? WHO GOT TO YOU? WHO IN THE HELL GOT TO YOU?” Holding the phone off my ear Private Dick motioned that he needed a pen. I walked across the room to the desk, found one in the drawer, and handed it to him while Inez/Debbie continued to yell ” WHERE DID YOU GET THAT? WHO GOT TO YOU?”
Private Dick opened a small spiral notebook and with one stroke of the pen drew a line across the page. It can be reasonably assumed that the line was right through my name. He motioned to get the phone back and hung up for me and motioned me over to look at a piece of paper that was wedged in the back of the notebook. At the top of the piece of paper was the word HAUIKU and below it was the word “die” written 17 times in a perfectly ordered horizontal column. Private Dick asked, “You know anything about this? Is this about you?”
After considering the piece of paper for a few moments I said, “Well.. it is a haiku as the commas break the 17 into a group of five, then a group of seven, and finally another group of five. About me? I dunno. You know, Debbie lived in Aspen for a very, very long time.”
That’s when his face took on a look that said his consciousness was no longer in the room. He took on the look of a man who had just had a revelation. The arduous client meetings, the phone calls, the task of schlepping around the goddam minimalist haiku, it all made sense now. Had it been 25 years later I would have shared my new mantra, YOU ARE HAVING A GOOD EVENING! with him as he looked like he could have used it. A minute or so went by and as he came back into the present moment he said, “If I hurry I can catch a plane to Duluth. Here’s you pen.”
I waved him off and let him keep it because when it comes to ballpoint pens I am my own best animist. On the low end a ballpoint’s mission is to permanently burn the name and phone number of a chiropractor into your brain. On the high end you’re just asking for trouble. That man had been in the presence of Inez/Debbie, Roderigo, and God knows who else and that meant he was carrying some of the crazy which lived solely in her circles. If I took then pen back then I’d be taking ownership of some of that crazy and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that happen.
Speaking of crazy. 2. HIGH SCHOOL EPISTEMOLOGY.
In high school it was generally believed I was incapable of original thought. Put another way, the conventional wisdom stated that I thought what other people told me to think or I would only parrot what I had seen in print. Day after day the question “Where did you get that?” came up over and over and over. Now and then they’d break it up with an occasional, “You can’t possible believe that.” For those years I was merely a mishmash of unexplored feelings and deeply repressed honesty that lead me to being little more than a playback device for others peoples statements and/or thoughts. After high school it never came up again. In fact in all these years of marriage the only time Mom has ever asked, “Where did you get that?” came during the apex of the ‘zine years and the answer was usually, Tower Books. She has never questioned my ability to reason for myself and she allows for the fact that I will have my own ideas and I can have all the ideas I want as long as I keep them to myself.
So why would I want to travel over 1500 miles to have a philosophical discussion that I really don’t want to have when I can stay home and watch more televised baseball while the summer breeze comes through the living room?
Not that the reunion people have given up on me despite my lack of a RSVP. Cindy turned up on my voicemail yesterday with a question, “You wanna play the music at the reunion? All I got is an offer from Sonny Paturzo, but he says he’ll only bring his Bachman-Turner records.”
Sonny, if memory serves, is a devoted scholar of such things and should be encouraged. As far as the dj gig is concerned he should have it. As The Perfesser likes to say, The Buddha said there are 500 paths to enlightenment, but he gave no specifics. Applying that logic to this situation then who are we to say that Sonny trying to become one with his collection of BTO first editions is not one of those paths?
Godspeed Sonny, play those records proudly, and when you do remember – YOU ARE HAVING A GOOD EVENING!!