Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Slay bells ring, are you listenin'?

As the holiday season has come to be the winter of our discontent (yeah, Richard III--didn’t think I’d forgot Willie the Shake, did you?), I have decided to pay less attention to the press and its blandishments, and survey the mood from the loftier, if not imperial, heights of Art.

Ok—so I went to the movies.

This is an occasion as much because there is very little I or mi espousa find all that interesting in general release, and as for the indie world? Feh. Indifference comes with the fact that worn carbons make for indistinct clich├ęs and that the trend towards same is a drawback on the casual plunk-down of $15 (minimum) for 2 hours of pre-digested formula with 20-30+ minutes of earsplitting commercials. (More on that later.) Not to beat around the bush any longer, it was the appearance of three flicks with end-of-the-known-world themes which piqued my interest.

The first was “Zombieland”, which under normal circumstance, no amount of discount would have otherwise induced me to attend. It was entirely due to the intervention of my nizzo, DMVP, who lent me a pirated DVD copy he’d purchased au naturel off a blanket in the underground. I have seen many before that were excellent, but this was exactly what all the ads were warning you about. Someone set up a camera in the back of a theater, pointed it at the screen and just taped and burned what it was, with no attempt to augment or enhance the ambient audio (which included the sound of the cameraman’s sleeve over the condenser mike only at the very beginning.)

Then there was the passion mi espousa has for anything with Vigo Mortgenstern in it. Alternately, Cormac McCarthy is one of those writers I admit I’d admired from afar; that is to say: I’d like to say I’d read him, hadn’t. However, after the amazing “No Country For Old Men”, it was pretty hard not to miss the reviews of his book “The Road”, described as his most harrowing work in a c.v. that already has enough blood and guts to compare with Peckinpaugh on a bad day. So, the film version wasn’t exactly my cup of holiday nog, if you know what I mean.

And neither would be the ultimate disaster flick of the moment, “2012”. The tv spots seemed to offer all the dramatic equivalent of a trip to Six Flags. (“More Destruction! More Fun!”—which may be too local a reference…) I had also seen a few clips of John Cusak defending his choice of leading man rather sheepishly, as if to say: Hey, being an Indie fave is all well and good, but you gotta pay the bills too. My mea culpa is: after items one and two...sheer curiosity.

So, codicils and drawbacks aside, there is something to be said for this serendipitous alignment of the dark matter, and here it is.

The appearance of Woody Harrelson in the first and the last is no coincidence. For some time now he has represented some figure on the fringe of the national consciousness. The wild-eyed stare of gonzo is his speciality; the kind of madness that brooks no compromise. (And, yes, I know he does subtle roles as well, but this is dealing with his almost type-casting as an over-the-top extremist.) In “Zombieland”, you have a world (“two months since patient zero took a bite out of a burger at a Gas 'N' Gulp") perfectly suited to someone for whom the rules have never applied, one which is now the equivalent of a free-fire zone for mayhem and slaughter. It then becomes significant that his character establishes himself before you even see his face, driving a Cadillac Escalade with a snowplow front, weaving amongst the abandoned vehicles on some interstate like the Grim Reaper in an SUV. But it is the tell-tale sign of the Number 3, crudely painted on the door (and repeated later on a HumVee) which signals, to the cogniscienti, that he is a follower of the cult of the king of the stock car racers, the late Dale Earnhart—“The Intimidator”. Even though the nerd-protagonist, Columbus, is the narrator (with his “rules” that float upon the screen whenever in a situation of possible danger arises), it is Tallahassee who gives the story its organizing principle. So then, firmly grounded in a kind of redneck defiance of conventions and a love of arbitrary violence (like choosing to off the flesh-eaters by banjo, bat, shears and even, unnecessarily, an open car door), what follows allows for the gallow’s humor to take over what has been a staple of sheer terror-mongering ever since “Night of The Living Dead” in 1966. Black comedy is usually limited to drawing room plays, like “The Truth About Harry” (Hitchcock’s only foray into the genre) or “Arsenic and Old Lace” or such, wherein death is treated more as a guest who has overstayed his welcome. Not to give anything away (as if it matters) but it is such that, on their cross country peregrination that they stop in Beverly Hills to pay homage to a great star by visiting his mansion. That star is Bill Murray playing himself. And playing himself playing a zombie—with stage make-up (“I like to blend in...just corn starch, a little berries, some licorice for the ladies…”) to make himself look like a zombie because, “it suits my lifestyle. I like to get out and do stuff...” With zombies. Right. And that he could also die a comic death only underscores the levity.

Nothing could be further from this than sitting in the theater for “The Road”. The apocalypse that this is post- is never specifically ID’ed. In an interview, McCarthy has speculated that it sounds like, to friends of his in a high-level think-tank study group he hangs out with, a possible result of meteor showers. This is what gives an unrelieved gray cast to everything: dun brown, ashen, an eternal twilight. The unnamed man and his boy are on a journey to “the coast” and “south” in hopes of finding someplace not completely dead. The Grim Reaper here is completely grim, and made worse by the few remaining member of our species who have, in order to survive, descended into cannibalism. This is the end we fear the most, and with good reason; to be thought of as nothing more than meat? And by beings that are capable of that thought? And who we may regard as the same as well? It not only boggles the mind, it destroys it. The terror then is amplified by the knowledge that every encounter with others is a competition for food and that other threat as well, but also that the focus of the story is a father trying to save a young son, one who has never known another world than this, and thus must always be viewed through the eyes of innocence. This amps it into another zone: no threat is greater; no stakes greater. Even the few moments of tenderness or humanity are then tinged with fear as well, never knowing when this basic economic necessity may crop up.

To round it out, thrill-rides are well known by now to sell popcorn in buckets and sodas in gallon-cups. There is little else we can expect, or even should. But there are a few which have, at least, some semblance of scientific reality about them, conforming physical laws, and offering more than cardboard cut-outs for CGI to play out around. This isn’t, exactly, the worst one I’ve ever seen. But its close. The first 40 minutes are the introduction of primary and secondary characters (most of the latter killed off for effect, as you guessed from the moment they entered the picture), then comes the carnage, as advertised. Cusak is the divorced father who has written a rather unsuccessful sci-fi novel (which sold 400 copies and sounds like that was a stretch) and becomes privy to the auguries on a camping trip with his adorable children in Yellowstone. This is where he meets Woody. Introduced as a wild-eyed, pickle-munching prophet of doom, this sets him up as a cross between Art Bell (the famed overnight UFO-ologist/conspiracy theory talk radio legend) and one of the Black Israelites who quote scripture over bullhorns in Times Square. Being off his rocker but only just, he is also privy to the secret information of “the End” AND the governmental conspiracy to save a few remnants of the species from it. You are not supposed to ask any more questions, ok? Not, why do the cell phones work when there are no more repeater towers? Not, oh—so the survival is going to begin in Africa after the plates stop shifting….and there’s going to be no dust cloud from all those volcanoes spewing earth and dust into the atmosphere? Not, why is CNN covering quakes in South America when California has just slid into the Pacific? Not, how much product placement can you feature in a catastrophe before people begin to associate your brand with a disaster? Any more examination would do a disservice to logic. Suffice it to say, the last 30 minutes…well, the black guy sitting across the aisle from me summed it up well, during one impassioned speech, muttering, under his breath “oh niggah, pleeze…”

Yup.

But one more thing. The volume levels for the pre-show commercials--just way way to bury the needle in the red. And the selection? One for the National Guard to that Carl Orff "O Fortuna"-type over-the-top exhorted-chorus to jump cuts of uniforms in Power Ranger stances, all re-enforcing the holy warrior subliminal message (or maybe it was also those "Avatar" previews). The one for this Glenn Beck X-mas story so indescribable I really don't want to recall it. (But who would go to this thing? In Manhattan? I fail to see the market.) Gad. When did someone get the brilliant idea that you could sell things to a captive audience and it wouldn't actually alienate them from your product? It makes TCM feel like paradise.

(Move it along.)

Point is, this is IT, folks. Nada. Zip City. The Big Zero at the end of the Zeros. The Last Gas For...(nah, I can't stretch it that far.) Outside of "2012", none of them really reference The Rapture and the whole Book of Revelations just blends into backstory. There is no "On The Beach" civility or "going to meet your maker" jazz, nor bitter, rueful irony. The only values that anyone possesses, common in all three, are that we really do treasure our links to each other. "What a piece of work is man," said the Bard, and he's still got the goods on us. Sure, he was speaking from an ethnocentric viewpoint of Anglo-European domination of international commerce and geo-political territorial possessions, but it wasn't wrong then or now. This is what endures. And yeah, all three use family as a focus for this, which in one is an iron compact with Life, in another pretty cheap; and in the last another plot device. Still, what need for morals or faith or social behavior? Really? Yes, I would prefer the Man and his Boy of "The Road" because they are real...but in reality, I don't think I'd be around long in that story. And the Epicalypse? Hey, I've never won Lotto, what's the likelihood I'll get a plane in the nick of time? But why am I looking for myself in these final curtains? It actually goes all the way back to Tom Lehrer's "We Will All Go Together When We Go" and Bob Dylan's "Talkin' World War Three Blues". When I heard them, something about my youthful paranoia and gloom seemed to dissipate in these cheery threodenies. And what did Tom hook me with? "And we will all go together when we go/What a comforting fact that is to know/Universal bereavement, An inspiring achievement/Yes, we all will go together when we go." And Bob? "Nowadays it seems/everybody's havin' these dreams/...I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours."

See? I gotta let it go. If there's nothing more to live for, and I discount kinship systems of any kind, then you might as well laugh your head off. So, the only one of the three I'd consider watching a second time is "Zombieland". It may start on "The Road" but it ends up in an amusement park, and if I gotta go, it might as well be from a busted gut.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

“Nut up or Shut Up”

Of late, discussions in the office have brought about a fuller understanding of this “phrase that pays”, so to speak. As the subheading of the adverts for “Zombieland” it obviously refers to the other popular locution, “Man Up”: i.e., to act like a man; do not whimper or complain but, instead, to demonstrate the courage of your convictions. The sum total of this text is to create an Us vs. Them proposition wherein opposing sides cease the war of words and, in effect, join in combat.

In previous eras, the phrase “to get one’s nut” or “to make our nut” was the slang showpeople used for the cost of goods and services in the presentation of a performance (or whatever) weighted against box office receipts: i.e., “the net”. How it got down to “nut” I have no idea. (I would suggest asking William Safire, but, like “Mistah Kurtz” in “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, “he dead”.)

However, there is a secondary effect as well. In Hip Hop, or Gangsta, or whatever label you choose for post-Rap lingo, the meaning takes on a fuller dimension. In Too Short’s old usage (back in the ‘90s, or ‘80s depending upon when you twigged yer wig), to get your “nut” was to find male sexual release. Hence, today, “nut up” is the completion…with prejudice..solo. It remains an open question as to whether the campaign for the movie was designed with that in mind yet there is no doubt it cannot but help benefit from it as lots of testosterone-oriented persons find it equally provocative and humorous.

H.L. Mencken and Marshal McLuhan would be proud of any and all of these definitions, and maybe even Carl Sandburg. This is “the language that” not only “rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work”, but, does triple duty in the measure. And, as well, engages the imagination and provides a continuous flow from one generation to the next.

Slang is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October is the time for catch-up ball in the extreme

Another hiatus, another afflatus. At first, it would have been 'coming to terms' with the nature of the Blog: spontaneity. Then, it was the words themselves: chosen? found? Finally, some sort of arrangement of them into... Ok. Not that it matters, but it occurred to me that if I wanted to say something, it might sound better than just blowing in the wind...

The trick of talking and not saying anything, and garnering a lot of attention, is easy. Look at Glenn Beck. So much is written about him and his fantastic ravings that the essential picture is being missed. There is a philosophical method of argument called, loosely, "the sacrificial straw dog". In this, you simply set up an extreme that is wholly outrageous and then allow other people to take note of the obvious: why, he's insane! Then you can say: of course he is! Now you can't really compare him with me!?! Can you? I'm the reasonable one...and therefore, whatever arguments you make that are just as insane, but couched in calmly, must be considered as valid. Even when they are ludicrous.

Another illustration of how such a ruse works can be seen in the health care debate. By letting semi-pro flacks and rabid-rousing radio rangers ramp up the rhetoric via lunatic fringes of crowds, while placing "outside agitators" (amazing, no?--that was once used during the civil rights' marches era to describe voting and poll workers and lunch-counter sit-ins with 'yankees stirrin' up our colored folk', etc. such it is how the wheel goes around) inside town halls, the "silent majority" (another jaw-dropper, eh?) is effectively negated. The content (conservative think-tank tick-tock disguised as fervent homespun stories of heartland issues forgotten by the Eastern Standard Liberal Establishment) isn't at issue here, and neither is the form. It is in the summary.

But that's not where I wanted to begin.

I wanted to start by listing some books I'd read. Then I thought: that's really tooting your horn, isn't it? That said, I'm blowing the whistle on my ambitions; the way out of the labyrinth is showing the tracks and letting others follow if they have a mind to, if so inclined. However, there is also the beauty of the track in the snow. The best way to do that is to make a case for some startling models of classical physics which could translate into quantum mechanics: Mandelbrot's fractals and Cantor dusts. Equally, that Primo Levi's meditation on the periodic table of Elements is a God's-eye-view of what scientists call 'metals'--which should be touted as same by the 'Intelligent Design" school, if they had a whit of wit betwixt them. And, moreover, how the Theory of Evolution and the General Relativity Theory seemed to both be on the same track to the same laws, and we could see them too if only we had more perspective. On the other hand, the curiosity of how the same relationship pattern runs through so many peak-bonding and break-ups among French men of arts and letters--Robespierre and Danton, Camus and Sartre, Godard and Truffaut, Debord and Lefebvre--that you might think it also display some kind of law, but would be even more hard-pressed to find one out of those pairings than the Darwin/Einstein connection.

But then I thought about Jim Carroll.

Here's one or two things I know about him.

Back in the day, I'd interviewed him and written about him for a couple of mags, and was on what we call a 'nodding acquaintance', like: when I see you I make eye contact and offer the briefest of head jogs, just to say, I acknowledge your existence. And that exchange would be every year he'd show up to the St. Marks Poetry Marathon on New Years Day. For the last few, it was pretty much excerpts from his book, his first real novel. It will probably be published soon and I'll buy a copy like everyone else. But when I read it I will hear his voice. I always hear his voice whenever I read his words. Halting, almost at the edge of a stammer, reedy as befits an Irish Catholic Boy, and with the faintest taste of whistle. He had a similar way of addressing the mike, preferring the stationary angle-poise fixture to a hand-held, always rocking it forward and back--no different between slinging it onstage at the Ritz or Irving Plaza or at a quiet reading. At one time he WAS All-City and played against a really tall black rail named Lew Alcindor, who we now know as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. And according to Jim, "I may not have been able to smoke him, but he'd get game all the same". See? Modest too? "It wasn't the heroin that seduced me away from basketball, but poetry." And in no way in love with death, or maudit morbidity, despite junkie-saint persona in the press, and all the hoopla surrounding the Columbine incident. He'd rather talk about Love, carnal and eternal, like Abelard and Elouise. But all people seem to really use is his own ready-made-for-MTV-memorial (well, probably VH1, these days) obit, the soundtrack of which be on every commercial-break bumper outro: "Those Are People Who Died".

I prefer to think of how he lived.

Which brings me to what would appear to be an idiotic comparison; all the former rhetorical jizz vs. a guy who makes love with the muse. Not quite, yet; it is the stuff in between that is what matters. In between what? Those subjects...on this page. So let's examine the latter first. Jim would talk street (which is now "ghetto"? or "hood"?) but also come up with dazzling classical refs and do it in the course of the same conversation, even same sentence. When you say, 'I hung on every word', that's just what that means. You never know where the next turn of phrase will take you so you'd better pay attention. That's the kind of speech (not in the sense of "prepared" but the general one of spoken language) I enjoy the most, and which, coincidentally enough, is also the subject at the core of Information Theory.

That's the stuff in between, the stuff I read. (Yes. I know. Didn't expect that, did you? Honestly, that's the fun of this: neither did I.)

When Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver came up with the whole shebang at Bell Labs in 1948, it was pretty arcane stuff. At the core it was the measurement of Information Entropy, which "quantifies the uncertainty involved when encountering random variables". If this seems too far afield of the subject, just accept that this is the basis of packet-switching, which is the sum total of what actually happens in this service called the Internet. The essential idea to get, for the purpose of this essay, is the comparison of two packets of data, seeing what doesn't match in the other, and then figuring out whether that was an error in transmission, or new data to incorporate. Today, it boils down to what has entered the common usage as "signal-to-noise ratio". It actually has an even simpler manifestation: the Surprise Factor. What led me down this bizarre, jagged path was Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan". In it, he was describing how much space/room/storage/volume (whatever) it took to convey something like, well, his book--to illustrate the point. On every page, it seemed, he was taking turns into history and philosophy and mathematics and economics and even popular culture that could neither be anticipated by what preceded it nor dismissed as immaterial to what succeeded it. You needed almost as much space to get everything in it IN IT as there was in it.

(That last bit sounds a tad desperate. Or maybe impassioned? Let's leave it at that.)

Taleb cited Shannon and Weaver as saying much the same. To recap the previous, the whole issue of 'transmitter/receiver' is important only when the transmitter has more information than the receiver. The receiver can have all this data, and it can be complete, as far as its particular set goes. (I will not digress into set theory here except to say that's the part about this that led to Cantor sets and, hence, Cantor dusts. Yeah. Not today.) But, when the transmitter sends something new, that is a surprise. And not only that, it changes things: the parameters of the set, the organization of the data, the priorities, even 'what you know'. Sure, that all goes without saying. And something else that goes without saying: EVERYTHING ELSE!

This is where the other part comes in. Unless you are speaking only to a population composed entirely short-term memory loss patients, you do not have to repeat everything every time! Stop the presses, break up the front page and get out an extra: nobody cares if you are a talking-point parrot! At least nobody who has any self-respect. The aforementioned with the attention spans of ants may be what keeps your ratings up but, outside of the 24-hr cable circle jerk, this doesn't even count as high as yesterday's papers: you can't wrap fish in them or line the bird cage. Yet, there they are, always in your face or ear, buzzing about things which have no value of any kind because they are not enduring truths but merely enduring signals, caught in a loop like Bernie Maddoff walking out of 500 Pearl Street, accompanied by his attorney and the media pack, for the last time. They run that footage (along with his one shove of an obnoxious cameraman) over and over because they don't have anything else to fill in the time. And the only reason they stay on the air for people stare at is that they don't have anything else to fill in their lives.

This is not 'News'; this is something like 'Olds'. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking of it as it is labelled, but it needs active resistance. I will admit, learning to ignore that which offers nothing new requires a lot of discipline. Kinda like not turning your head when an attractively-attired teenaged member of your desired gender-group passes on the sidewalk. I would be remiss not to admit that I will still have occasion to watch Olberman or even Maddow, despite my pledge to only attend to Stewart, as I find more honesty in comedy than comity in honesty. Who needs the agita?

Now, to get back to the alternate. A poet requires much more attention, given. And there's nothing even vaguely au courant about a bound volume. You are not going to be able to offer commentary on, oh, say, some local municipal scandal, or outrageous testimony before a Senate subcommittee, or even a special report on sex-slaves in the Suburbs! No, you are going to have nothing to say which anyone would be interested in as your take on the pre-digested pap and "press-play" press releases disguised as reportage. And isn't that awful? But you will feel a whole lot better about being powerless...and you may even find some power in that. I have to admit, I hadn't picked "Fear of Dreaming" off the wall in a while. It was strange, though, how only a few pages in, I am walking on a beach with Carroll as he ruminates on romance and mortality, using flash images of sky and waves to put me, perhaps, in the same Coney Island Of The Mind that Lawrence Ferlinghetti did for us both, how many ages ago? And that's a surprise because it isn't the same waves and the same sand and the same walk as the last time, but it is just as engaging.

And his voice lives in my head; even as a vague outline of an awkward crow casting shadows on my wall. I am not hiding my head in the sand of his beach; I am paying attention to that which offers me information--real information. It may be objected that, "Oh, you're saying that art is preferable to Life! Sure! But I have to live in the REAL WORLD, chum!" Uh-huh. Like just because something is broadcast over airwaves by living humans, that this somehow constitutes "Life", the "REAL WORLD"? Try swallowing a little quantum physics and superstring theory and then tell me you know what is real. That stuff is based on mathematics, which is a whole lot more certain than anything you have your retirement funds in, I can assure you. Or grasp a tiny fragment of "Origin of the Species" or even the great library of popularizers of this monumental work and then let's discuss the situation of Man on Earth.

This is why I didn't want to do a reading list at the top. I am getting more and more smug by the phrase. It is only that, and here's the payoff: talking heads and op-eds tell me why people think they are right, and none of them cite any authorities which could remotely be related to the "REAL WORLD". This blog was actually, physically, begun during a rare moment of personal civic engagement in which I decided that, instead of talking the talk, I would walk the walk. Things did change, enough so that I moved onto more cerebral concerns, perhaps, but that doesn't negate the experience, any more than research into original sources of enlightenment means I'm a book-learnin' snob. If Jim's right, about a "Fear of Dreaming", then sure, you can accuse me of living in a dream world...only if you'll admit you're living in a delusion.

Now, if that seems like an extraordinary request, remember: we are merely coming to terms.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

...idyll, not idle...


As much has transpired since last we met, allow me to slide, elide, and glide thru the high points.

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra pays tribute to Sly & the Family Stone (as you can see here) was a week ago, but that doesn't mean its over, for me. If I could hazard a guess, I would say that it was so easy to get into (physically) because it had no "big name" guests in the line-up, outside of the aged sage of Funkadelic keyboards, Bernie Worrell and Vernon Reid, BRC/Living Color guitarist. Yeah, but with material like this, who needs a Who's Who? As this is not a review blog, I will limit myself to but a few comments. Bernstein may have arranged the Family Stone set for the nonet to maximize instrumental voices, yet he's no slouch in picking his people pipes either. Now Sandra St. Victor was fine, and Dean Bowman can toss African glossolia like Leon Thomas and still belt it from the bottom. But Shilpa Ray's cover of "Everyday People", pumping away on harmonium and seeming to open her mouth wider than her head, and Martha Wainwright's interp of "Que Sera Sera"...while both were certainly Sly's own showstoppers, they also proved to be theirs. This is here just to remind all that Fame may make it easier to use your talents, but it can never surprise you like up-&-comets whizzing out of the night sky.


Before that was a long weekend in Bermuda. Forget the cliche of your parent's getaway, and your preferred Cancun or Ft. Lauderdale school-breaks. It really is like nothing else out there. A hunk of limestone with stalactite caves that date back to the 2nd Ice Age and the entire 34-kilometer coastline dotted by public beaches, some with sand as smooth as human skin, over Magritte/Ernst rocks under skies with random rainbows. But when it gets dark, then you remember why the early sailors called this "the island of devils". It wasn't due to the fact that the ring of shoals around the whole has been the cause of some 30-40 shipwrecks thru various eras. No, it is due to the night calls of the tree frog. Neither as extreme as Lou Reed's "Machine Metal Music" nor as ambient as Fripp & Eno, their soiree serenade will remind only the tone-deaf of countryside crickets. To walk thru them after the rain is almost deafening, and when you get home, their choruses are barely drowned out by the air-conditioner hum, even on full.

So many blogs have much more gorgeous vacay photos, I will not attempt to compete. Then, to that end, an end. video

Friday, June 26, 2009

...a toast for the King of Pop...

KING RICHARD II


For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

...it's just a temporary condition, I'm certain...

For once, I am not going to write this in my usual style, composing in Open Office 2.0 (a fine text-handling/spreadsheet program with many more options than I have use for, and when I get flush, I plan to donate mad cash to their organization as thanks for making this alternative to MS Word available) and then transferring to the html-processor provided by Google. It may make the flow better, and improve the overall flow, but it also slows me down. However, as on this occasion, when I have an actual bee in my bonnet, I feel it best to open the window and wave the buzzer out rather than let it flit about anymore, and give it a chance to sting me.

It is also a rite of exorcism.

See I've got Uighur
on the brain. There is probably a name for what I have; some sort of pathological thing with "itis" at the end. I would call it a merely a fixation because it probably isn't extreme enough to be called a condition. In the immediate analysis, I can put the major mind-lock down to the funny name. It is pronounced "WEE-gur". It makes me go numb and grin every time I say it, or think it. Which I do, too often. This is possibly due to the smurf story in the news simultaneously.

For the complete data package behind this you could hit the links and see for yourself, but the upshot is, in this instance, the strange tale of how innocent civilians ended up in US military authority. I had to look it up because, in all the broadcast pieces on this, nobody bothered to tell me WHY these people were detained, and even here (see link above) there is no explanation of HOW it took so long to free them. EIGHT YEARS? IN PRISON FOR EIGHT YEARS? That should be enough outrage in and of itself. The idea that anyone could be astonished by the government paying 11 million dollars per person to post-patriate them to a Pacific paradise is what drops my jaw.

On the other hand, you have an offshoot of the human species (Hip-o-Campus Goofus) painting themselves blue and being neither commemorators of Pict/Celt/Scot warriors in Woad nor the incarnations of Krishna but of a French comic strip which found a brief vogue in the mid-80's as both a cartoon and a method of Breakdancing. (Which makes me wonder if they were dancing to DJ Kool Herc or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or Slick Rick or Kurtis Blow or The Fat Boys or even DJ Jazzy Jay and The Fresh Prince...ah!, those were some fine, fun times...)

This has nothing to do with reason. It does have to do with a free-associative imagination. It is not so much that I want to reduce a population to a caricature, a cipher, a symbol of the "alien"--which is, as far as I can figure out, how they ended up in Guantanamo--but, somehow, I have to, can't stop it. The Weegurs are small blue homunculi with white trousers and gasconne caps, and will soon being to thrive amid the palm trees and coconut groves, in a totally predator-free environment (sans-Gargamel and cat, you see), creating a truly marvelous civilization in miniature which we will then dub Lemuria because of the way they all swarm together like some hive mind...

That is not a Wikipedia definition from the deranged. It is just the way I am, and, right now, I think I need medication.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Friends, Roamers, countrymen, lend me your earbuds..."

(Why another Shakespeare-framed number? It's kinda like the Bible for secular humanists: you can quote it as often as you like and without explanation.)



"This groove is out of fashion 
These beats are 20 years old" -- Strange Overtones, David Byrne/Brian Eno

It may come as something vaguely shadowing your track, behind and away; not so close as to be conspicuous but never far, dogged, nagging--not so intrusive as the cough you can't suppress but more: the itch you can't scratch. The nuisance of knowing there's something you should be liking more but have no idea why your appreciation should be less than it ever was, not the same as it ever was.

When the new David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration got its first ink in the New York Times, a lot of us were agog, if not a-twitter (which presents an entirely different verb in the instant moment), with anticipation. It was nice to know it would be out soon but that isn't the same as when you would have made sure the release date was marked on your calendar. Thing was, no matter how much you may have liked Byrne in the past, nothing in the 'solo' catalogue has really grabbed you since "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts" (which wasn't all that far from a Talking Heads album of the era). So when the above lines were included in the body copy of the report as song lyrics, you were, of course, intrigued. Who wouldn't be, eh? Historical context in Adult Contemporary? And self-reference to one's own oeuvre? But also a promise, implicit in that line, that this would be real old-style, old school.

So, you play the album and...

The start of this goes back further. It was the question: what is it about modern music that leaves me cold? The quick response would be: your own lack of warmth...or, the lack of James Blunt in your romantic agenda. On the other hand, a gal pal o'mine avows that "Something" by George Harrison is the greatest smooch music of our time, showing that this can be endlessly debated, as much as the cuteness factor of the Jonas Brothers vs. early Beatles, and those who would "Usher" in more candidates, say Go "West" old man...

But that's not where I'm going with this.

As it so happens, the only news-reading I do on a semi-regular basis is the New York Times. It isn't snobbery; more like, listening to the attributions on the major broadcasters and comparing their breaking reports to yesterday's edition. It usually comes up: Been There, Done That. (Incidentally, also another Eno collaborative effort, this one with John Cale.) So when I cite two authorities from the Grey Lady, you will understand it may look like a generational position paper, or some kind of taste-test ticket-to-ride, but it ain't. Just coincidence.

There was a thesis put forth by Jon Pareles, from what was probably considered a minor "think piece" years back, with respect to why and when people stop listening to new music. And by new I don't mean "new" as in avant garde. I mean new as in anything not old. Like contemporary. Like popular in the present. Like "of the moment". His conclusion: you stop listening at about the same time you settle down to adult responsibilities and raising a family, or, generally, when you hit your late 30's. And it makes sense too, delineating estrangement from the point at which you begin to think of one thing as "my music" and everything else as "their music" (more or less, as I recollect it). Then there was another, more recent, op-ed by Kalef Sanneh on "Rockism" which came to similar conclusions, albeit, to my mind, much more patronizing, smug and age-baiting. Rather than go into them in detail, I feel it fair to say that while the latter sounds its argument in prejudice, the former is more wistful, even conciliatory, in expressing something like regret that we cannot sustain the adventure of living (& listening) in the present as we did in the past.

I cite the above because they are the most cogent and intelligent articles I've read on the subject in some time, speaking to me from the stance of people who actually care about this stuff as much as I once did. In my span of years, I had stayed with the revolution, party and party-hearty, for as long as I could--at least until I found I was the only one left under the banner. Which may not, in actuality, be true, but certainly the cessation of my writing about music, and the culture in general, can be attributed to the fact of editors stopped listening to my suggestions, and then stopped returning my calls.

But I come not to Pareles seizure, but to borrow him. And not to slam Sanneh; for brutes, he’s an honorable man.

At any rate, something had changed; either I, or my appreciation, had become no good. This is not to gripe but to establish that I have, in my time, not been all that different from the aforementioned—if not on the NYT level. Therefore, I have both reason and background for putting forth the following.

When I played “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today” nothing really grabbed me. And that was worse than disappointing. These are master craftsmen of a school I have always enjoyed and I refused to admit that they could have gotten so lame as to think this bland slab of Wonderbread was even worth toasting. So, could it possibly be me? Had I, as described in the “rockist” profile, become so calcified and truculent as to be inured to the subtle beauties of this? Just because it wasn’t a big hit in the charts? (As if that was ever a concern?)

No. What I hadn’t factored in was the Distraction Factor. In the old days, I would have played a new purchase two or three times a day, studied the album art and liner notes (usually under some form of sensory augmentation, it must be said), until I had gleaned every last byte of info from the experience. At most, I would have read a comic book, but that would be an extreme case of stimulust. Today, if not catching up on hanging clothes, checking e-mail, updating the Tivo (or whatever that new cable box is called), or trying to see if I can find something in the ‘files’, then I would be doing them all at once, or twice. I’ve known for a while that I wasn’t bringing enough to the table to make up my share, but now it was getting terminal. Like: I couldn’t even put a little time aside to figure out how to enjoy something?

Well, it comes down to the MEDIUM, I guess. And long-suffering friends (few though they may be) recognize that I might be veering into McLuhan territory. Suffice it to say, I put enough of that on the other blog.

Then, what I actually refer to it the method of transmission, and that would be the iPod. As is my habit and practice, I d-l’ed it to make sure that, when a hook or a line came around, that I’d at least try to put the sinker in my head by looking up the song title. But what struck me was not something new as much as an earlier…inclusion, of… exactly what? I can’t say. Maybe it will come to me in better terms later. Right now, it was this faint nimbus of consciousness that songs had gone so much further than verse/chorus/verse/ chorus/bridge/chorus that there was no reason a title had to be anything more than a tangent to the matter of the rest of the lyrics. So what was I trying to attach to, and WITH, exactly?

Colbert called it his "magic brick", and GOD, I thought that was awfully funny. For a lot of people, however, especially those with high-end sound systems, it is considered as much a pine box in Potter's Field: stripped of all adornment (i.e.; EQ, etc.), the vibes coming out at 128-320kbs into pair of microscopic speakers are tantamount to John Doe's graveyard--a nameless, graceless, barren plot of ground where nothing may grow but rank and bitter weeds. Or at least a premature burial. (Also, one of Poe's most frightening stories, to me.) So then, perhaps it is a casket of hopes, more than a cedar chest? This is something I cannot shake nor fault; it is a given that the analog sound of a vinyl record is superior to the AAD version. Yet this particular subject is not, never was, and never will be, vinyl. It is straight DDD to DDD, which negates that argument. The other one is the missing 'vibes', or, the missing frequencies. Ok. Valid...except when you are a bit long in the tooth, with far-from-factory-spec listening equipment. Yes, I'm not talking dog-whistle sensitivity either. That is then when you want to concentrate on mid-range and not worry about the infinite. However, we are the clever mammals; the one's with opposable thumbs, right? And as I am reminded of the horror of Edgar Allen Poe, so I am reminded of H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West: Reanimator"...or the 1985 movie. (Who can say?) WE MUST NOT ACCEPT DEATH! (Ahem...little lurid there, eh?) There should be a way, a trick even, to get more out of this electronic bleed to my earbuds. Hence the title...(...but let's not hammer it too much, pal.) The idea was to find a way to turn the 'coffin' into the 'magic brick'. Yes, it could tell me song titles, and show the art but...

Then it hit me: no matter how strange the phrasing of the singer, and cantilevered the rhythms, if you knew what at least a portion of the tune was about, you stood a better chance of getting into the groove, if only for that anticipation that comes along with any endeavor where you are a participant—passive or active. That moment when you say: Oh yeah…I know that bit! And more: to see it IN CONTEXT!--what came before and what comes after.

Lest you think it is Ego, please let me dissuade you of that notion. It is precisely the opposite. To lose oneself inside the material it is necessary to overwhelm yourself with the entirety of the Other--that whichever you want to assimilate into your being. You must utterly surrender to the work, at least once, every last bit of it, an infostream in the veins where the blood replaces the intellect...but also functions as one.

Because...no matter how much we may say ‘it is the music that matters, not the words’, when you get beyond mindless floorwax (with beats designed to move rooms), jazz and classical, or some ethnic specialty which dazzles on its own merits—completely freed from all associations and filled with an internal modality that moves one emotionally through sheer catharsis—sooner or later, even those of the most desultory curiosity will end up scratching their head and looking for the lyric sheet. If only to find out exactly what it was you were pumping your fist in the air to express, and about whom, you've got to check out the other half of the experience.

Having been aware of the iPod option to store and show song lyrics for some time, I decided to try my hand, literally. I would, for a brief period only, become one of those totally self-absorbed idiots who stop on subway stairwells to answer the phone or push strollers into crowds texting like mad or check their e-mail in the middle of the street, oblivious of the fact that there are others sharing their airspace. I would not only listen but read, while in motion.

Now, there's one more thing to add here as well. There's a lot of amusement these days and even some countenance given to such things as "air guitar" competitions. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade so let's just say, whatever... Others, especially girls, so I am given to understand, like dancing--whatever...blows your dress up. Mosh pits, ah...well, same impulse, perhaps, but...what...is that? Motion and music. AM radio, muscle cars, freeway flying and backstreet cruising--for a lot of us, these values (encapsulated in Springsteen songs circa '72-'79) were an excitation to a part of our brain that was neither related to sex or money or ambition or fantasy or mystery yet could touch on them all simultaneously and find tangents never before envisioned. This was the way we could focus full concentration on the songs and store an emphatic charge of interest without even having to carve out a sacred space in the brain. You only had to do two things at once: drive, and fall in love.

This may seem a bit extreme of a claim but think about it. Or don't. This is my opinion and it doesn't need any defense. You've either been to the mountain top or you haven't.

On the face of it, this might seem to belie the whole bit about learning lyrics. Ah, no, it don't. Top 40 hits, then FM jocks who would add in commentary with the playback lists, then 8-tracks, all made for a very tight set of tunes in heavy rotation. Constant repetition was also a benefit when learning the cadences and speech eccentricities of the singers and thereby enhanced the appreciation. Of course, the final factor can't be ignored either: the slang, the nuanced phrase, the emphasis, the elision--all these things were part of the message. And even if the message was only "I love her/And she love's me" it resonates through the cosmos with only one more line, "But I don't fit/In her society". The "Down in the Boondocks" excerpt merely demonstrates how much more the whole can mean when you fit all the parts fit together. (Which isn't to say that one bit is better than another, or doesn't have a life of it's own. Just ask Herbert West.)

That said, David Byrne's website is most accommodating with the lexical portion. Copy and paste, then... Byrne's strangulated croon has always been among the most extreme in modern rock, but he's pretty articulate--in print. When the words come out, especially when accompanied by music, they don't follow the standard linear exposition. Like poetry, each one finds its own end-of-line, and in its own time, and meter. So, if this is a review, it sure took me a long time to get to the point, didn't it? Lester Bangs is pithy, by comparison. Rather, think of the following as an illustration of the discoveries that free-association and active participation may produce.



But to skip back a graph, there was a reason I said "lexical portion" rather than just "words". in some languages, the look of a word also carries meaning, and, like poetry, a particular stress at one point modifies what came before as well as that which comes after. And then there's the album art. The house that comes as the cover is an orthographic projection which might be from an AutoCAD program or a screen shot from one of "The Sims" suite of suburban dreams. In the modern era, I don't need to tell you that it is the symbols (a/k/a "signifiers", if you like Lacan) that matter most, and are most enriched by the overall gesamstkunstwerk (that lovely, crazy German word for the whole ball of wax, the whole shootin' match).

That it opens with "Home" pretty much reveals what's behind this mind. As the shuffle-cascade emerges from the gauzy synth layers, the allusions are inescapable. References Paul Simon's catalogue (both the "an old photograph" line--"Kodachrome"--and the Simon & Garfunkel refrain) get you as solid as the brick-&-mortar image on the front suggests. This clearly shows how deep the authors can go, indirectly, to play with their audience's roots. There is also quite a bit about David tapping his own as well, a nascent spirituality not present since Rei Momo, yet one always quietly napping in the background of Talking Heads material as well.

“My Big Nurse” embraces something between mother and lover in a waltz-across-Texas-of-“all the possibilities”,which comes in the form of a list of neo-aphorisms. And it is this same sort of piling-up of examples of human frailties and household calamities that builds up through possibly the highest-energy number here, "I Feel My Stuff"--augmented by what is the only guitar solo of any notice and one of the weirdest Eno riffs ever: a crazy arpeggio along a piano keyboard like a skittering spider. This would appear to be a full recitation of non-sequitors except for the fact that the whole draws the strands together to reveal that, even in these helpless circumstances, the one thing we CAN count on, and control, is our “stuff”, as much as the early test pilot’s of Tom Wolfe’s book called it…and leaving it just as undefined. The cut “Life Is Long” could easily be mistaken for “Soul To Soul”, which has equal prominence in the chorus and is delivered with the same punctuation and prominence, but when that kicks in, sinking the hook in with “Chain me down/But I Am Still Free” and that "whoaOaa!" interjections, you get enough organic juice boot from the baritone saxophone boost to slow fuck, or get a Deadhead to truck.

The themes of light, river, water, all re-enforce the wonder of continued existence while alluding to one beyond as well. Moreover, the title cut may be the dreamiest, if only that it goes all the way back to “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens” from “Fear of Music” (1978). With a slight update, the fadeout repeat on “nothing has changed but nothing’s the same” might be seen in the same suspension, even down to the sustained chords of the church organ and questions to “o my brother”. That he’s not addressing Eno (or maybe he is--after all these guys made some savory slabs of albs back in the day) at this point is made plain by “Strange Overtones,” the one song where they seem to be coming out of the closet, so to speak, and openly discussing the situation of their work ethic in first-person singular. “In the music you are playing/I’ll harmonize”, “Your song still needs a chorus/Iknow you’ll figure it out”, and more.

There’s a lot more I could say but rather than repeat myself, in variations, I’ll move on. But, to conclude, if this is sort of a “Second Life” survey course (The Human Condition 2.0), I would call it less 'artifice' than 'artificial life'. (And with Eno around, possible AI.)

So, what was the conclusion? That I could write a better review? Nah. Too old-style to go on and on about this. The learning lesson was that what I had previously described as a "slab of Wonderbread" now feels like a real assimilation into my aesthetic, like whole grain from the neighborhood bakery. I actually hum little bits now and (after seeing his working band do a preview on Colbert this week) am really looking forward to David's appearance in Prospect Park on Monday.

But to get back to the main point, I have now started investigating some music which I had formerly dismissed. I no longer wish to be shut out of the dialogue in the contemporary idiom, nor do I wish to reject out-of-hand any particular school of transmission of the cultural "meme". (And for that, uh...maybe take a look at my other blog or simply accept that Richard Dawkins or William Gibson, or wherever you heard the term--or just try GOOGLE!--has a pretty good binding metaphor for a concept which is as vauge and indefinable as the position and mass of an elementary particle/wave) I was thinking that maybe it was time to go back to Radiohead, and further, to van der Graaf Generator, or more, something as crazy as the late 1960's/early 70's Italian psychedelic/progressive outfit Le Orme.

Then maybe tackle some late-period Jay-Z. Out of curiosity, I did go and look at some 50-Cent and Kanye West lines before sitting down to this. And yup, while the former lives up to his rep as car-speaker breaker, can't see much contiguous content. I will grant, however, that if I were in some pimped-out ride, rolling crosstown, I might feel different. The same goes for the latter. While I may admire Kanye for his unprecedented throw-down of the gauntlet at Prezboy after Katrina, his compositions offer little more. So yeah, don't I belie the fact that I said I have to absorb the whole package? Nope. If there's nothing I like about it at all, there's no reason to begin, like nothing there I feel is worth the effort. I mean: no riffs, no hook, no guitar...you gotta start somewhere...

(Ooops! Must have betrayed my prejudice as a "rockist"...)

O judge, I meant their art has fled to brutish beats, and men have lost their reason, bear with me. My heart is in the coffin there with cease-yr-jive, And I must press pause till it come back to me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

“No man is an island, entire of itself…”

“…every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me…”

The time has come to acknowledge a sad truth of blogging. The sidebar adjacent to these words is a relic of interests that existed at the inception of this enterprise. If you will examine it, you will note that Any Major Dude “left home” 4 months back, and now Red Telephone 66 has ceased operation. John Donne’s meditation 17 is the lamentation aforesaid and the theme here.

This brings up something that has been bubbling about in the back brain a bit. My first attraction to the blogspot-o-sphere (specifically) was the vast reservoirs of mp3 rarities from personal collections. Having weathered the final days of Napster (and no, I was not in until the end because they didn’t have any Macintosh/Apple software until the last year), I was not unfamiliar with ‘file-sharing”, but only as an anonymous source of amazement, an endless cornucopia in a void, being able to find albums and artists I only vaguely recalled from the dim past, summoning up songs on a whim, seemingly from nought but a brisk rubbing of Aladdin’s modem.

Blogspot, however, had identities galore. For a lot of people (not necessarily you), it has always been a habit and practice to vet potential friends or lovers by an initial visit to their digs. This affords a chance to check out their furnishings, then books, then record collections, and, in the '60s, their medicine cabinets. (I purposefully ignore the implications of closets and underwear drawers as they are not germaine to this essay. And you should be ashamed of yourself!) You can figure out where this is going so I will skip over the obvious. More revealing, however, is the way each deals with the standard templates, dressing them up and fitting them out with avatar photos, quotes, and then all the available widgets. After that, the links to their favorite blogs as well—for if we are not all one in fun, none are random in fandom.

As revealing as these runes read, it was the blogger's write-ups that showed I was not alone in the zone. In praise of these obscure-to-downright-unknown records, their uploaders—waxing rhapsodic-to-effuplosive in some cases—rivaled Lester Bangs in insight and exposition. And, despite the bad rap about “stealing from the artists”, a large bulk of these were straight from vinyl to Rapidshare, without advent of re-issue, even more treasured for having missed the CD craze altogether (which I am beginning to think is as over as the 8-track). The “community” was such that I felt no compunction whatsoever in d-l’ing like a fiend, leaving only a few thanks here and there for such bounty. But more, it was the whole interaction, the conversation and creativity among the blogs (and yes, it is as if these journals of interest and observation ARE personalities and—in as much as they are fonts of self-expression—artforms equal to sprawling canvasses and ongoing performances) that kept me coming back...and lingering.

I liked these people for more than what they gave me. I liked having them around. So, I would like to cite them here as an honor roll, exporting my bookmarks to pict.files and hence into ReadIris to become text.

A Million Miles Away - ARCA DO PYRATA - A Closet of Curiosities - Acesso Raro - Alma Matters - And then the chimney spoke.... - ARSENAL-X - Back On The Road - Bring Me The Heads - California Harmony - Caverna do Som - Cheeseonion - Crap I Found at the Library - 8 Days In April - Are Friends Electric - BigO Worldwide - Cantina do Rock - Cantos e Encantos - De musica alterque - De Pouco Um Tudo - Good job I kept my turntable... - Lagrima Psicodslica - Music Eldorado - misterlesterkeen - Phlegm Noir - all that jazz - bongolong land - Bossa Nova Music - elsebasto - Fidelisharium - Groovy Fab Index - insect & individual - Kinda Kinky - Lounge Latin Funk Beat - Acid Dazed - ACID VISIONS - Acorde Final - Brazilian Nuggets - FEIJEO TROPEIRO - Marmalade Skies - Martian Shaker - The Annex - the packet switcher – TWILIGHTZONE! - zerodimension - Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era - grown so ugly - X-Y-Z -Cosmonaut - sounds of champaign (side-C) - MOODSWINGS music - PixelMutt - RecordBrother - Rato Records Blog - Razzle Tazzle - roggelstroe - Play It Again, Sam - Hipidetripi - 7 Black Notes - Skypilot - Kiddie Records Weekly - That's the Way It Is - Skunkape's Crap - The Slaughtered Lamb - Soundtrack Sharity - You Don't Have To Visit This Blog - Rare and OOP Soundtracks - Psychoplasmica - ScoreBaby Annex - Le Blog de Pekis - curved-air - Palestinian Light Orchestra - ORGY IN RHYTHM - SCORE, BABY! - Rock Progressivo Portugues - Prog Not Frog - Time Traveller - realm of [X] - zinhof - The Tuna Melt - lellebelle - Honey, Where You Been So Long - 6070Rock - Green Fuz - These Records Are BenT - The Sky Moves Sideways - It's Psych - The L.S. Bumble Bee - DISTORCOES, ACIDO E FLORES - Chocoreve - Acht Tage - Krautrockdock Ohnes - Musica para Todo - Discos Completos Varios Artistos - Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll - Musica Boa Sempre - Musicology - Solo Buena Music - The Orange Cornflake Zoo - VINYL VELHO - Time Has Told Me - EZHEVIKA FIELDS - Psychedelic Rock - The Music I Like - 1967 0 Ano da Psicodelia - Garden Of Delights - A Pound for a Brown - Artery of the Sun - thebbmusicfactory - Loronix - Sarava Club - El Diabio Tun Tun - La nuit detend - Visions of Juju - Capsula da Cultura - Abracadabra-LPs do Brazil - PEP SONIC BLUE MUSIC – Lost-In-Tyme - Quimsy's Mumbo Jumbo

The list is by no means complete; and it is not an obit. A lot of them are still around (if you wish to check out their viability, please do so by all means. I would suggest you start with this one link to totallyfuzzy and go from there), but no few have gone in for “comment moderation” in order to allay poor conduct by visitors and rude remarks or flame wars (is that term still used?), and even more have “gone private”, becoming more like clubs with memberships. This latter action being a defense against, I suppose, people stealing their “links” or reporting them to the administrators for violating copyright laws or whatever, seems to often be the case when people let their guard down to all comers in a cruel and indifferent world, which is yet another part of the sadness. And still more of them have folded their tents, gone onto other vehicles or vanished like those tunes from Aladdin's modem, into the aether from which they had come.

My only regret is that I didn't spend more time with a lot of them. They are, in point of fact, for me at least, an online village more real than anything you'll find at Second Life.

So that's the reason for the lead.

Now for the real body copy.

The idea of Sharing is not very compatible with Capitalism, which exists on the premise of acquisition for individual ownership and exclusive rights to property. There are truly expert people—and I include economists and philosophers and all those others who really give things a lot of thought—who will liken Capitalism to Democracy, using some variation on Churchill's famous line, “It's the world's worst system of government...until you consider all the others.” http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/18/depression-financial-crisis-capitalism-opinions-columnists_recession_stimulus.html Which is correct, as far as it goes. But Evolution is a funny thing; in advancing the species (more or less), it also makes certain parts useless, even obsolete. I was just reading about the human appendix here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermiform_appendix, and found “the appendix is traditionally thought to have no function in the human body” written just before secondary thought that it may have served a function in the creation of intestinal bacteria at some previous stage of existence. See? Why do humans still have to deal with leftover organs and vestigial tails? Because it takes hundreds of thousands of generations for them to vanish completely, and, in this, if in no other way (not saying I agree with him totally, nope!), validates a portion of Richard Dawkins' theory of genes and evolutionary biology: DNA has memory, that's for sure.

Back to Sharing, it is also something wherein competition is more subtle. The only “honor” or “status” conferred may come from being the first to introduce something to the group, or perhaps having discovered its essential beauty or authored the most resonant concept. We call that a “coup”. (And yes, I know it's a French word but who cares?) Among native American tribes, some of the fiercest warriors ever to grace this planet, this was, as well, a way to wage war without war. It is my opinion and belief that I have read an account of how, when the Sioux first encountered US Calvary, they thought them such poor horsemen, they would ride around them in circles and tap them with the blunt end of their spears, taking a “coup” instead of a life. It was something of a shock then, when the soldiers opened fire on them. It was as if these bluecoats had not learned the delicate art of combat and knew only brute savagery.

Yeah, I know. Kinda turns the tables on the John Wayne view of this, dud'n'it?

There's been a lot of cant bruited about in the right-wing press about the so-called “socialist agenda” and even the “communist conspiracy” of the present chief executive. I won't dignify this further but would just like to point out the panic, an almost ingrained knee-jerk reaction to these terms, that happens whenever laissez-faire capitalism is threatened by legislative reform. It is as if we must rear up on our hind legs (note the imagery of the allusion as well: primitive, feral, predatory, appealing to an animal instinct) and kill, before it becomes a menace. And why? To protect 'what is “ours”…', of course. And by that, of course, to say, '…which is “mine”'; for, in the end, there can never be an “ours” when speaking of something that I would kill for (with the exception of national service, which enters an entirely different sphere of civic participation); it must forever be “mine”—frequently, as well, from motives that are selfish and often greedy. (And if you didn't check out the link above, the title of it is “Laissez-Faire Capitalism Has Failed.” And that's from FORBES, people. Not me.)

Now, before this sprawl gets worse, I must state clearly: this is not about competing economic theories and practices of supply of goods and services and the distribution of wealth therefrom. Neither is it about the repression of blogspot uploaders by record labels, nor the issue of copyright infringement. (For a fascinating and witty presentation on that subject, I would point you towards an old friend of mine's comic book on the subject.)

No, this is about “stuff”.

I have some friends who are collectors. Almost everybody these days has one little eccentric passion or other for some serial progression of artifacts that they can file, alphabetize or arrange in orderly rows, which gives meaning to their lives and, hence, the Universe, and I can appreciate that. (Or, more simply—as they will explain when given the least opportunity to someone who has looked askance at their walls covered with Transformer dolls still sealed in their original packaging—that it is an investment opportunity which will appreciate over time as others who DO have that passion or other will pay through the nose to satisfy it. (Although, for the life of me—Nancy—Fiestaware? Can't see that.)) These are not necessarily fetishistic and sense-memory devices that go straight to our core identity like electric daemons, hot-wired to favorite stuffed animals and puree-of-whatever tastes that babies understand intrinsically as “goo-goo-goodies”…but they can be There is nothing wrong with accumulation, per se, especially when it satisfies some primal drive or urge. (Unless it is the mindless pursuit of wealth at all costs—but no, I have already said all I wish to about that subject. Thank you.) It is a bit more useful when it has some bearing on one's profession, and easier to manage if you have a spare room or basement or garage. And always better when it isn't strewn all over the place, like an infant's toys. There comes, however, a stage at which the inert matter builds up to a point where the sheer mass may constitute a potential for collapse into a dwarf star. For guys especially, this is when their “stuff” can be the cause of much friction between themselves and their girlfriends/wives. (Having little experience in G/L/T-G relationships, for all I know it could be the same, but I am not going there.)

But for one of them, in particular, this constitutes a mania. Not that that is such a bad thing or makes him anti-social or something (as is wont to happen to certain people who inordinately value inanimate objects above all else). And, as said, I am not immune to the charms of a well-ordered display of one’s possessions; it is just the word “possession” that makes me a little wary. In “The Exorcist” it was another thing altogether, but that's just, y'know, superstition. Yet, that is not so far off the march from my objective. It is one thing to own a house, or even a car; and these “big ticket items” are, without question, the most desired in most people’s lives. But after the tornado or the hurricane or the rebel uprising that led to the genocidal war, isn’t it the same thing every survivor tells the man with the mike?—I mean, after the tears for loss? “I still have my health.” Now, what kind of ownership is that?

It makes one re-think the “big ticket item” category a bit, at least. I pay approximately ten grand a year for the privilege of calling myself “insured” when, in point of fact, that coverage may turn out to be a tissue of lies, should the company decide for any reason it likes, not to honor that policy. Maybe all I “own” then is peace of mind…as long as I don’t think about it to much. But this is straying again.

The “Exorcist” reference brought up that age-old question that, for me, started when I first saw Scrooge McDuck diving into his bank vault of gold coins. “Do we own our possessions or do our possessions own us?” Ok, admittedly, anthropomorphizing and assigning motivations, wants, needs and desires to a chair is ludicrous, but not when you accept the fact that your personal space, the one you exist in, becomes overtaken, compromised even, by the amount of it you allot to said “stuff” and also by the amount of time you spend trying to keep said “stuff” in order or cleaning or just schlepping it around.

So, it was while trying to help him out, to build a “library” of sorts, that we had a discussion on this subject, and I was forced to defend my position with this: I have come to believe that I would rather have the experience of an object than the object itself.

This is a position I took a long time to come around to, or, rather, to become aware that I held. It is not something that you choose out of the box, so to speak. It requires a major disassociation from the physical touch of the sacred objects, but, as well, a re-establishment of the connection to the spirit behind those objects; what they represent, not just to the personal religion from which you formulated their worship rites, yet the actual source of their excitement towards reverence.

“Wait a minute. Where did that come from?” Is that your question? Consider: what other tangible goods do we hold in such high regard besides holy relics? This isn’t a joke: it doesn’t have to be the Shroud of Turin or the Buddha’s sandals to be venerated. Do you think the “Mona Lisa” is just a painting? These are all extreme examples, yes, but nonetheless NO DIFFERENT FROM BEATLES MEMORABILIA!

I first became aware of this when I stopped caring about my record collection. Somewhere between the ongoing debate of vinyl vs. digital and all the nuances lost and found and the quality of the former and the perfection of the latter, it struck me that, what with all the mp3s I’d d-l’ed into my collection, it would take upwards of 30 years to listen to everything I had. Once. And that’s assuming I did nothing else all day. Every day. Then I began to consider all the movies I’d picked up. And the books. And the fact that I do have an interpersonal relationship with a significant other who might appreciate me more if I did something else for the next 30 years but listen to, watch or read my stash. Oscar Wilde, I believe, said something to the effect that, giving someone a book is something of an insult, unless of course they also give that person the time to read it.

That’s it in a nutshell.

This is where I began to turn around on the subject. See, I used to like having records. They had these 12-inch square pictures, sometimes front and back for 24” and with gatefold sleeves inside too for 48”, sometimes with just liner notes. They were pretty, sometimes stunning, and you could also use the gatefold sleeve to separate seeds and stems from your lid. And afterwards, stare at the cover for an hour, trying to glean every last scrap of meaning and symbolism from the artwork (if intricate) or idealize and adore the artist (if you like), much the same as you would—gasp!—a religious icon! Alas, both that herbal preparation and innocence are long past, as is the purpose of that album jacket. All that remains are the memories associated with the sounds and lyrics (those of which I could understand). And, with hearing less, ah, “dealer prep” shall we say, than it was when the vinyl was new, I have my doubts as to whether a 25hz variation between the midrange of a needle and the track of a laser is going to be detected by my ears. But I’m not arguing aesthetics now.

My Time and Space have begun to assume more than mere arbitrary designations; I now class them among metaphors for the cosmos, giving them Einsteinian properties and capital letters the same as I would Matter and Energy. As I become aware of such concepts as a “carbon footprint”, I begin to see greater significance in all that I do, and, consequently, devote less attention to that which I see as without purpose to my existence.

This does sound grandiose, I suppose. I am also aware that this particular argument may be a convenient rationalization for that of “sour grapes”. Granted. I freely confess that all I say is utter conjecture and stands upon a logic base which is specious, at best. Blogspot, sharing, Communism, ownership—I’ve been all over the map, it seems, only stopping to create transitions from one paragraph to the next. However, if we go all the way back to the start, I believe I can tie it up here.

“…because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.”

Yes. Sonorous and ponderous, ain't it? But really, that's all i was saying top to bottom. Trivialities are great when you got time for the Pursuit, but kinda sad when you consider the Big Thief With One Slow Hand and One Fast Hand.

See, I really DO like my mp3 lifestyle with the magic brick and the DVD and the master list. Now it isn’t so much what I own as if I can find it when I want it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"rough winds do shake the darling buds of May..."



That I haven't posted anything here for a while might seem to indicate a loss of interest in self-publishing, but that would be precipitous, to say the least. It will come as no surprise to anyone that, after having read Steven Pinker's latest, "The Stuff of Thought," I would beg off as being suffused in that very same brown study of gray matter. It is of such relevance to my thesis on the other blog (on this subject, if you haven't visited) that it appears that the Work there might have to undergo (if not drastic then at certainly pertinent) revisions before the conclusion would be secure enough to satisfy inquiring minds. Such as mine.

However, one point on which I have gained some firm footing is the way that metaphor weaves in and out of our thought, expressions, language, our very lives. It is not like I haven't known of the purpose of the Central Binding Metaphor (let's call it CBM to save some time--I do so enjoy acronyms, even better when they become words) for some time, it was just when you place it, as Pinker did, at the summit of a series of proofs, that it sort of pops out at you all over again. The use of "as a" frames our discussions, issues, answers; the whole of our existence is set as much by how we describe it.

Now, I know that Materialists will state that there is a firm, concrete Reality which owes nothing to our descriptions of it, and that--in substance, and please note the codicle!--I will be glad to grant. My only question would be: can you get everybody to agree that a chair is a chair and only a chair and that all chairs are equal and all that and speak only in the English language?

But I have yet to introduce the relation of the preface to the most salient point of this essay: The Title. Yes. The Bard's Sonnet 18, arguably his most famous, came to my mind when visiting Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival last weekend. The classical view for Westerners is, traditionally, colored by any chance memory of Japanese fans or room screens or wall scrolls in delicate sumei strokes, sipping green tea to the strains of "Sakura"... The reality is more like the Mongol Horde, using double-wide troop-carrier strollers as their advance guard, tromping about the tidal basin in a death shuffle as fervent as hadj-bound muslims attempting to circle the kabbah seven times. This is, you may note, an absurd metaphor. Ok. Maybe not. Envisualize a religious devotion wherein it is the adorant's responsibility to take continuous still-life pictures of themselves and their loved ones, without including others in the lens, from as many points as possible within a 360-degree circumference, and to not only cell-phone transmit and conference, but to do so within the two days between storm fronts. The Ideal and the Real: now you may see the gap more clearly.



That's whitecaps there, and not from the falling petals. These buds ain't just shaken, they're stirred.

So? Are we talking troubled waters?

Yet what good is a metaphor if is does not resonate to higher planes, greater issues? Despite the fact that the President was overseas for our jaunt, from start to finish, it was the kitty-faced Elf's determination to simply bask in the sunshine of his love (to paraphrase the Cream's big hit...which was also one of the few covers in the Jimi Hendrix catalogue, just to show you its ubiquity), along with the floating clouds of yoshino (the only cherry blossoms that deserve the name as differentiated from the "Wild Mountain" cherry trees--where the green leaves are a dead giveaway--and the loathsome "false" cherry trees that bloom as late as a week after). So, in extending our comparison to the new "Camelot", the "winter of our discontent" given way to this "son of York" (ok, stretching it a bit...), the Spring of...well, let's not belabor this further. Like there isn't enough Shakespeare here already.

It was more to bring up the weather, you see. I know I am not alone in having a fascination with it, the Weather Channel itself having shown up as a topic in movies and tv shows, just the view of it out the window as a George Kuchar film subject (for more on that, see mediafunhouse.blogspot.com) and, yes, as I may have said before, is the only front page item in every newspaper throughout the known universe. Then it can also be employed to compare the situation in the ecotropic dominion (is this a word?--dunno, but I like it...it stays) to that of the political realm.

As I have made the acquaintance of neither lottery winners nor the independently wealthy, almost everybody I know is struggling against the big blow after the downpour of money bummers. And, like the above (ok, now we're talking simile, but that's ok too; no reason to limit our expressions), we may just be having a holiday in the calm. But still, it was a lovely couple of days, which is actually, if you follow the haiku vision of Life, exactly the purpose of a cherry blossom festival. You are supposed to stop. Consider the moment. Look at the fluffy white hovering around the low-lying trees with the same hazy quality of morning mist. Look at the beautiful petals--even now!--starting to drift away in singles, couples, then torrents. Small wonder it drives her to tears.

We can't tell if the present Chief will be one of the greats, but he has a great start. Right now, he appears to be in the same space as Sunday's viewing: bright and summery, dry and comfortable, mild temperatures. There are clouds on the horizon, sure, but none today, and that's what matters.

So, to return to the preface, it is the framing of this that is most important. Those of us who do not have control of nations or wealth or influence must content ourselves with the liberty of choosing where to fight our battles and when. And when not fighting to appreciate the luxury of simply existing, with a fraction of our attention attuned to an aesthetic beyond these things. (Which, incidentally, is not translated into Latin as Procul Harum, even though the British pop-psyche band touted that as their origin--another case of bad translation...yeah, like that's going to stop me from thinking of it every time I hear "A Whiter Shade of Pale"? Gimme a break!) Some might call this "god" but others prefer a more organic spirituality.

Me? I like cherry blossoms.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Subversive resistance to authoritarian regimes



Not the same thing as open revolt, armed insurrection or fighting in the street, nonetheless, there is a place for wits and whimsy as a device for showing such beautiful things as hypocrisy and the arbitrary nature of all totalitarian states to be incapable of responding to the anarchist who eschews throwing bombs for...jellybeans! (Those in the know have already joined me in a half-smirk at the memory of our fearless leader's masterpiece. For the rest, please read "Repent, Harlequin!...said the Tick-Tock Man" by Harlan Ellison. Why does it still give me goosebumps to just recall the first time I read it?)

It was, then, utter serendipity to discover the above on the front page of the NYTimes today. I believe that it might be legible if you click on it, but, having whetted your appetite, I am certain you could find any number of other embellishments (as I have). There is something so marvelous, bright and wonderful to this collective sedition (for that is what it truly is, a well-nigh planetary protest against the forces of censorship and repression as people all over join in the weaving and linking this into a veritable web of ridicule) that I almost want to be smug as a conservative in a CPAC rug. But I can't be. Watching the Chris Marker cinemessay "The Case of the Grinning Cat" the other night must be part of it.

(I herewith include a link to Ed's blog on, coincidentally, the exact same subject!--Marker, that is http://mediafunhouse.blogspot.com/2009/03/elusive-genius-chris-marker.html--with, undoubtedly even more amazing insights!)

To summarize (as briefly as possible), the filmmaker chronicles his observance of this graffiti feline (usually signed off as "M. Chat") in places all over France, and then the world. And, as he sees it cropping up at anti-Iraq War demonstrations, begins to yearn for it, finds it to be the most inspiring part of it--this universal imp of the preverse, one might suppose--to the point where, during the biggest march, he is almost in despair of its appearance, ready to turn away if he doesn't see it...and then THERE IT IS! IN ALL IT'S CHESHIRE-GRINNING, GOLDEN GLORY! This is, then, his sign from the Forces of Cosmic Truth and Humor Department of the Zen Trickster Ministry, that all is well.

Well, this is mine. It appears that neither of us sees much so marvelous as people working together towards a common purpose and shared goal of achieving liberte, egalite and fraternite (still haven't figured out how to do accent grave or ague or whatever those Frenchies do with the final "e") as much as finding satisfaction that there is a thread that doesn't forget the value of a carnival atmosphere. Or absurdity.

And one more little popcult ref from obscurity. A long time ago there was a band called Brute Force. They were set to release an album for Apple and gave them a single to sort of prime the pump. I think it got very limited release, but I am unsure. (Any Beatles experts in minutiae may provide a definitive answer below.) The reason they lost and were tossed was more that Capitol (who was distributing Apple then) refused to touch it. And why? It was called "The King of Fuh", and the chorus went "OH HAIL THE FUH KING, THE MIGHTY FUH KING..." etc. This is an example of subversion that didn't make it past the gatekeepers of our puritan sensibility.

But it was a nice try, guys.

Remember: they also disserve who only stand and thumb their noses.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Continuing with the program...

I have been told by Ed that I should post more often. I tried to explain that I was busy working on the other blog but that sounded like a lame excuse even to me. That being said, I herewith include the video below entitled: "Campaign Diaries 2".

As it opens with the Saturday bus ride from Port Authority through the wetlands of northern New Jersey, one may initially think this lacks, perhaps, a short snippet of "America" by Paul Simon. and yes, I would not argue that the tradition of US youth casting off from home on a Greyhound or Trailways was never far from my mind. (However, the one album which I played throughout this period was Rufus Wainwright's "Want One".) This covers the first weekend or two with the camera at my side and Gene at the wheel. I can say without qualification that this may have been the most work, but was also the most satisfying and fun. If we seem to approach missionary zeal it is because we were approaching missionary zeal. If it also seems too relaxed, well--like I said, it was fun. Glum revolutions never happen; a happy cadre is the best advertisement for change. Championing optimism over anger and revenge works wonders for getting people to believe that radical transformation is a good thing.



As for my usual rants, screeds and jeremiads, I'll probably get back to that before long, but, as you may guess, I am still not over the glow...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

An exercise in futility...

...or maybe not. In any case, I have created another blog to deal with one subject alone. Ok, let me rephrase that: in my view, it is ONE subject, even if I am not 100% certain what that subject is.

So, let's say it is about the human brain, the mind, consciousness, the "soul" (immortal or not), evolution, and language & philosophy. What it boils down to is a sequence of essays which attempts to explain all the above in one continuous extrapolation.

Why?

Exactly. Nothing more than pure curiosity started me on this kick and...well, ending it? I had thought it was sheer vanity to think that I had anything to say on such lofty matters but I had second thoughts after reading a lot of Darwin (and Steven Jay Gould, his ultimate popularizer for this generation. Darwin wasn't a trained anything; he was a Naturalist. There's nothing wrong with being a Naturalist, a person who uses what they know and what they have found to draw conclusions based solely in their understanding of things. All the opinions expressed below are solely the author's and reflect only a few intersections with Wikipedia. Here's the link:

http://brainiacology.blogspot.com/

The title I was "of two minds" on. The reason for the quotation marks is that it is just that tricky. I called it "recent trends in cognative research" but it could just as easily be "recent trends in cognitive research"; one is referring to language, the other to sentience (etc.) and it is about both! But the MS Word dictionary didn't flag it as incorrect so I will let it stand.

When I finish, I may change the name to the other spelling

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I GOT THEM LONG-GONE INAUGURAL-BALLS, BI-PARTISAN/SCHMI-PARTISAN, IF-YOU-CAN'T-BEAT'EM-TIE-A-NEWS-AROUND-THEIR-NECK, WASHINGTON POST-COITAL BLUES



(or KEEPING IT UP WHEN THE HONEYMOON'S OVER)

First, a little couplet:

Forget the grape gripe
(viz, no whine before its time)
about the taste of the unripe
or cerveza without lime

addicted to the rush
but crashing, all because
after bush has got the push
hey!--what happened to my buzz?


There is a natural tendency to denigrate one's experience in the light of subsequent developments which detract from the whole and reduce it to a series of logical propositions that all things borne of Man are destined for dust and decay. And you can get your mind out of the gutter right now: there aren't going to be any libido euphemisms here. That was strictly a teaser head.

Participatory democracy only works when you participate. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes (or at least, whoever is in there is just as scared as you, irrespective of pieties), there are no cynics knocking on doors. There may be some professionals at the top who are pretty jaded, but, again, THAT'S NOT A TRENCH ON THE MARNE, ok?

Our president has been in office a little less than a month, yet the number of active detractor's has shot through the roof. Should any creedence be given to the divisionists and revisionists who seem to work less by concrete facts based in the authority of comprehensive investigation and appreciation of a subject than misleading interrogatories, sly innuendo and scripts tailored to climax at 6.8 minutes into a 7-minute segment peaking with, "I'm sorry but that's all the time we have right now..." before the commercial?

So much for the romance, eh? (Ok. One bumper ref.)



Over standard coffee morning conversation with the Elf herself, in discussion of this lamentable phenomenon, she mentioned what the Obama election meant to her: "The return of common sense." And it struck me that, yes, I did learn something way back when in American History; this was also the name of the pamphlet (their "blogs") by Thomas Paine that was the most widely-read piece of literature in "the colonies." This was a truly revolutionary bit of wisdom in that it spoke in plain speech about subjects that everyone could understand. Just to be able to hear a chief executive say something like, "We screwed up," is so precious and honest that we tend to undervalue it just because it was over something fairly trivial. (Mistakes on two nominee's tax returns vs. One Trillion Dollar Bailout Plan? Don't see the logic in putting them on the same plate, nope!) In the relatively short continuum of the United States, the amount of disunion has always been pretty big. Why should the present be any exception? Perhaps it just seems worse because of the aforementioned professional gainsayers. The other day, Colbert is putting up a new "on notice" warning to another of his pet peeves, amusing as always, when I notice, right at the top, the one put there by the Man himself when making a late stage televised appearance via satellite: "DISTRACTIONS." During the Civil Rights Era (hard to conceive that we actually had eras of social concerns), there was a saying, either out of the gospel churches themselves or the SCLC itself: "Keep your eyes on the prize." And despite modern interpretation of it as some sort of "get your game on" exhortation to win the big bucks, this usage was more about focussing on an ideal and not being swayed from belief that the true path was there, even when, at times, it was hard to see, obscured by brush or rubbish or the dark.

I had fallen prey to this very malady. It is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans: Life.

Over past week, however, I had been re-encouraged, shall we say, by two "better angels of my nature." One was a serendipitous Saturday afternoon stroll through Chelsea with a friend that stumbled upon this group exhibition. As art goes, not exactly thrilling (or even as art propaganda--for that, better to cross the same street to the Robert Miller gallery to see the DJ Spooky (Paul Miller, no relation, far as I can tell) show satirizing Soviet revolutionary posters for the rebel state of Antarctica), but as signs of the times, nothing short of exemplary.

The other was more personal, having actually received two e-mails, quite unexpectedly, from former campaign staffers with whom I worked in Pennsylvania. It was so touching and unexpected, I had to haul out the video diaries and have another look. And so, I offer here...another look. What you will see below is how the campaign looked from the skirmishes, the hand-to-hand combat. It is not comprehensive, merely the infantry perspective.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lux has left the building: The Interior is now Exterior




Primordial. That's the way I and a few of my like-minded schizicens felt about the Cramps. The funeral oration of Pericles will probably resound from some of the pulpits, but it won't be here. Never met the man, only saw the band twice, yet the connection was formed before I even knew how deep the twisted and gnarled roots entwined below the surface of the culture. So, instead of going on to Lester Bangs length (as I am wont to do), a few brief remarks.

The first hint of that was the ep, with liner notes about how they gestated, fairly festered, in the blue glow of b&w monster movies (language that evoked the mysteries of radiation and mutation so dear to those sci-fi pioneers), reading EC comics (my first love before rock and roll) in a Cleveland suburb. The whole impact of the prose was to herald a sound as a supporating lesion, the open wound that art seeks to heal but never can. (Ok. Maybe a little Greek tragedy, like Philoctetes, if you want.) And it was all red too. I now know that "Human Fly" was not an original, nor "Goo-Goo Muck", but it belonged to them after that point.

Even the name, Lux Interior--it was like a joke that was raving before you heard it. The punchline was a voice like a hyena's laugh in the Serengetti: giggles, whispers, moans and gurgles. The rest of it were feral glints in the night...don't wander far from the campfire.

While still rusticating in the Midwest, a friend wrote me about the new club opening up on Halloween on Second Avenue called CBGBs Theater. It was only open for a couple of shows, I guess, but that one found the band in full glory. Brian was still with them and glowering. Ivy lifted her legs to reveal what most males wanted to see. Lux gnawed on a raw bone--either cow or pig--and threw it into the throng. Then repeatedly stabbed stuffed animals until the front rows were covered in kapock. Then a roadie brought out a box under a tarp...and Lux opened the cage and released the rats onto the audience.

Uh. That's Dada, folks.

Smack dab in the center of the "New Wave" was this band who had totally escaped the distancing of Cool. They never bothered with Existential Dread; they were too busy running from zombies, and pumping out a lurching rhythm on so much echoplex and reverb you'd have thought you'd fallen into the Cavestomp Dimension, where "The Mole People" were ruled by Rocky Horror, dictating his fiats through a Ventures amp on 11. No matter how alienated you got, all it would take is some of that throbble to thrombosis your neurosis and get you to wriggle-wiggle with the worms.

A friend tipped me to the tape called "The Purple Knif Show" wherein Lux went on a radio station in LA in 1984 and DJ'ed a 90-minute set of favorite tunes. What made it more impressive was that he was using the code words known only to ex-North Ohioans of a very particular period. He had stepped very forcefully, in his fishnet hose and stiletto heels, right out of the closet and opened declared himself a f.o.g.--Friend of Ghoulardi. If you have to ask, don't look at me--I can't tell you. Not in a million years. And I've tried, elsewhere. But that's another reason they endured through the years; the Lux/Ivy unit made for this astonishing enigma. Not that they wouldn't speak to the press, but nothing they ever said went beyond this space-out of childlike naivete to abstract terror; the sincere innocence necessary to generate the core of jibbering madness that opens the door to escape. And from what? To where? Remember the Doc's dying breath to Captain Leslie Nielsen in "Forbidden Planet" on what killed the Krell? "Monsters, John! Monsters...from the ID!"

On every Labor Day Lobster Bake we'd join in with other psychempaths on the rockbound coast of Portland, Maine's Thousand Islands and they were always near to top of the playlist in heavy rotation. The booze cruise on the ferry would resemble a batch of drunken sailors on shore leave, but I can't forget stomping with my avowedly hetreosexual male companions into a collective high kick on "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns." Some people wait their entire lives for such liberation.

The last time was the 25th Anniversary celebration of CBGBs. I made sure to see at least the Ramones and the Cramps...which was apt, as it was so cramped breathing was difficult. Still, you don't get any better moshing than when there is no room for independent motion. Whenever I moved, you moved, and whenever Lux lunged, we caromed. But despite the close quarters, it was without friction because no one there would rather be anywhere else with anyone else for that time. Was it similar to the aforementioned Ghoulardi cult? Perhaps. Who can answer the Sphinx?

Shall we see his like again?

...monsters from the ID...



[post scriptum...the music upload thang is done far better by far more than i, so for that, i suggest you try the mediafunhouse link to the right. it may not be your oedipus-type riddle-buster, but i guarantee everything there will be a lot more fun than sticking hot pokers in your eyes...]