Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hail Satin!


Caution forbids me to say where I work, but I can reveal it's a rather large company (although about to be quite a bit smaller, if the CEO is to be believed). It's large enough, and media-savvy enough, that one is greeted each morning in the lobby by a big plasma-screen monitor that scrolls through announcements of upcoming events, product releases, visiting lecturers, social events and the like. Earlier this week I noted that an employee Christian affinity-group was using this company resource to announce an outreach program of some sort; one imagines a fairly dreary gathering, with servings of dechocolated cocoa with sugar-free marshmallows, featuring teary testimonials to the power of Christ's love to make straight the way to writing PowerPoint business cases. Implicit in quite a lot of the testimony, I imagine, would be a characteristic quiet self-congratulation at belonging to a persecuted minority.

Tant pis. My outrage is close to nil. My policy in the matter is to take a page from these worthies' playbook and hate the religion and not the religious. If they find their lives enriched by pixie-dust and pretzel logic, more power to -- no. That's not the expression I want. If they find their lives enriched, far be it from me to disabuse them.

But I'm not above a little horseplay.

Some while ago, I was in some disreputable mens' room somewhere, and on the wall over the urinal some fuckwit had inscribed an inverted five-pointed star and the legend (spelling preserved): "Hail Satin!" The notion of this dullard devil-worshiper unable to spell the name of his own Fallen Angel amused me for as long as it took to squeeze one out, and then I forgot about it.

But the memory returned this morning as I was mulling over an idea that had occurred to me. As the Kompany Khristians are given free license to use a private communication system for their own purposes, surely the Corporation can be prevailed upon to give equal access to, say, the Mithraists, or the Zoroastrians? Or, it came to me, the Goat-Fucking Blood-Worshipers? What would prevent me from enlisting a few of my kookier friends (and we do exist) to form an affinity group called The Golden Order of the Hermetical Goat Skull in Service of Satan and demand equal time on the company bulletin board? Not because any of us has any particular erotic attraction toward the hollow-horned ruminants or to the Dark Lord (we're just good friends, really) but for the sheer, pigheaded contrariness of it?

Then I remembered "Hail Satin!" This, I realized -- this -- would be the touch that would turn a mere contrarian gesture into a beautiful, complex, meaty, Surrealist put-on worthy of our forebears.

I can imagine the flummoxed look on the face of the HR weasel as he reads the Manifesto of the Sanctified Sodality of the Satin-Worshipers, adorned with our completely nonsensical mystical symbols: "I-I think you've misspelled --"

"Misspelled what, sir?"

"You worship Satan?"

"Oh-HO! The old libel! Persecution, sir! This is a plain, blatant, baldfaced lie, perpetrated by those who would keep us in perpetual servitude! Shame, sir! Shame!"

"But it says here you're Satan-worshippers --"

"Sir, we worship satin! The fabric formed using filament fibers such as silk, nylon, or polyester! Its high luster due to the high number of "floats" on the fabric! Its "missed" interlacings, where the warp yarn lays on top of the weft yarn, or vice versa, tending to make the fabric look glossier as well as give it a smoother hand in most cases! Oh, how we revere the Granite weave and the Check weave, used commonly in apparel goods such as eveningwear and fine clothing, as well as linens such as bedsheets, in some industrial usages, and athletic gear such as shorts and baseball jackets! How superior we find it to the twill weave and the plain weave, the two other basic types of weaving by which the majority of woven products are formed! Hail Satin!"

OK, so we get past the HR weasels by agreeing to tone the name down to the Satin Appreciation Society and losing the inverted pentacles and goat-horns. Some eyebrows are raised as our announcements go up on the bulletin boards, rumors begin to fly among the spelling-challenged that something weird is going on. The Christians submit grievances, alleging a hostile work environment. We reply that we're not hostile so much as really, really passive-aggressive.

More contrarian Satinists join. The movement grows, acquires first a cult, then an aboveground following. News reports appear on satin-worshipping, ascribing all sorts of skulduggery -- ritual murders, sex-orgies, kidnapping of Gentile (we'll call 'em Denimite) babies -- to our nascent movement. Throughout it all, we insist the whole thing is an enormous misunderstanding, that we, People of the Cloth, only wish to be left alone to worship the thread-count of our choice in our own way. We are a persecuted minority! we insist, oppressed by people who can't spell! We say this with a quiet inner smile.

Then we issue a loud, obstreperous demand, perhaps under the letterhead of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Polyester Research, for a vengeful crusade against the Muslin countries -- our slogan: On to Damask, us!

(Somebody please hit me on the head. Right here, behind the ear. Use that bat over there. Thank you.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pour Me Another Stinger!

Wow. Apparently I'm rich.
That accumulation of suburban wealth [in and around Washington, DC], local economists said, is a side effect of the enormous flow of federal money into the region through contracts for defense and homeland security work in the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, coming after the local technology boom of the 1990s. "When you put that together . . . you have a recipe for heightened prosperity," said Anirban Basu, an economist at a Baltimore consulting firm....
(...while, the article did not say, furtively slipping a $300,000 consulting fee into his pocket as recompense for this stunning insight...)

Those japesters down at the print edition of the Post saw fit, in this morning's early edition, to pair that above-the-fold front-pager opposite this piece about Washingtonians enduring the second-longest commutes to work in the nation, "fueled [stop! you're killing me!] by new housing popping up rapidly in the region's outer fringes." New housing, it stops short of saying, quite a lot of which looks like this.

Going Postal remains an option.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Killer Bees

I've just come downstairs from killing three hornets that had invaded the sanctity of the Marital Bedroom. Nasty, big brutes they were. They'd come in, as far as we could surmise, through the gap between open window-sashes, attracted by the soft bulbs with which we light our way to bed. This is their time of year to howl, as the first signs of autumn begin to show themselves. They died nobly, their jerking antennae warning me that I have an eventful early morning ahead of me tomorrow, up on a ladder looking for a nest to spray with deadly chemicals with names as long as your arm. The tree-hugger in me resists the wifely mandate to similarly soak wasps' nests on our soffets and eaves; as long as we leave each other alone I'm willing to coexist peacefully. But not hornets. They die.

I was reminded of a lovely late-spring weekend afternoon in 2000. Our puppies, acquired from the Animal Shelter the autumn previous, had grown to near full size, and they demanded vigorous daily exercise. From our old house in Reston it was a pretty walk to parkland surrounding a branch of Difficult Run, and this afternoon I had roused Betty, then eight, and Freddie, six, to accompany me for a ramble. We let the pups off the leash in the woods, to let them really stretch their legs and splash in the creek.

After a wade and a wet, laughter-filled romp, we whistled up the pups and began to head for home. On the steep draw up from the stream, I felt a sharp sting on my skin, and then another. The air was suddenly filled with angry swarming yellowjackets. One of the dogs had upset a ground-wasps' nest, and they were letting their displeasure be known.

Our dogs are an odd pair. Littermates, the offspring of a stray German Wirehaired Pointer who loved not wisely but too well, they are an interesting study in genetics. Ring Ting Ting, the bitch, has her mother's thick, wiry coat, which sheds water and is amazingly resistant to stinging insects. Brown Fang, on the other hand, has his bar-sinister father's short, smooth coat, which is lovely and sleek but which doesn't afford him the protection his sister enjoys. At the wasps' attack, his vulnerability was immediately apparent, while his sister was blissfully oblivious. He yelped and started pitiably -- which behavior, I noted with a fatherly concern, was soon to be replicated by my own human offspring if I didn't do something right perky.

Brilliantly, with the sort of instinctual élan that so marks the human male, I found my voice.

"Jesus Christ, what is this? Killer bees?"

"What, Dad?"

"Run!"

I believe it was Mr. Kipling who had some picquant words about "Keeping your head when all about you/Are losing theirs," and I can't help but imagine Old White Man's Burden gazing sadly into his gin-and-tonic, chopfallen at my lexicological skill at that critical moment. Why exactly I saw the need, in that moment of panic, to evoke killer bees to my wee tots, whose experience was entirely innocent of the term, is a matter for the psychological profession.
I only know that the expression meant one thing to me, and entirely another to the kiddies, who could only interpret my words painfully, searingly literally: Bees that kill.

As we jogged along the forest path, removing ourselves from the wasps' sphere of influence, poor Brown Fang's yelps lessening with each step, Freddie, his voice shaky and obviously badly frightened, asked me, "Dad? What are killer bees?"

It became immediately apparent to me how miserably I had just failed as a father. A single, stupid, unconsidered outburst had given my children an utterly unnecessary glimpse at their own mortality -- an unforgivably brainless moment of unthinking babble that had scared them beyond adult imagining. I was so, so sorry.

And I said so. I explained about Africanized honeybees that infest the American South, about how when they swarm on a body they can actually kill but that their reputation was greatly sensationalized. I tried to reassure them that they did not exist in our part of the country, that we'd been attacked by a perfectly ordinary swarm of yellowjackets disturbed by the dogs, that my outburst had been a stupid, stupid joke. How do you explain to children about hyperbole that arises from momentary panic?

Safe again, we made our way back to the house. It occurred to me to check the children's clothes for any remaining outliers. I raised Betty's t-shirt -- and found, to my horror, that one of the little buggers had taken up residence in her bellybutton. Calmly, I said, "Hold still, sweetie," and with a deft flick of the thumb and forefinger I sent it packing.

We had some great stories to tell Mom.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Vacation Observations

  1. The Atlantic Ocean is a cruel mistress. She was utterly placid and glassy in the mornings, her only motion what Patrick O'Brian devotees will recognize as a "greasy swell" that broke limply on the shore, waves no more than a foot high. The wind picked up most afternoons, giving the waters something of a creditable chop, but certainly nothing that would make a surfboard move an inch. The way to guarantee such undulatory impotence is to rent a surfboard with an eye to learning, finally, to surf.

  2. The way to guarantee the irritation of a recent surgical incision that has nearly completely healed is to rent a two-person ocean-going kayak. Really -- you should try it; all the best families do. Take the kayak out into the surf, load your trepidacious passenger, in this case a girl of fourteen who has never so much as paddled an air-mattress, lose your grip on the thing in a wave, have it turn turtle, and then -- this is the fun part -- feel its sharp edge plow right into your recently incised thigh-muscle. In my case, this raised a mere charley-horse in the thigh -- but imagine my surprise when, the day following, I managed once again to be attacked by the object, this time the very sharpest, surf-cutting prow of the vessel driving into the exact same spot. My screams could be heard in Lisbon.

  3. I'm going out on a limb, here, and I'll probably be drummed right out of the Drones Club for even mentioning it, but I think it might be possible -- just possible, mind you -- that there is such a thing as too much P. G. Wodehouse. I hasten to add, the Master cannot be gainsaid; his skills as a farceur, his effortless, playful mastery of the English sentence, and his delicious evocation of a bygone and far more civilized time can never be surpassed. My problem is that reading him introduces an unbecoming orotundity to my own speech, and I begin interacting with my own children and their guests as if they were characters in an English country-house farce. I was a whisker shy of demanding that we don black tie for dinner, but I found myself referring to a glass of Samuel Adams Boston Ale as "a life-giving draft of the needful" and mystifying my son by telling him I'd "just been giving the rising sun the glad eye." I began to believe that all I needed was a black-rimmed monocle like Galahad Threepwood's to pop out of my eye at moments of surprise. People don't wear monocles these days, more's the pity. They should.

  4. People who don't read P. G. Wodehouse should not be allowed to name their beach-houses. I have in front of me a brochure from the rental agency that let us our house, and it is a collection of the awfulest puns ever perpetrated by human agency. "Whalecome Inn." "Our Tern." "Sea Esta." "A Shore Thing." "Solvent Sea" (at two thousand clams a week in the high season, a subjective assertion). "Breakin' Wind" (I swear to you!). I am aware that I am not exactly innocent in the punning line, and so my irritation might be a bit de trop, but I'm mystified why somebody would invest the time and money to have an elaborate sign made up reading "Weak-End's Retreat." What the hell is a "weak end"? Is this some kind of reference to the human ass? Why the hell did somebody think that was funny? Jesus. People.

  5. Now this is funny, a real-estate agent's sign, abandoned on the ground outside our beach house:

    Always wanted to do that to a Realtor(r). And while I'm at it, spank his worthless bum with a riding-crop and yank on his dog-collar. Perhaps you'd like to meet his wife, Dirty Little Two-Bit? And their enchanting daughter, Attention. And their son, a well-known blogger -- Link. Lovely family.

  6. Bobby and Mikey: Thanks, boys! That was some sovereign pinch-hitting. Personal Revelation Time: In my younger days, I looked a who-ho-hole lot like Bob Seger. Like, frighteningly so. That pic of Bob in Bobby's last post? Wonder Woman asked me where Bobby'd gotten a picture of me in college. Yikes. Best thing to do with your stalker, Bobby, y'ask me, is to consult Jeeves. The man's brain is positively bulging out all over the place. He lives on fish, you know.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chillin' At The Blue Dolphin

Wonder Woman shot me one of her ominous brow furrows, signifying her disapproval at my feeble attempt of obfuscation as I announced that I was in need of a respite from the daily mix of sun, sand, surf, and our precious and precocious progeny.

She intoned, “I saw the menu over at The Blue Dolphin Bar.”

“Menu?”

She cocked her head to one side and said, “Right.”

Quite obviously she was referring to the text (I think it was Estrangelo Edessa 12 pt. Bold) prominently displayed on the cover of the dolphin-shaped menu that boasted “Wireless Network Available Free To Our Patrons.” We had popped in for a couple of Frozen Papaya Meltdowns on Tuesday night and I’m quite sure she caught my furtive glance at “laptop rental” sign in the window as we passed “Captain Pugwash’s Bait, Tackle and Video Shack” on the way.

I did my best to make quick 23-skidoo, and doubled-down to the see the Captain. After a brief and banal discussion about of all things, Pluto, I had the laptop tucked safely under my arm and headed for the "Dolphin."

I sauntered up to the bar, ordered a stinger, and found my way to a secluded table near the window. As luck would have it they were playing disc 2 of the sublime “The Essential Kenny G.”

Perfect. His sweet soprano melodies sounded almost mystical, perfectly complementing the lunch crowd murmur and clankity-clank-clanks coming from the kitchen.

I logged on, and without a morsel of remorse or a tinge of trepidation I surfed on over here. As I read, I began to shake my head in a quiet resignation.

Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby.


Bobby.

I should have known you still aren’t over that night. The conflict that has dwelled in the dark-depths of the chasm that was forged on that fateful evening, and to this day has not been bridged, (Happy Kevin?) in spite of my heartfelt attempts.

It was all your fault.

Bobby was headlining at Gregory’s French Trombone back in ’97 and invited me to the gig. It was an acoustic show – just him, the Fender Rhodes and a box guitar. He was doing a nice mix of mostly Abba, Uriah Heep and his own "songs." At the beginning of the show the audience was spotty but as the night progressed the club started hopping. Around 10:30, a group of 20-odd sorority girls from the local community college filed in and parked themselves around 3 tables near the stage. They were already well-oiled and looking for some action. Bobby winked at me and immediately went into his arrangement of “Rainy Days and Mondays.”

He misread the ladies. One of them stood up and said, “Hey Stretch, don’t you know any Duncan Sheik? How about some Matchbox 20!”

Bobby smiled and said, “My older, albeit less-endowed brother is in the audience. Ned? C’mon up here and show these fine young ladies some of that Jingo charm.”

I had a nagging feeling that I should just shake my head and order another drink, but I do a really keen version of “Barely Breathing,” and I was starting to really feel it . How could I miss? Besides, he threw down the gauntlet.

I downed my third stinger and swaggered up to the stage. Bobby got behind the Rhodes and I picked up the acoustic guitar and we ripped through the song. The soice rockstic went berserk! One of them rushed the stage and not so surprisingly exposed her ample and all natural bazoongas and asked me to squeeze them. Then three more of them stood up on their chairs and started chanting:

“NED! NED! LET'S ALL GO TO BED!”

I took it all in stride. I’m used to it. Bobby, however, was insanely envious. He never could get over the fact that I got the Kevorka and he didn’t. He stormed off the stage in a hissy-huff and left me alone with the ladies. What could I do? I launched into Matchbox 20’s “Push” and followed it up with Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love.”

They had to call the police.

So now here I am, staring at the remnants of what once was my respectable blog, because I bought into Bobby’s empty assurances.

One more thing.

I despise that no-good two-bit hoity-toity impudent wanker Pat Metheny. Look at the specious and inflammatory comments he made about The Smooth Jazz King Kenny G!

I’d like to see him hold an e-flat for forty-five minutes.

See you next week...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Where's Jingo Keep Th' Fristed Flakes?


Huh. Ha ha.













Huh huh. *cough* ha.








bbbllllbbbbllllglubble HA HA HA. blubbleblub. ha ha. *cough cough*










HA HA HA. HA HA. *flick* ha huh glbubleglubglub.



Heh.


Yeahh.....

HA HA HA. *cuff cuff cuff* ha ha.














GGGGG....HHHHHUUUUHHH...HYORK.....ha ha
*crunch crunch crunch* mmmm.....




HA HA. Ha. H....


*ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZz*







Here I Go Again...Up on Th' Stage.

Hey, it's Neddie checking in here and wading through the broken glass 'n' roaches where my lovely and sedate blog used to reside. Fuckin' Lightfoot.

I'm here to bring some sanity back to th' I mean the proceedings with a shout out to THE MAN. BOB SEGER. Woah! Seger is like lightnin' Rock 'n' Roll Viagra for the masses. Seger is always pushing, pushing the envelope and he's never afraid to tell it like it is.

Listen to "Main Street", man. Listen to "Old Time Rock And Roll". He is in full Party-To-The-Oldies Fettle on these and more great numbers. LISTEN TO "TURN THE PAGE"! This is like a four-chord version of Th' Bhagavad fuckin' Gita, my little initiates.

Yes, Seger. He's achieved the kind of stature where he needs no first name. Plus Bob is a crappy name. Seger, man. He's like Cash, you know? Like Bono. Except you'll see him in a Piggledy Wiggledy LONG, LONG before you'll see that snob Bono. Bono'll send his damn roadie Edge in for funnelcakes and ask for his change back like th' weedy elitist he is. Not so our Bob. Our Seger. Guy's middle name is Piggledy Wiggledy.

Forgetting Sartre! I forgot that wet the damn second I first heard the chiming opening chords of "Strut", baby. That philosophy crap was out the window when I started stocking up on Seger's 50-minute beer commercials, baby. I mean albums.

Seger: A Man Of Many Cupboards.

P.S. man, I guarantee I get responses praising Seger to th' skies in all earnestness. Might take a month, might take 3.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Why'd This Have To Be Th' Week I Get A Stalker?

I'm tryin' to take care of Ned's nice bloggy. And I've got this skank callin' at all hours. Why couldn't it happen next week? I really wanted to have th' time to do something cool and now I have to play tonight and I'll prob'ly have to wear a fuckin' mask.

It's like, so unJingo. Having a stalker is just not very Jingo-ey.

It does have an amusing side, though. Like trying do draw her out on th' tape recording. "Don't you want to hurt the children? The children HATE Jesus. Say something violent about th' children. We Can't Be Together with them around."

Also, you guys will like this- I told her, "you're supposed to fuck the guy before you boil th' rabbit." Ha ha ha. That's the closest thing to funny here. But it's pret' dingblistered funny.

I do believe I'm finally going to Bag My Christer, friends. After all these years sufferin' their barbs and arrows.

Hey, did you guys know that Colin Moulding used to hang out with Paul McCartney? Lookit this picture with Heather and Andy over on th' left. Jesus, Andy looks terrible in this shot and Colin looks like it's 1979!
















Y'know what else would be really un-Jingoey? Discussing patently weird sexual fantasties. So I won't discuss mine. I'll just...show ya:


Heh. A whole new take on th' Flying Nun, eh?

Fuck, I just knocked over one of his vases. I just don't belong here with my chaotic shit.

A nun and weed....oh, gracious.

Do you all know that Ned wrote the liner notes for the Definitive Virgin Records XTC box set? See, he can't tell you that 'cause it would be boasty. Me, I can tell you. Check it.

Woah, huh? You got one of those under your belt? Not me, man. And you wouldn't believe how fucking great his liner notes are. Just fuckin' great. I can almost recite them by heart. "yin and yang...male and female...let us consider..."

My stalker's really crazy, though. I've got that. I've got a crazy right wing nutjob stalker, and Ned gets to do th' liner notes for Coat Of Many Cupboards. Me having a crazy right wing stalker is sort of like Bob Marley getting hate mail from NORML. It just don't quite scan.

Um, what else? What else? Gonna grab some foffeee. Hang on a sec. See, I gotta get my head right. It's all very well and fine on Th' Orchestra where I'm expected to be as angry and funny and chaotic as I want but over here I just look like a-a-a a-hole. And th' other thing is it's Ned's blog and it should be about Ned and I'm just underlining my youngest-child narcissism and it don't look good. I mean, you see how I'm already stinking it up with me, me, me? I don't god damn mean to.

And people come here for a taste of sanity and consideration, right? How's this for taste and sanity? Not so much, hey? A crazed, coffee-twisted, bottle-blond dude with a stalker who's all about his self? Sweet!

One good thing about a stalker is they don't mind if you talk about yourself a lot.

Ha ha ha ha.

Crumbs, I'm going to late for my gig. I want you all to know that I love you very much indeed.

Except for you-know-who.

Heyyyy...this actually came out O.K.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Well Ding Buss It An' Hebbins T'Besty

Holy fuck! What am I doing here? Fuck! Everything's so clean and white and neat.

I hardly know what to fucking say! Woah! My own place looks sort of like your first place after college with Jimmy and Bigass Billy. And that chick next door that you all banged but you feel sort of...had. And you don't know how to express it. That'll come later. When you've engaged at great length in some pursuit you come to know the terminology. You'll have all sorts of ways of expressing it in ten years and in twenty you'll be well-nigh scholarly. Yeah, you get good at Th' Language Of Disappointment.

Over here at Jingo's it's like fuckin' that Weedy Allen movie where they're in th' future. It's that open-plan thing, you know? Not like th' Clockwork Orange future but more like 2001. And still, it's all very tastefully appointed and there's lots of shelves of books in various states of aging and the contrast is tasteful.

Christing stereo is badass in here. Nice Panasonic w/ the Thruster speakers, you know? With th' turntable on top. And it looks like he's got a 500 watt sub under th' Mac.And what's that I hear? Why, I believe there's a stack of disks up on top of the spindle, falling, falling every twenty minutes like they did in 1979. Oh, check it- here's Apple Venus by XTC. "...harvest festival....harvest festival...what was best of all..." Oh, look- Ruben and Th' Jets. Next up- Doc At The Radar Station. Remain In Light. We're Only In It For The Money. Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. More Eno- Warmjets. A Hard Day's Night, natch. That's something Ned would say, right? Natch. He's all natch, natch, and I'm like asdfkjerewoivnb. Th' first Squeeze Album is there and so is Trust by Li'l Hands Of Concrete. Natch. Nacht. Kristalnacht.

Konnen Sie Mir sagen wo man kan pohl geschmokt haben?

When I went to collidge you had to do a writing sample and ours was supposed to be something that had really happened to you that was transformative. The only criterion was that it was supposed to be true. I made up this preposterous fiction about having a tour guide in Bolivia who got drunk and fell off a mountain. Just for th' sheer challenge of sitting across from some academic figure and lying like a Republican.

Um, what th' fuck else?

Can't resort to the usual verbal terrorism here at Jingo's! Shit! um, maybe I'll show a picture of something fucked!



Jumpin' Jehosephat! That's mentaler than shit! Is that a...a...weird sea urchin? Dude, that's just fuckin' wrong. It's just out of place here, man. Among th' books and gardening implimints 'n' straw boaters up on hooks.

So, now that you can't take lipstick on airplanes does that mean no more male dogs can travel?

Oh, what t' do? I feel like somebody just handed me their '59 Les Paul and they're standing there. I'm going to stretch up with my own brilliant upcoming post about (christ, I can't even say what it's called here it's so unspeakable). Woah! I suspect the answer is caffeinated!

!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Forgetting Sartre

One of the goobers bailed at the last minute. Le Viscompte. He contacted me on the mobile about an hour before our departure and made some feeble excuse about being busy this weekend and besides he’s suffering from a form a psychosomatic writer’s block.

Fear not, humble reader. I always have a few auxiliary posts at the ready. A smattering of tidbitte delicato brewing beyond the blogoshpherical horizon for just such an occasion.

Members of this exclusive fellowship have already been informed of my undergraduate work - indeed I waxed philosophical for four years at university studying Comparative Religion, oui? What I’ve neglected to mention until this very moment is that I’ve since been awarded a Masters of The Artes in Post-Modern Nihilism for the Neo Ubermann. I am currently working on my PhD.

For your reading pleasure I submit some words from my unfinished thesis. This only a rough draft, so please be kind in the comments section.

Tally-Ho!

“Forgetting Sartre: Postcultural objectivism and rationalism”

1. Realities of genre
In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the distinction between creation and destruction. But Long[1] implies that the works of Eco are an example of mythopoetical rationalism.

The primary theme of Pickett’s[2] analysis of postcultural situationism is not, in fact, discourse, but subdiscourse. The characteristic theme of the works of Stone is a self-sufficient totality. Therefore, Sontag suggests the use of postcultural objectivism to read class.

In the works of Stone, a predominant concept is the concept of dialectic consciousness. Baudrillard uses the term ‘rationalism’ to denote not theory per se, but neotheory. But the subject is contextualised into a posttextual Marxism that includes language as a reality.

If rationalism holds, we have to choose between postcultural objectivism and Derridaist reading. Therefore, the primary theme of Parry’s[3] model of posttextual Marxism is a mythopoetical totality.

Marx promotes the use of rationalism to challenge class divisions. Thus, Dietrich[4] suggests that we have to choose between the subcultural paradigm of context and structuralist desublimation.

Postcultural objectivism states that the Constitution is capable of intentionality. In a sense, if Derridaist reading holds, we have to choose between posttextual Marxism and postdialectic theory.

Lyotard uses the term ‘postcultural objectivism’ to denote the bridge between society and reality. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a rationalism that includes consciousness as a paradox.

Marx uses the term ‘postcultural objectivism’ to denote the defining characteristic, and therefore the meaninglessness, of textual sexual identity. In a sense, Buxton[5] holds that we have to choose between Foucaultist power relations and preconceptual cultural theory.

2. Stone and posttextual Marxism
If one examines rationalism, one is faced with a choice: either accept posttextual Marxism or conclude that art is part of the collapse of truth, but only if consciousness is interchangeable with narrativity; if that is not the case, we can assume that the purpose of the writer is deconstruction. The genre of rationalism which is a central theme of Stone’s Platoon is also evident in Natural Born Killers. Thus, if postpatriarchial narrative holds, we have to choose between postcultural objectivism and capitalist libertarianism.

The main theme of the works of Stone is a predialectic whole. Sartre’s critique of rationalism states that society, perhaps ironically, has objective value. However, any number of discourses concerning the cultural paradigm of consensus may be found.

Lyotard uses the term ‘postcultural objectivism’ to denote the economy, and hence the stasis, of neodialectic sexual identity. In a sense, the primary theme of Buxton’s[6] essay on rationalism is not desituationism, but predesituationism.

Several discourses concerning a mythopoetical paradox exist. But McElwaine[7] suggests that we have to choose between Marxist capitalism and neocapitalist nationalism.

The main theme of the works of Stone is the collapse, and eventually the stasis, of patriarchial consciousness. Thus, if rationalism holds, the works of Stone are reminiscent of Lynch.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Long, J. (1997) Rationalism in the works of Mapplethorpe. And/Or Press

2. Pickett, T. W. ed. (1976) Capitalist Discourses: Postcultural objectivism in the works of Stone. University of Massachusetts Press

3. Parry, E. J. M. (1997) Rationalism and postcultural objectivism. Panic Button Books

4. Dietrich, D. N. ed. (1988) The Circular Door: Postcultural objectivism in the works of Joyce. Loompanics

5. Buxton, F. G. B. (1995) Rationalism in the works of Stone. Schlangekraft

6. Buxton, W. H. ed. (1989) The Rubicon of Context: Postcultural objectivism and rationalism. Harvard University Press

7. McElwaine, S. C. E. (1993) Rationalism in the works of Eco. University of Illinois Press

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ducking Out

I'm going on vacation for the next week.

By design, the beach-house we're renting -- in a part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles or perhaps Bradley Fighting Vehicles -- doesn't have Net access, although I'm reliably informed that the water tastes like wine. Or was that vice versa? Better check the brochure...

This will be a period of Serious Disengagement from the World. I'm taking every volume of P. G. Wodehouse I own, a pair of good binoculars for birdwatching, and my camera. Maybe a change of clothes, but maybe not. And I am leaving the laptop at home.

Brave, I know.

I'm turning the keys of the Jingomobile over to a couple of goobers who may or may not choose to reveal their Secret Identities to you. I've left the decision up to them. I expect hijinks and japery to ensue. If they do not, the goobers will have the Empress of Blandings to answer to.

Catch you in a week.

-----

PS: Four thousand Pharynguloids through here over the last two days reading about PowerPoint and the US military's planning for Iraq, and, like, two of you drop a comment? Yeesh! What's a guy gotta do? Slow month, I guess...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Achieving Representation

Over the weekend I bought a copy of Thomas Ricks's Fiasco: American Military Adventure in Iraq. I haven't started it yet (only 100 pages left in Mason & Dixon), but I took a dekko at the photos this evening, and came across this thing, which made me throw the book violently across the room and hide under the bed until Wonder Woman assured me it was safe to emerge:


This is a PowerPoint slide from "an official Central Command briefing depicting how the United States intended to progress from 'military victory' to 'strategic success.'"

Before commenting on this horror, I have to make a confession. For several years during the late Eighties and early Nineties, I ran a corporate communications graphics and pubs shop for a Beltway Bandit in the Washington suburbs, during which I came to detest Microsoft's PowerPoint with a hatred I reserve for few things in this world -- it falls somewhere between my loathing for Dick Cheney and Virginia Senator George Allen. But my confession is this: I too have perpetrated information-design horrorshows like the one above. In my defense, the ideas didn't come from my own head but from pointy-haired bosses whose lives depended on communicating with military procurement officials -- and here's the important part -- in their own language.

And above you see the language that these people speak. My sudden, unexpected reimmersion into the clouds of toxic methane and voice-ensqueakening helium emitted by a DOD PowerPoint deck was what sent me scurrying under the bed, promising to be a good boy and never anger Mommy again.

Now, to the PowerPoint graphic itself.

First, let me say, that although it's unrelievedly ugly, stuffed with Tuftean "chart-junk" like meaningless grayscale fades and pointless drop-shadows, dismally unimaginative default typefaces, and hilariously underthought all-caps Pentagon-ese ("aimed pressure to achieve end-state over time"), the chart isn't completely incomprehensible. In fact, a reasonably well crafted paragraph will summarize every point made in the chart. Let's try a retranslation:
The difficulty we will face upon invasion will be a division of the people of Iraq along ethnic, tribal and religious lines. Our task will be to reduce these divisions to form a cohesive whole, which will, in theory, lead to a healthy democratic society. Our expectation is that once we are able, through improved policing procedures, to reduce the incidents of violence attendant on invasion, what was once mere coexistence will lead to cooperation and strategic success. We expect the occupation to occur in three phases: first the invasion itself; a second period in which the US military will govern the country; and a final phase in which Iraqi civilians will assume leadership. During the first phase, we will establish a visible presence and assume responsibility for security and stability. In the second phase, the combined forces of CENTCOM and the Joint Task Force-Iraq will apply pressure to form a government, begin reconciliation among local authorities, and continue to provide stability. In the final phase, responsibility for this pressure will revert to the civil authorities, and we expect a civil society to emerge, and the ethnic, tribal and religious tensions to abate.
And we all know how well that turned out.

The problem with the Pentagon PowerPoint graphic is this: It reduces the monstrously complex problem of invading and occupying a nation-state to a (gigantic, tortured, overwrought) visual metaphor. Those ugly-assed arrows, representing CENTCOM, JTF Iraq and so forth, make the application of "pressure" on the forces of disorder look like some kind of marvelous deus ex machina that will somehow magically turn the centrifugality of post-invasion anarchy into the centripetality of pre-democratic order. That visual metaphor, on first glance so imposing, so inevitable, is in reality a deeply evil and dissembling disguise.

Look again at my paragraph summarizing the graphic. It's absolutely full of holes, of logical lacunae. Are those the true dividing lines in Iraq society, or are the tensions and loyalties more complex than that? What does this "pressure" consist of? What if there is resistance? What is the mechanism by which forced coexistence leads to cooperation? What if the Iraqi civilian leadership has ulterior motives in presenting itself as such? How is reconciliation among local governing forces going to be achieved? How does the newly constituted civil authority view this unearned responsibility for continuation of US military policy? What if there aren't enough troops?

The guys we got running the joint are busy, busy people. They've got no time for reading a paragraph of the complexity I just presented. They need it boiled down, they need it condensed, so they understand your point in a quick glance. You present Rummy with a graf like that, he's gonna throw your beautifully crafted prose out the window of his limo, you overheated stripey-pantsed Ivy-League pinhead! When you're ushered into his presence, you've got eight seconds to get his attention, and if you don't grab him by the short-and-curlies in that time, he's gonna rip your head off and piss down your neck!

Do you expect Rummy to brief the President of the United States with that shit?

Others have blamed PowerPoint itself for the stupefaction of American government. I won't go that far -- software can't make you do anything you weren't already going to do. The simple fact remains that the logical holes in my prose paragraph went unchallenged by the very people whose entire function it is to issue those challenges. They bought the graphic, not the paragraph.

I don't blame PowerPoint. I blame a country that interprets intellectual laziness as "swagger." I blame a country that allows PowerPoint presentations to substitute for actual verbal discourse at the highest levels of government and commerce. I blame a country that rewards incompetence, that expects less and less engagement in inconvenient detail the higher you ascend the ladder -- the higher you go the less you're expected to know -- until you reach the pinnacle, where the mighty and revered godhead knows absolutely nothing at all.

I Believe the Youngsters Call It a "Shout-Out"

Hawk-eyed readers will have already noted the addition of a new item in the Blogroll under "Right Speech" -- The Anecdotal Antidote, a blog-collective helmed by the estimable Mike Versaci.

Mike's manifesto is to present a growing collection of the best writing on the Web while staying away from the sort of subject matter that raises blood pressure and sets brother against brother. The list of contributors so far signed up is impressive (that is, if any list that contains me can be said to be impressive), and includes some of the most salient and interesting voices in Blogovia today. The posts so far include Lance Mannion on Tockett and Crubbs and Kevin Wolf on Firing Your TV, and some other hapless goober put up a profoundly silly poem about paranoia.

I say check 'er out!

He Takes a Moment

I would just like to take this moment to announce that this is my 500th post to this blog.

Thank you, and now back to our regular programming.

Monday, August 14, 2006

An Anecdote of Some Interest


Satanic Majesty stood in the Winner's Circle at Pimlico a giant among three-year-olds.

He had just completed the wholesale destruction of the field in the Argent Dixie Stakes -- its purse of $250,000 traditionally as desperately contested as the more famous Preakness run on the same grounds. Track records from Churchill Downs to Gulfstream Park had earlier that year fallen before his mighty hooves and thrashing haunches, and in some of the Sport of Kings' more louche quarters rumors flew that he must have sold his soul to Old Scratch himself at a Mississippi crossroads in the dead of night.

Whether this transaction ever actually took place was a well-kept secret between the thoroughbred and his owner, Mrs. Evelyn Pudleyshawe-Smythe, a Margaret-Dumont-esque woman of daunting visage and even more daunting décolletage. Mrs. P-S, as she was known among the stablehands she regularly cowed with a haughty glare and a finely honed tongue, was, as she regally declared to overcurious newshounds and the ink-stained wretches of the racing press, not accustomed to invasions of her privacy or revelations of what she deemed fripperies, and so the rumors of Satanic Majesty's origin flew unchecked.

Some gossips were convinced that his lineage included true royalty -- a direct line to the legendary Secretariat, or perhaps Man o' War. Others insisted, on no evidence whatever, that his was a Horatio Alger story, a ragamuffin guttersnipe who had escaped the knacker's yard by dint of a magnificent riderless run around Mrs. P-S's training track after appearing spontaneously out of a misty cornfield one cold November morning.

The truth, as it so often does, lay somewhere in between. Satanic Majesty's dam had been a racer herself, a well-bred but mediocre talent notable mainly for her dreadfulness in the home stretch, during which she faded faster than the shine on a pewter chamber-pot. His sire, however, was an altogether more interesting story. A pacer at a local trainer's facility, a roan stallion whose chief interest in life was oats and unpaid stud service, he had caught the eye of a local thug who wanted a gentle horse for his social-climbing daughter to ride with her country-club pals. The miscreant had backed a trailer up to the trainer's barn one day, claiming to be delivering a load of fresh sugar-cubes, and made off with the horse.

On the getaway, however, an inattentive lackey had taken a corner too sharply, the trailer had come unmoored, and the badly frightened stallion had escaped into the surrounding fields, where he eventually found a ranch, jumped a fence, and sired Satanic Majesty.

Mrs. P-S's avarice turned toward the heady stud fees her world-famous champion would now fetch. As she proudly led the magnificent beast away from the scene of his latest conquest, she summoned the equine genealogist she had hired to ascertain the bloodline of her prized possession. "Well, Hensley?" she enquired expansively. "What have you found?"

"It's not good news, Mrs. P-S," stammered the nervous gene-detective. "Not good at all, I'm afraid."

"What on earth are you talking about, you silly little man! This horse has won every race he's entered, including the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and several Breeder's Cup events! You can't possibly convince me that his lineage is anything but perfectly spotless!"

"Yes, ma'am, I agree he's quite a horse, no doubt about that --"

"Then what's the problem? Don't stand there gaping, you ninny -- out with it!"

"Well, Mama's all right, she checks out just fine. Her lineage is pretty much impeccable --"

"Yes, yes! Get on with it!"

"It's Papa. I can't believe what we've uncovered, but I'm sure it's the truth..."

"Say it, man!"

"Ma'am. I'm sorry to have to be the one to break it to you, but --"

"What?"

"Papa was a stolen roan."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stupid Little Red Car


Wonder Woman's Pathfinder has been in the repair shop since last Thursday -- that's two Thursdays ago, not yesterday -- and I've been forced to drive the dealer's loaner in the interim. The reason for the protraction of the repair is too convoluted to go into, but if that fucker calls me up today and tells me they've delivered the wrong part again, I will not be responsible for my actions, and no jury on the planet would find me guilty.

The car is a Hyundai Accent, a subcompact sedan in a shade of glowing, candy-apple red that should never be seen in public. Its cheap plastic upholstery is spotted with revolting stains of unknowable and best-uninvestigated origin. The windshield wipers are a tattered and useless mess, the windshield-detergent tank was empty on delivery, the battery shows signs of imminent demise, and at any speed above 45 MPH the miserable junker shudders like a dog shitting a peach-pit. This morning, as I negotiated a tight turn, the thing emitted a loud klonk that sounded like a death-knell for the trannie.

I digress for a moment to emphasize: I am not a car-snob. I think defining yourself by what you drive is a little sick, and ostentation in any form offends me -- that's why I'm so revolted by the Accent's screaming red paint. I drove an '87 Chevy Nova (a rebranded Toyota Corolla) until it blew its head-gasket in '96, and replaced that with a Mazda Protégé, which I kept until the family grew to include two large and flatulent dogs, at which point the formal castration of the minivan became inevitable. Now, with the move to the country and intimidatingly rutted and potholed dirt roads, we both drive 4WD vehicles, both bought used. The Pathfinder isn't really much bigger than a Subaru Forester, but with better clearance. I use my Ranger pickup as much as a practical tool -- hauling garden tools, plywood, firewood, topsoil and mulch -- as a conveyance to work.

There are some things I love about rice-burners. They're great on gas (although this abused Accent isn't all that impressive) and the transverse-engine front-wheel drive is absolutely brilliant in snow. You can park them anywhere, and they're pretty zippy on the highway, as long as you're not transporting a piano on the roof or something.

But my unforeseen and nightmarishly extended experience with this filthy little loaner has brought out a sadistic aspect of my personality that frankly surprises me. Every time it bottoms out and grinds its chassis against our nineteenth-century goatpath of a driveway, I grin maniacally and push it harder. I seek out potholes to bash into. Washboard ruts make me cackle. When starting it in the morning, I gun the engine to 5000 revs before oil can make its way into the crankcase. I pop soda-cans in the cupholder, noting with satisfaction the sticky spray misting the instrument panel. On the highway, I keep at just the right speed (62mph, if you're curious) to maximize the off-alignment shuddering, smiling quietly to myself at the thought of the amount of melted rubber I'm leaving on the road.

I fervently hope today is my last day with this stupid little red car. As of last night, the repair shop had only one more thing to fix -- a faulty catalytic converter -- before the Pathfinder is released from durance vile. However, having observed these gooberheads, I'm not holding my breath. I may very well have another weekend with it.

When I got the loaner, the rep and I did the formal minuette around the car, noting all the scratches and dents in its mortifyingly loud exterior. I can guarantee there is no more damage to the paint-job than when I took possession, so I have no fear of reprisal from that quarter. But when I do give it back, I'd love to hand over the key while observing jauntily, "You might want to get the alignment checked: I noticed it shook a bit when I had it around a hundred-and-twenty for a couple hours in the mountains..."

If I am stuck with it for another weekend, I'd love to hear suggestions from my knowledgably evil readers: What else can I do to this miserable little piece of shit before handing it back to its incompetent, maintenance-eschewing, wrong-part-ordering, my-car-keeping-for-a-week-past-its-promised-date corporate owners? Just remember: The paint-job is sacrosanct. Everything else is fair game.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dig It

Blue Wren has tagged me with this meme-thingy where I'm supposed to reveal five things about myself that are weird. I've given the thing quite a lot of thought, and frankly I had a lot of trouble coming up with anything. I mean, yeah, I have a secretary named Lincoln, and Lincoln had a secretary named Neddie Jingo -- I'll admit that's a little unusual, but really that falls under the category of coincidence, not personal eccentricity. I asked Betty this morning if she thought anything was weird about me, but I think she thought it was some kind of trick question. All the way on our morning drive to Taxidermy Camp, she sat in stony silence, and startled visibly when I addressed her. My co-workers down at the Society for the Promotion of Cruelty to Animals were also a little put off by the question, and all day I noticed that people found excuses to leave the room when I came in.

So after a lot of head-scratching, here's the list I've come up with:
  1. I have symmetrical moles. That's weird, isn't it? One on my left shoulder, and another smack-bang in the same place on the other shoulder. One on my forearm, and its exact mirror-image on the other arm. Right buttock, left buttock. They're always giggling about it at our Friday covens. "Oh, there goes Old Symmetrical-Moles," they smirk. Glass houses, brethren and cistern! People running around the woods sky-clad oughtta practice a little forbearance!

  2. I don't like my food touching. Those peas had better stay right the hell away from those mashed potatoes, or there'll be seven kinds of hell to pay. Wonder Woman has threatened to buy me one of those partitioned dinner-plates so she doesn't have to put up with my complaining. Oh, the ribbing I used to take for it back at Juvie Hall! You'd think they'd put up with a few personal eccentricities from a cross-dresser, but nooooo!

  3. I boil my guitar-strings after they've lost their oomf. This restores their springiness, strips away all that nasty, corrosive finger-crud, and lengthens their life. This simple economy saves me at least twenty clams a year -- not a sum to be sneezed at! GG Allin loved it when I showed it to him, and ordered the rest of The Scumfucks to institute the practice -- boy, did that make me unpopular with my bandmates!

  4. In cold, dry weather I always rap a metal doorknob with my knuckle before touching it. This grounds the static electricity built up in my body, and prevents those nasty little arcing shocks you get. You'd think this would be a useful little habit to develop -- better the predictable minor discomfort from the rap than the surprising jolt you get from those doorknobs, see what I'm saying? Sure -- you get it, but when I showed the trick to the gang at the Klavern, you'd have thought I had two heads!

  5. I have two heads. Oh -- and a vestigial ninth nipple, which scares the kiddies a little bit down at the swimming pool. That's OK -- I just unhinge my jaw and threaten to swallow one of 'em whole, with a little of the ol' "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" thrown in for effect. That breaks the ice -- and I meet a lot of MILFs that way.
If I don't issue five more tags, the chain will be broken; the last time somebody did that, the bank foreclosed on his mortgage, the Mob busted the door down, and they found his headless body floating in the Hudson near Staten Island. Poor Uncle Lavage!

The FBI
The CIA
The BBC
BB King
Doris Day
Matt Busby

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Dirty Words

Came across this in director David Milch's commentary on Episode Three ("New Money") of the DVD edition of the second season of Deadwood. I've been impressed with Milch's elucidations on the show in the DVD extras, particularly Season One's -- I was a little saddened to see that Season Two's boxed set offered far fewer of his little professorial-yet-accessible lectures.

(Man-crush??? Your words, not mine!)
The language on the show, you know, the profanity, was quite controversial, but what I was trying to do with that was sort of break down the conventions of language, and show the way language regenerates a meaning which is dependent upon its particular environment.

The reason people in Deadwood spoke the way they did was they were sending a sort of signal about -- this was a lawless environment, and that they would obey no laws even in terms of the conventions of language, as a way of saying I am equal to this environment. Like if you meet somebody in a bar after work, you know, and you haven't seen him before, you're trying to be polite, you'd say "Hey, where are you from?" And the guy says "Oh, I'm from Topeka, Kansas." In Deadwood, if you see someone you don't know, in a bar, you say "Where are you from?" the're liable to kill you -- because these are all people who have, you know, complicated backgrounds, they don't know if you've got a warrant, so... In Deadwood, you say "Where are you from?" they'll say "What the fuck is that to you?" As a way of saying every word is important in an environment like that.

So the first obligation was to sort of break down the viewer's conventional ideas of what words meant, and so I sorta wanted an unrelenting stream of obscenity at the beginning of the show. That first speech of Ellsworth's, you know: The elements of that scene were, first you saw the gold, Swearengen is weighing the gold, then he pours a drink, establishing the nature of this environment, and then once the alcohol is in him then the language changes. He says, "I might have fucked my life up flatter than hammered shit, but I stand before you today beholden to no human cocksucker!" And then he begins to eliminate the elements of the ordering forces in society: "And not the US Government, or the savage fuckin' Red Man, or George Custer himself, had better try and take it away from me!" And Swearengen, by way of affirming the environment, says, "They better not try it in here." Then they address, even the subject of accents. He says, "What's that Limey damned accent of yours, Swearengen? Are those rumors true you're descended from English royalty?" Swearengen says, "I'm descended from all them cocksuckers," which is a way of saying that the invoked content of language, the logic of language, is gone. People are going to lie all the time, and finally when you've obliterated any expectation that the prior meanings you've affixed to language will obtain, then you start to regenerate meaning.

That's why a guy like Wu, for me, is an interesting character, because what I try to do with Wu is, there's a guy who knows like one word of English -- cocksucker -- and yet the viewer, as a result of protracted exposure, is able to understand everything....

Which is to say language generates meaning from context. What begins as what seems like an unremittingly and unrelievedly profane environment in fact is just just finding a new way to organize itself. At the level of language, I was trying to prefigure the theme of the improvisation of society.

There's more than you ever wanted to know about dirty words!
Ah! One other thing: In reviewing Season Two alongside the new Season Three episodes, I've noticed that the burgeoning threat of the Hearst Mining Company's designs on the town of Deadwood has been repeatedly referred to "Leviathan" -- to the point where last week's episode, in which the plutocratic shit truly starts to hit the fan, was titled "Leviathan Smiled."

Yes, of course it's referring to the Biblical whale -- but last night, poking around on Wikipedia on an unrelated matter, it smacked me in the face: Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan!

"Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," anyone? Where you at, Nash? By Banquo's beard, these are some smart cocksuckers.

An Occasion of Self-Loathing

I'm at the mall a few days ago, getting a camera battery for our upcoming beach vacation. A certain eliminatory urge overcomes me, and I ankle it for the men's room to take care of it. The bathrooms are behind the food court, down a hall past the customer-service and security offices. The hall is wide enough to accommodate a comfy couch outside the ladies' room, which I must pass to get to my room.

Just ahead of me, a harrassed-looking mother, two toddlers and a baby-stroller in tow, has seated herself on the couch, a crying infant in her arms, and is raising her shirt (discreetly) and clapping the baby to the life-giving mammalian protuberance. She bears a blanket on her shoulder for discretion, but has not yet lowered it over the baby.
Don't look. Don't look. Goddammit, don't look! It's a bundle of fat and glands, for Christ's sake -- eyes on the other wall! You are an urbane sophisticate in your forties, the father of two who were both breastfed into toddlerhood; you have seen approximately 3000000000000 breasts in your life; if you look at that woman's lactating knocker, exposed for the beautiful and life-affirming purpose of feeding her hungry infant, you will never live it down, goddammit DON'T LOOK!!!!

Woo-hoo! Nipple action!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

When I'm In the Middle of a Dream


There was a good discussion about Prog Rock over at Kevin Wolf's place last week. In the comments I allowed as how I thought the adjective "progressive" was largely bullshit, a nonexistent category. I also dislike the term because it implies that only music so labeled can cause music to "progress" -- whatever that means -- and anything not dubbed "progressive" is "regressive" or perhaps "reactionary." I'd also add that when popular music has progressed -- if we define it as undergoing a recognizable metamorphosis from one genre to another, like from jump blues to rock-and-roll, or from rock steady to reggae -- it certainly wasn't self-proclaimed "progressive" musicians who provided the impetus. Those changes are organic, they come from within a musical school, and not from some hothouse laboratory, some Kollege of Musical Knowledge. They come from growth, which is not the same thing as increased complexity.

Forty years ago today, on August 6, 1966, Revolver was unleashed on an unsuspecting -- and remarkably unprepared -- world. It's not been the been the same place since.

Sergeant Pepper is credited with being the first self-consciously integrated rock album -- never mind that the "concept" of the record is actually quite thin: A fictional band concert provides a framing device for the goings-on, and that's pretty much it. (Others have pointed out that it isn't really even the first "concept album"; a good case can be made for The Mothers' Freak Out! and for Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, both of which predate Pepper by at least six months. Nearly as good a case can be made for Frank Sinatra's Songs for Swingin' Lovers!) The songs on Pepper don't comment on or elucidate each other, they don't share a common theme or subject matter, and the album doesn't progress (that word again!) from one point to another -- it doesn't really tell a story.

Revolver, on the other hand, does all of these things. If Rubber Soul, from late 1965, marked the moment that the Beatles began to see the world through the eyes of adults, then Revolver gives us the world as seen by adults who know they are going to die. Death is everywhere on this record -- from Eleanor Rigby's terribly sad, lonely and meaningless end (redeemed only by the accidental intercession of another pathetic character, Father Mackenzie, and made bearable by George Martin's achingly beautiful and empathetic string arrangement) to Lennon's obsession with druggy oblivion in three of his contributions: "I'm Only Sleeping," "She Said, She Said," and "Tomorrow Never Knows." Even "Taxman" has sardonic advice "for those who die."

But if Revolver acknowledges the inevitability of death, the album as a whole resoundingly rejects nihilism. It offers solace in adult romantic love, in psychedelic insight, in the innocence of childhood, and a healthy dose of Doctor Robert's cynicism. The album shows clearly the extent to which not only Harrison but all of the Beatles had internalized the Eastern insight, sympathetic with their own psychedelic explorations, that life is illusory, an extended dream. Lennon's persona in "Rain" (technically not on Revolver but very much a part of it -- even a key to understanding the Beatles' mindset in 1966) asks the vitally important question:
Can you hear me
That when it rains and shines
It's just a state of mind?
If you listen carefully to a collection from Revolver's period like Rhino's Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire & Beyond, it becomes immediately apparent how astonishingly divisive the psychedelic experience was in the mid-Sixties. I haven't done a careful count, but an amazing number of the delicious obscurities in that collection set up an "us-and-them" division -- "us" being those who've had their eyes opened by LSD and "them" being the Squares who haven't. If the eye-opening experience of acid is that life (and, indeed, death) is a series of "states of mind," none of which is more valid or more "real" than any other, then it follows naturally that, as in "Rain," the Squares need to have their eyes opened as well.

But it's Revolver's crowning achievement that it rejects this then-fashionable division in favor of universality. The abject Eleanor Rigby and the hopeless Father Mackenzie feeling his faith dying, these are not people who going to be "saved" by an impregnated sugar-cube -- these are desperate people in need of human compassion. The miserably depressed lover of "For No One," the fragmenting mind, desperate for the innocence of childhood, of "She Said, She Said" -- no glib oh-wow-man insight will work miracles for these people. The "state of mind" of these damaged individuals is far, far more complicated than "rain or shine," and the Beatles were immeasurably compassionate -- adult -- to present them to us in the painfully divided year of 1966.

The songwriting is absolutely masterful on this record. I can't but stand agape in awe of the technical prowess of "Here, There and Everywhere," in particular. The first verse concerns itself with "here"; the second with "there." On the word "everywhere," the song suddenly flowers outward, exploring a new key area, a new instrumental texture. For the rest of the song, the words "there" and "everywhere" serve as hinges to change from the home key to the key of the bridge and back again. A humble device, simplistic, even, but its execution is devastatingly deft. It can't be said enough: This assured and mature songcraft came from a young man who, less than three years before, had written "Hold Me Tight" -- a fine little rocker, one I'd be happy to play in a band -- but in formal layout and harmonic structure trite, trite, trite.

Progression in music is not a matter of more. To view progress as a question of more notes-per-beat, more incoherent harmonic complexity, more mathematically improbable time signatures, is to do violence to the central point of music, which is to draw us together. Revolver stands in its humane universal inclusiveness at the edge of a precipice, just before the world became irrevocably atomized, shattered, shredded by history. We still haven't put the pieces back together.

I fear we never will.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

That, My Friends, Was a Bartender

The pedestrian who makes the toddle a couple of blocks south from Penn Station on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan may, if he is alert to such things, spy what was in 1982 the best little Irish pub in New York: the Molly Wee. I carefully restrict my contentious assertion to that year because I haven't been back there in twenty years, having moved on to other places and other times. But in 1982, that was the spot Where Everybody Knew My Name.

I was living in a ground-floor sublet on 28th Street at the time, fresh out of Kenyon and miserably rent-poor -- no, that's not strong enough: I was a rent-pauper. But when a paycheck came in that wasn't already garnisheed by the landlord, I would gather up my roommate John, the gorgeous redheaded colleen who would grow up to become Wonder Woman, and a few other of our circle of cronies, and assemble there to gather wool and get on the outside of the bartender Seamus' Olympian hamburgers and some Guinness.

Seamus was a publican's publican. I was just reminiscing about him with Wondie, and she remembers him as fondly as I do. "He protected me when I was in there," she said. Nobody ever hit on her or did the disgusting things men do to attractive women in bars -- not on Seamus' watch. Once I heard a commotion down at the other end of the bar: a drunk commuter, passing time before the late train left Penn Station for Islip, forgot himself and announced pugnaciously to the world, "Oh, yeah? Well, you don't have to be Catholic to be Irish!" Seamus leaped over the bar -- he was no gazelle, this lumbering, meaty man -- and executed the first and only bum's rush I've ever seen performed outside the comics pages or a Thirties farce -- left hand to the back of the coat collar, right hand grasping firmly the seat of the pants -- and the hapless inebriate crashed out into the Eighth Avenue pedestrian traffic. I don't think the matter under discussion was what caused Seamus to move so fast and so efficiently; I think he was far more offended by the potential breach of the peace.

By 1984 many of us had come to recognize the connection between Manhattan rents and our inability to eat regular meals, and we decamped for the greener pastures of Park Slope and environs. I'm given to understand that nowadays you can't touch the place, but in those days it was blissfully affordable compared to Chelsea. Our connection to Seamus and the Molly Wee slowly faded, but in those magic few moments in October of 1986 when the Mets made it to the World Series, we made it a point to gather the old gang together and watch Game Six in our old haunt.

Somewhere in the early stages of that unforgettable game (for readers uninitiated in the history of baseball, it's agreed among the cognoscenti to be one of -- if, indeed, not the -- greatest, most melodramatic ballgames ever played), the redoubtable leftfielder Mookie Wilson came up to bat. It was a rock-solid tradition among Mets fans that when Mookie batted or made a play in the field, you yelled "Mooooo!" at the top of your lungs. Which is what I, there in the stool under the TV I'd arrived an hour early to claim, did.

Seamus whirled about behind the bar, his face flushed and his eyes flashing. He pointed an outraged finger in my face. "Nobody boos moy Mookie!" he snarled. "You boo moy Mookie in moy bar and you'll foind yourself out of here on yer arse!" Timidly I tried to explain the custom -- a little surprised that he hadn't noticed people doing it before. He turned away from me, plainly disgusted, and began washing glasses.

Some five minutes later, he gently put a shotglass down next to my beer and poured a shot of Old Bushmill into it, quietly rapping the bar with a thick knuckle as he withdrew. That, in all his humane benevolence, was Seamus.

That whiskey was going to prove a problem. It's well known that people who are terrified of flying will occasionally try to allay their fear by drinking heavily during a flight. But the alcohol has no effect, because the terror and tension and fight-or-flight adrenaline far outstrip it. Of course, the instant the plane touches down and the poor bastard begins to feel safe again, the booze comes on like a blow to the back of the head, and the attendants have to pour him off the plane.

Game Six had exactly that effect on me. For the hours it took to play the game, I, and the rest of the Mets fans gathered at the Molly Wee, were tense, silent, concentrated. Knocking it back, of course, punishing the Guinness pretty hard -- but the game was too dramatic for the beer to have much noticeable effect. During Mookie's epic at-bat in the tenth inning, down to his last strike, the entire season riding on his bat, heroically fouling off pitch after pitch after pitch, the adrenaline and tension were unbearable. I think I drank three shots of whiskey during that at-bat alone -- to absolutely no avail.

I do remember the ball down the first-base line trickling through Bill Buckner's legs. I do vaguely remember the sight of Ray Knight crossing the plate, fighting through the gaggle of ecstatic Mets who met him there. I have the dimmest vague, dreamlike memory of standing up to go pee. After that, all is as dark as the grave.

They told me later that I volunteered to go out and hail a cab for those of us returning to Brooklyn. That part I believe. What I do not believe is that I was seen racing up the middle of Eighth Avenue, barking like a dog at the top of my lungs and challenging cars to fights. That just seems out of character.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things Lived On

One of our first discoveries on moving out to the country a couple summers ago was that the monopolistic trash-removal company that serves our neighborhood is a pack of chiseling swine. Fifty clams a month they demanded for the privilege of picking up our household trash twice a month and hauling it to the county landfill.

Out of thrift, then, we fired the bandits toot-sweet. We compost our cooking scraps (if you leave out anything with fats or oils in it, the varmints leave it alone), and we recycle glass, paper and cardboard. The price for this simple economy is that about once a month I throw about ten bags of trash into the pickup and make a stop at the landfill on my way to work. Fifteen minutes' work? Worth the candle in anybody's book.

Once a year, however, I deeply -- that's deeply -- regret this decision of ours, and this evening is this year's occasion. As you may have heard (if you're not enduring it yourself), we're undergoing our usual July/August heat-wave, and temperatures broke triple digits today with no relief in sight. Arriving home after work, I parked the truck, intending to load up the overflowing trash to take early tomorrow morning. Wonder Woman donned her dainty rubber gloves to help, and we opened the first of three large rubber cans to begin manhandling its contents into the truck bed.

Putting the full trash-bags into the cans is an interesting illustration of the all-too-human trait of avoidance. You open the top, holding your breath against the resulting olfactory assault, quickly dump the bag in, and just as quickly slam the thing shut, the while thinking, Thank Glub I don't have to deal with that right now! And you go on your way back to your clean, well-lit life, banishing from your mind the dreadful prospect of coping with the accumulated avoidances festering in those noisome cans.

But the piper will be paid, as sure as death and taxes, and when we opened the first can this evening, there the piper was, hand outstretched, demanding the palm be crossed.

I'm not going to try to put you off your feed by describing the sight -- and, more to the point, the smell -- of garbage that's been roasting inside a rubber enclosure for a month of ninety-degree heat. But I could. Oh, man -- I could!

Before beginning, we'd had a moment of indecision. It was dinnertime, the water was boiling for the hot dogs and the tomato salad was ready, but the question was, Which choice was going to be harder on the stomach? Do it before dinner, and risk a loss of appetite? Or do it after eating, and risk the loss of the dinner itself? We chose the former -- perhaps out of that same thrift, I don't know. You hate to lose those Hebrew Nationals -- them's good, if pricey, eatin' -- and if you get too woozy to eat, well, you just put 'em back in the fridge uncooked.

After the hideous chore was done, Wondie came back inside, peremptorily picked up her dinner plate and utensils, put them back in the cupboard and went upstairs to shower -- I imagine she scrubbed real hard. Those little wiggly things will do that to a body. I did manage to choke down a hot dog, on general principles, but with absolutely no enthusiasm for the job.

Out the window I can see the truck now, its miasmatic contents surrounded by a halo of flies, hovering worriedly over the pile of heat-accelerated rot and buzzing the muscidaeical equivalent of "My babies! My babies!" The smell on this still, hot night is horrendous as soon as you leave the front door -- fully twenty yards from the truck -- and it leaves one with a rare but understandable enthusiasm for economic monopoly.