Monday, October 31, 2005

I Have Seen the Future

If the pigs hadn't busted all the cameras, the Harridans would have looked just like this.

...But it's not all bad down at the WashPost. This review, under the byline of W. C. Slavery De L'Egout, appeared in early editions of this morning's Post. Mysteriously, it disappeared from later editions -- spiked, apparently, by Eldritch Forces with agendas to foster.

I don't fuck much with the past, but I fuck plenty with the future, snarled a young Patti Smith before her coruscating band chainsawed its gnarlgnashing way into "Babelogue."

Last night at Jay's in Arlington, Past and Future met, clashed, chewed each other to benzedrine shreds, and went home together arm in arm for abandoned and exalted copulation. The Harridans, who deserve the well-worn epithet "The Future of Rock and Roll" better than any White Stripe you'd care to name, Came, Saw, Conquered and Made It Their Bitch. These guys, who come on like a bunch of sixteen-year-old punks on a meth power trip, are never anything less than high, wild and raw, like a ghost train out of Memphis with a coalcar full of rage and a boiler full of bourbon.

This trio from Hell's Half Acre by way of Muscle Shoals and Beale Street, is comprised of Neddie Jingo on guitar, Bobby Lightfoot on back-ass bass, and the grammatically eager Xtcfan on skins. Not drums, just skins; he hangs various pelts around him -- one of them suspiciously hairless -- and harasses them rhythmically, like a tormented Quasimodo in a Parisian alley. Last night at Jay's, these three refugees from the Mean Streets of Gehenna set out to raise the devil. Tell you this, baby: they got him at least three feet off the ground.

The measure of the success of any spontaneous bacchanal is the degree to which it pisses off The Man, and this night was no exception. Fornicating couples in the street -- some even blocks away -- tipped off the Joy Patrol that somebody, somewhere, was having more than the Allotted Ration of fun, and busted the door down at 1 AM. I ducked out the back way to file my story, and my last view of the Harridans was of Neddie Jingo swinging his blond Epiphone Casino like a battle-axe at Arlington's Finest, Bobby Lightfoot administering the Wilford Brimley Treatment on the Former Hill Staffer who'd filed the original complaint, and X'fan, looking like Rufus T. Firefly, keeping time with mallets on the heads of brawlers at the bar.

I have seen the Future, and it is The Harridans.


Thanks for coming out to Corndog (go read his review; he says what modesty compels me to stifle), the lovely Sylvia, Greg and Heather, John, Jeff & Pia, and most extra-special thanks to the lovely and talented Bob Crain, who selflessly ran sound and crawled around on the floor a lot. Thanks for the loan of that midblowing Marshall amp! Oh -- and not to forget that, er, corpulent individual in the low-cut chemise who kept Jay busy in the back alley while we cleaned out the cash register. The crank we bought with the takings will keep us going until the next gig.

Podcast coming ASAP, but not this week.

Two-Day-Old Raisin Bran

A paragraph in this morning's column by the WashPost's Howard Kurtz leaped out as easily the most miserably pusillanimous thing I've ever read by anyone who touts himself as a "media critic." Entitled "Post-Indictment, A Glut of Glee?" it's exactly the sort of miserable, craven "on-the-one-hand-but-then-on-the-other" weighing of "issues" that makes students of good, pungent writing and cogent reporting yearn, this All-Hallows' Eve, for H. L. Mencken to rise unbidden from his grave and make a quick vitriol-drizzled snack of Howie Kurtz' brains.

Here's the pabulum in its mushy glory:
The hostility directed at Patrick Fitzgerald when he was threatening reporters with jail seems to have faded now that his targets are senior aides to President Bush. Perhaps most important, are reporters, commentators, bloggers and partisans using the outing of Valerie Plame as a proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq? The vitriol directed at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whether deserved or not, seems motivated as much by her role in touting the administration's erroneous WMD claims as in her decision to be jailed, at least for a time, to protect Libby.
First off, I don't recall a hell of a lot of hostility directed at Fitzgerald when he was threatening reporters with jail -- the prevailing emotion I recall was mystification, not hostility -- but that's not the truly nauseating thing about the first sentence. No, it's the now-the-shoe's-on-the-other-foot dig: Now that the investigation is bearing fruit, now you're all sitting on Fitzgerald's lap and crooning sweet nothings in his ear! Now he's your hero, when he's gotten around to indicting senior Administration people! You hate America!

The investigation has always been about which senior Bush aide(s) leaked Plame's name. Kurtz draws equivalency between the PlameGame and the Whitewater investigations, which is an absolutely fatuous comparison: Fitzgerald began with a fait accompli: A High Crime or Misdemeanor was without question committed by a White House aide, and the investigation was launched to find which aide did it. This couldn't have been farther from a fishing expedition.

The next sentence is just amazing: Are reporters, bloggers, etc., using this as a "proxy war for rehashing the decision to invade Iraq"? This astounding sentence from the media critic of the Washington Post, the paper where two Metro reporters once exposed Presidential criminality!

Two grafs later, Kurtz offers up this pile of milk-soaked Raisin Bran in illustration: "More than two years after the Bush administration took the country to war based in part on inflated weapons claims that turned out to be wrong, the wounds still haven't healed." Please try to wrap your brain around just how mealymouthed is the phrase, the wounds still haven't healed. Oh, how desperately we all suffered as a polity and a nation when, completely out of nowhere, with no warning whatever, we suddenly found ourselves, as if waking from a dream, in a hideous land war from which we can't extricate ourselves with even a tatter of national honor or credibility, which is destroying the armed services, bankrupting the treasury, shredding centuries-old alliances, and fostering a formidable insurgency that grows stronger daily? How could something like this have happened? Sure beats the shit out of Media Critic Howard Kurtz!

Wounds! We are suffering wounds! Nobody wounded anybody, of course! No active verbs for the likes of Media Critic Howard Kurtz! Wounds were suffered! By all of us! And they haven't healed!

Jesus H. Particular Christ.

Let's repeat this:
The vitriol directed at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, whether deserved or not, seems motivated as much by her role in touting the administration's erroneous WMD claims as in her decision to be jailed, at least for a time, to protect Libby.
Seems? Seems?

The anger directed at New York Times reporter, "whether deserved or not," Mr. WashPost Media Critic, is (not seems) motivated because she and her editors turned a newspaper that once published the Pentagon Papers into a sniveling mouthpiece for a pack of liars; that she and her editors made an absolute hash of any concept of journalistic ethics in not crosschecking the "erroneous" WMD claims fed to her directly by high White House sources with obvious agendas; and finally that she remained in the confidences of the White House even after it was plain to her that she was being used to smear a political enemy -- an enemy, it might be added, who was Right when her WH buddies were demonstrably, obviously and murderously Wrong.

That, Mr. WashPost Media Critic, is how you report it. Because it's the goddamned Truth.

Kurtz concludes, bravely:
Libby may be charged with lying about his conversations with journalists, but much of the public resents the coziness that allowed those discussions to take place under a cloak of anonymity.
Resents. Resents. Christ on a unicycle with a bottle of Mescal, "much of the public" resents it.

"Your Honor, in the case of the People versus Attila the Hun, in which Mr. Hun is accused of the commission of rapine and plunder across Europe and Asia in the Fifth Century A.D., much of the People wish to register their profound and lasting resentment."

Howie, we Little People don't resent the coziness between reporters and highly placed sources. That makes us look jealous. It does, however, make us stop believing anything they say.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Help Out a Brother

Jingo-pal Helmut over't Phronesisaical solicits your opinion, to help him in his research: What do you think "globalization"means?

The Jingster urges you: Hop over there and give him a piece of your mind, please. What's it gonna cost ya? Your species-being?

We All Came Out to Montreux

Last night. I'm sitting in the kitchen, working on notes for the Harridans gig tomorrow night. Unplugged Epiphone Sheraton rests on my thigh, fat Sharpie scribbles chord shapes & cues that can be read in the dark. Wonder Woman is in her lair nearby, surfing eBay for Beanie Babies.

Upstairs, Freddie practices his guitar lesson.

We've bought him a classical guitar, and he's taking classes at school. It's the ultra-beginner class, the kind where by the end of the year they'll be able to pick out a first-position D chord by straining and concentrating hard. If he likes the instrument (and I fervently hope he does), I'll be happy to fund private lessons that take him as far as he can go.

But upstairs for now, Freddie is playing the most rudimentary -- and excruciatingly boring -- exercises. Quarter-note E, quarter-note F-sharp, half-note G, and back down.

In college I discovered jazz, and wanted badly to play like Jelly Roll Morton or Professor Longhair. I didn't think that was too much to ask, just to be able to sit down at parties and crank out some nice, greasy stride or some barrelhouse. So in a fit of uncharacteristic ambition I signed up for piano lessons.

These lasted for about two sessions.

It dawned on me, somewhere about the twenty-third time the piano instructor rapped my knuckles for crossing my middle finger over my thumb incorrectly, that my time was far more profitably spent pursuing easy pleasures of the flesh than with this death by a thousand cuts. I dropped the class, and with it, any desire ever to emulate some Negro cathouse ivory-thumper.

(Look, don't bother yelling at the nineteen-year-old me, OK? I've yelled at him enough, and it doesn't do any good. He never listens. I feel sorry for his parents, frankly.)

Upstairs, the exercises seem to have gone astray. We're not getting those shapeless and pointless musical jumping-jacks and pushups any more, instead something with a bit more of a point seems to be trying to come out.

Nuh (part of an A chord) Nuh (part of a first-position C) ... hunt, hunt ... Nuh! (D)

Nuh (A again) ... search ... Nuh (C again) ... hunting, oh this is really difficult ... Nuh-Nuh! (Two short notes, D sharp to D; a more experienced guitarist would have slid down a fret to get the second note.)

To Wonder Woman, sotto voce: Honey?

WW: Yes?

Me: Is... that...

WW: I think so...

Me: "Smoke on the Water"?

WW: Yes...

It is very, very difficult to stifle this kind of laughter. The knowledge that my precious, beautiful, twelve-year-old boy was not only upstairs slagging off his oh-so-serious and deadly boring lessons by playing rock-and-roll, but was accomplishing said slagging off by playing exactly the same song as his father had at exactly his age under exactly the same circumstances, is more than the mind can handle.

Two things occur to me. First, where did he get it? I'm no heavy metal fan, and we don't have records like that in the house -- not because we've banned them or anything, but because they're, well, fucking awful. Curious, I asked Freddie and he said that a schoolmate had showed it to him. Ain't that just the way. He learned it in the gutter.

I immediately downloaded the Machine Head version from iTunes and put it on his iPod Shuffle. You know. To prevent his head getting stuffed up with guttersnipe trash like that ridiculously overwrought Live in Japan version.

Second, I suppose this presents me with what the self-improvement authors like to call a "teaching moment." Because, you see, although my credentials as a rock-n-roll patriot go unquestioned, it's still my fatherly duty to gently point out that "Smoke on the Water" is not actually part of the official curriculum, and that if he brings home a bad grade because he's been in his room playing 34-year-old heavy-metal riffs instead of the building blocks of eighteenth-century polyphony, some stiffish accounting will have to take place.

Then I'll show him "Stairway to Heaven."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I Give Great Soundbite

Took a couple hours off work today to gather with some of my neighbors to meet with Andrea McCarren, a reporter with our local ABC affiliate, to talk about the Great Road-Paving Controversy of 2005. She's doing a piece on the hideous overdevelopment of Western Loudoun County, and the wholesale destruction of our historic lands by land-rapers and greedheads who've been given free rein by some members of the Loudoun Country Board of Supervisors.

We met at the Georges Mill Schoolhouse, a beautifully restored 1880s building that's now a private residence -- you can actually see some of it in the photo in this post. They filmed us first sitting by the fire and chatting about our efforts to save our road -- an establishing-shot sort of deal. Then they interviewed us individually: Tom Bullock and I were presented as local-history mavens. Tom has an unimaginably cool collection of relics that he's found around here -- he's the owner of the Vulgar Fractions book I posted about a while back. Then it was my turn.

Kids, I give murderously good soundbite. Didn't know I had it in me, but I just killed. I talked about how the road, like the house we sat in and the sofa we occupied, is itself an antique, how there are stretches of the road where you can't tell what century you're in, and how, if you bend over and pick up a handful of dirt, you may very well be holding something that was kicked by Civil War soldiers.

I don't want to speculate wildly here, because this is a Serious Blog about Serious Issues, but when I was done, I'm pretty sure Andrea McCarren, Crack Investigative Reporter, wanted to have my babies.

The piece is a few weeks away from broadcast, but I'll eat my hat if my soundbite isn't the kicker to the segment. It's a tricorn, with a big-assed feather and a leather band, and I'll nosh the whole thing, down the hatch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


So Rosa's gone now too.

I suppose it's something we're going to have to get used to, as more and more of the Grownups shuffle off, leaving us Kids to run the store. Blankly we blink, puzzled, lost: Oh, you mean, the Grownups aren't always going to be here? You mean, we're in charge of all this now?

You mean to say, now that Rosa's gone, the next person to do something that unimaginably brave and true and life-changing is going to have to be, well, you know, me?

They died and left me in charge? Who the hell thought that was good idea?

A few years ago, when young Betty was about seven or so, she came home with a school assignment: She was to choose a character from US history, write a few lines about that person's contribution, get together a costume, and then do a little first-person speech in front of the class.

Betty chose Rosa Parks. A fine choice, we thought.

Wonder Woman and I helped her with her assignment, finding just the right paragraphs to plunder in the encyclopedia, assembling the costume, drilling her on her lines. I gave her public-speaking hints, about how to talk to the back of the room with head held high, to speak slowly and pause between sentences to let meaning sink in. She was, well, not terrified at the prospect of speaking in front of the class (today she aspires to be an actress, and has been in two plays), but apprehensive.

We practiced all evening, Betty in her little white hat and gloves, her best dress, handbag crooked in her elbow.

I am Rosa Parks. In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, African-American people had to ride in the back of the bus...

She dutifully held her head unnaturally high and p-r-o-j-e-c-t-e-d to the back wall of our bedroom as she practiced, butterflies in her stomach. Watching her, I was helpless with the knowledge that I couldn't do the speech for her. I had the first hint of the melancholy thought that I've had over and over since then: This sweet, sweet, sweet tiny little girl, who so depends on the Grownups in her life, can't always be safe at home with Mommy and Daddy.

...and the Bus Boycott helped other African American people believe that they could change the laws too, and they started the Civil Rights Movement.

The Grownups are going to die and leave her in charge too, wondering just who thought that was a good idea.

Rosa still teaches, even in death.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It Is to Be Enjoyed

On its owner's invitation, The Harridans admire Little Evvis. Soon after this photo was taken, Bobby Lightfoot (far right) declared himself Quite a Lot Bigger Evvis.

The Harridans' preparations continue apace in the campaign to rip your head off at Jay's Saloon & Grille in Arlington this coming Saturday night.

We've rehearsed -- well, you'd be amazed by the amount we've rehearsed, and have decided that any more rehearsal is just going to harm the spontenoodity of the righteous rocking. A ragged edge or two just lends authenticity, dig?

Two-thirds of us have played this joint twice before, under the nom-de-rock Scooby Don't. It's a beautiful little dive on 10th Street, a real taste of pre-Yuppie-Scum Arlington. The day Jay's goes under, you'll know the Bastards have finally won.

We're playing a master-class of Rock's Early Years: toe-tapping favorites covering the Chuck Berry Songbook, the Carl Perkins Oeuvre, the Beatles Gestalt, the seminal work of Evvis from Mevvis, plus some Race Music just to mix things up: Al Green, Urethra Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Add to this a few nods to Swingin' London, circa nineteen-sixty-amphetamine, and you have a program of fine, fine rocking to help you relax, kick back, and set about talking your honey into a Saturday-Night drunk-fellatin' mood. (Or a Connie-Lingual mood, if that floats your little man in a boat.)

Come on down, Washintonians and -ennes! Having your head ripped off is actually a pleasant experience. It is to be enjoyed.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Finest Polish Matchwood

One would think that the world's leading purveyor of disposable furniture would have the sense to kibosh the Swedish whimsy when naming their product lines, but this impression would be hopelessly naive. Their meatballs, lingonberry juice and Läkerol candy trigger childhood memories as powerful as music, but fifteen minutes into an IKEA run I'm making up brand names like a Malmö logorrhetic: "If you like the Gummi sofa, you absolutely must pair it with the Splatt coffee table, and wouldn't these Kokk wine-glasses look handsome next to that Fart vase over there by the Flippiti-fukk sconces?"

I do all this in an impeccable Swedish accent -- not your silly Swedish Chef bork-bork stuff, but a truly cosmopolitan, educated Swede (and hell, aren't they all?), a Swede who's been to college and speaks better English than William F. Buckley, a Swede who's able to concoct a compound sentence at the drop of a stocking cap, but who still just can't quite shake the singsong rhythms of his native tongue, leaving him with just the faintest air of ridiculousness. A Belgian, a Dutchman, a Finn, a Dane -- none of these make you laugh just by opening their mouths and speaking. Only a Swede can do that. Maybe a Norwegian.

A few years ago, we bought a couple of IKEA dressers for the kids' rooms, made of the finest Polish matchwood. Betty's chest fell apart within three years. Absolutely collapsed into flinders. Only later did the light dawn. The model name really should have tipped us off: We'd bought her the Flimsi.

Today, a very pleasant day, was spent assembling yesterday's purchases while savoring the 52-17 schooling administered by the Washington Football Rumsfelds to the San Francisco Sixty-Niners. I also disassembled both family toilets and replaced their inner workings with fancy new "store-boughten" components instead of the rusted chunks that had obviously been ginned up by a local blacksmith in the distant time before the Age of Interchangeable Parts. Neither toilet flushes perfectly now, but I'm convinced they will with a little adjustment. Perhaps it might be best to attempt these adjustments while a football game isn't playing on the kitchen TV.

Today's favorite sentence, which was not actually uttered but profoundly wishes it had been: "Please tell the Memsahib that the time to object to the use of the family turkey baster to siphon water from the toilet tank was before the undertaking and not afterward, at which point her caviling is profoundly counterproductive."

PS: Ee-KAY-ah, not Eye-KEE-ah. The Swedish marketing boys just punted on this one, kids, and figured trying to get Yanks to pronounce it the way Europeans do as a matter of course was as hopeless as getting Europeans to stop clapping on one and three. But listening to you mispronounce it is just as grating: Ee-KAY-ah. Not Eye-KEE-ah.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Frankly, I Think We Should Expose People to All Points of View

Want to argue with an Intelligent Design advocate?

Don't forget your baseball bat!

(Via Jeremy Cherfas. A belly-laff indeed!)

When Dada Blood Flows Through Your Veins

I don't know how much it shows, but Dada blood flows through the Jingo veins. Seriously -- I was in a terrible car accident, arm ripped off (it's OK, it grew back), they checked my blood type in the ER. I'd scratched out "A Positive" on my driver's license and written in "Dada." Luckily they had several quarts of Hans Arp on hand -- burnt umber, my favorite flavor -- and my worthless life was saved.

When Dada blood flows through your veins, oh, what a wacky life you lead! You want to épater les bourgeoises like it's going outta style -- which it is, of course, but never mind.

When Dada blood flows through your veins, you can't help noticing how churches have those minister-configurable signs with the chirpy mots on 'em: "Come on over to my house before the game! -- God" or "Satan subtracts and divides, God adds and multiplies." I'm as surprised as the next Art-Nihilist to find that there's a whole cottage industry dedicated to churning out these little slogans, an occupation that must be akin to working in a fortune-cookie sweatshop but without the free duck sauce.

When Dada blood flows through your veins, it takes the self-denial of Alfred Jarry not to undertake a late-night guerrilla campaign to sneak into the churchyard and rearrange the letters on the signs into something a bit more, shall we say, challenging. In these days of the Anagram Server it's child's play to do; that "Come on over to my house" thigh-slapper quoted above -- taken verbatim from the Hillsboro United Methodist on Charles Town Pike -- might more profitably be rendered:


or perhaps


or, keeping with the Sunday football theme:


When Dada blood flows in your veins, these are the things that tempt you.

But: I am large! I contain multitudes! (Although the Thorazine helps keep the number down.) Another belief I profess, besides the Dada principles of deliberate irrationality, anarchy, cynicism and the rejection of laws of beauty and social organization, is an abiding belief in Karma. This is why I haven't as yet actually blacked up my face, donned the turtleneck sweater and longshoreman's cap of the traditionally garbed cat burglar, and skulked off into the night my mischief to perform.

Which is why I was so overjoyed to find the Church Sign Generator, obliquely referred to by Bobby Lightfoot in this hellfire-guaranteeing post. I immediately sent the link to a friend at work, but she ho-hummed and said she'd seen it eons ago, really (her favorite sign was "God Wants Pie," in case you're curious), so maybe it's not all that fresh, but it's fresh to me, and frankly, chez Jingo, that's what counts.

Here's the before-and-after on our little anagram-prank:

Not long ago I was appalled to see a family walking to St. John Newman in flip-flops and belly shirts. I really don't think a dress code is too much to ask, in these degraded times:

Advice that's good in both the secular and sacred walks of life:

Ah! I like a minister who's hip to what the Sartrean Existentialists are layin' down. This shows some moxie!

Years ago, back when I still wrote checks for stuff (I'm now on the No-Pay Plan), I remember seeing "A canceled check is your receipt" stamped on a check that came back from the bank. The construction suggested the first phrase so strongly that the two have become inextricably entwined:

Officially running out of gas, now:

When Dada blood flows through your veins
You govern your own airspace, man
Yellow ochre on an IV Drip:
A drunk descends a staircase, man!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Simon Knocks It on the Head

My Virtual Friend Simon, whom I've "known" for years and who ran the Homefront Radio blog, has gone dark. He was having health trouble and wants to dedicate his energy to healing instead of blogging. We at Jingo Acres wish him nothing but the most rapid recovery.

But Simon, who is gay, was having energy-sapping troubles of a different kind as well. Let the Viscount tell you about it -- a vivid illustration of why I won't be darkening the door down at the Tabernacle anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why I Smoked Dope as a Teenager

De Selby has triggered a memory. He Comments:
I liked The Monkees, but I used to lie under the old four-legged RCA record player for hours, listening to [Sgt. Pepper] over and over. Even then I knew that those Monkees were not playing in the same league as the Beatles.
In 1967 or thereabouts, my parents acquired a magnificent Danish reading-chair. Padded black leather softened the molded plastic body, the whole Space-Age confection suspended on a gimbal that allowed the thing to spin as fast as you could possibly make it go -- if that was the sort if thing you enjoyed.

Two-three years later, I'd have been about 10. Young Bobby Lightfoot would have been 6 and our sister Pippinella about 8. Here is how we amused ourselves.

I'd get into the Magical Spinning Chair, crosslegged. "A Day in the Life" on the family stereo. (Fisher amp and speakers, Garrard turntable. Pop spared no expense to fill the house with his Gregorian chants and Henry Purcell cantatas.) So we skipped the part about Tara Brown blowing his mind out in a car, and the verse about the English Army winning the war, middle eight, dragging a comb across my head. No, we wanted those knee-weakening reverb-soaked "aaaahhs" that represent the Dream Paul McCartney falls into after he finds his way upstairs and has a smoke.

At this point, I'd signal Bobby and Pippinella. Start it spinning. Accelerate slowly.

...Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire...

...Getting faster...

...They had to count them all...


...I'd love to turrrrrrrrnnnnn youuuuuuuuu onnnnnnn...

OK. It's 24 bars. I didn't know what a bar was, back then, but I could certainly feel the orchestral climb viscerally. Years later, when I bought the CD of the album, I was finally able to pick out Mal Evans' tape-echo-saturated voice counting the bars. But on our scratched-up Capitol LP that part of the signal was long, long gone. But I knew when it was coming...


At this point the chair's spinning like a NASA training exercise, and all I can see is a blur.

Orchestra reaches its peak, suddenly stops -- grab the chair! Stops its spin immediately.


Four pianos, one E major chord, fading into magnificent silence.

One extremely dizzy ten-year-old boy, sitting in a suddenly motionless chair, The Universe spinning, spinning, spinning...

Wow! Cool! Now you try it!

No, Oblivion held no fascination for this little budding Dope Mystic. Certainly not. No identity being built between the natural ecstasy of music and the erasure of the Ego. Naaaah. Not at all.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Why We Form Rock Bands

What is it about two-guitars-bass-drums rock groups that's so damned eloquent to those of us of A Certain Age? Here we future Harridans were, three guys in their forties who thought and thought about what to do for some fun, and one of us (Odd Heartburn -- Xtcfan to his many friends here in Bloggospace) said, Hey, let's form a rock band! This despite the mindbendingly difficult logistical problem presented by the fact that Bobby Lightfoot lives in Massachusetts and couldn't rehearse with us except in the most virtual sort of way.

If you are of A Certain Age you'll no doubt remember those Mickey Rooney vehicles from the Thirties and Forties -- and, of course, the Bing Crosby flick Holiday Inn -- where the premise of the thing was always, "Hey, gang! Let’s rent the old barn and put on a show!" I think something of this spirit survived into the DIY aesthetic that we had drummed into us as the Apotheosis of Authenticity during the Punk Years. But there's just something about the Rock Band that's just inescapably mythmaking.

The Rock Band follows the same mythic archetype that informs, for example, the WWII band-of-misfits movie -- Sands of Iwo Jima, say, or, in a more self-conscious way, The Dirty Dozen, in which a randomly selected group of mutually antagonistic types (the leatherlunged Brooklyn Irishman, the Pugnacious Queens Guinea, the Hayseed, the Sensitive Novelist) learn to operate together as a unit and emerge victorious, their individual weaknesses made into group strengths.

The first and best model is of course the Beatles. A Hard Day's Night had an enormously disparate effect on the sexes. To the girls the Beatles offered a hierarchy on which to organize and rank their affections, their budding sexual aesthetic. The movie clarified, I like George, therefore I think I like solemn and slightly intense men. The straight boys in the audience, raised on a steady diet of those WWII movies, had exactly that band-of-misfits archetype in their minds as they burst forth from the theaters vowing to form bands of their own. A rock band, in their minds, meant a melding of disparate personalities, so clearly evident in their own -- or any -- circle of friends, into a cohesive whole that was intensely -- unimaginably! -- stronger than the sum of its parts. Jesus Christ, the girls you can pull with this racket!

Obviously the sense of belonging to something was supremely important -- but there's not much difference between belonging to a band and belonging to a hideously violent gang. Something else must be at work -- and that thing is the production of music. Andy Hardy didn't say, "Let's rent the old barn and lure the Sharks here and beat them into strawberry jam." "Let's put on a show" has got to rank up there with "Blessed are the meek" as one of the most civilized -- and most complex -- things that anybody's ever said.

Which brings us to the Monkees. I clearly remember, in the sunny spring of 1968 -- the Prague Spring had been beaten to death by the Soviets and Les Evénements du Mai in Paris were dominating the first front pages I remember, and I'd encouraged my schoolmates in a Lord of the Flies sort of way to pretend we were Protesting Students as we linked arms and paraded on the schoolyard -- that I believed the Monkees the Kings of Pop and the Beatles rather passé. I think my exact words were along the lines of Ronald Reagan's condemnation of the Democratic Party: "I didn't leave the Democrats; the Democrats left me!" (The judgment that my acuity was about as good as Reagan's I'll leave for future historians.) I didn't leave the Beatles; the Beatles had left me. All that sodden blah REALITY of the White Album, following the druggy philosophizing of Sgt. Pepper, left the eight-year-old me, who'd first tasted ECSTASY dancing to "I Saw Her Standing There" at the age of four, quite overwhelmed and unwilling to rise to the challenge.

The Monkees were PERFECT. They conformed to my expectations, they hadn't bowed to that terrible Ambiguity and Artiness that the Beatles had succumbed to, and THEY WERE A ROCK BAND the way that rock bands were supposed to be! They lived together! Each member conformed to the role he'd been given, the way the Beatles had forgotten to do. Lennon might be all druggy and heavy, but Mike Nesmith knew how to be The Smart One! Mickey Dolenz would never dream of growing a moustache! Peter Tork might be quiet and intense, but he'd never wander off into weird old Indian mysticism! Davey's English!

Let's us (and Don Kirschner, and CBS) demand, for the exigencies of history, that The Monkees, on pain of death, never wander off into the fallow fields of Weirditude. I can't live with ambiguity.

Might As Well Start Goosing This

Th' God Damn Harridans!!! Oct. 29!!! Jay's!!! Live!!!

Holy shit is this going to rock!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Neddie Jingo (guiltar), Bobby Lightfoot (barse), XTCfan (drumbs)... THEY ALL SING!


At Jay's!!!

I think it's in Washington DC!!!

He said that!!!

It's in Arlington DC!!!

October 29!!!!

Holy shit!!!


Door prizes!!! Lap dances!! Cocaine!!!HE SAID THAT!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Guest Post/Pest Ghost

Oh dear. Oh, dearie dear. Matt over't the Tattered Coat left me the keys, and I'm afraid I may have dinged up the old family bus a bit. If you speak fluent French and have a nearly autistic knowledge of psychedelic-period Bob Dylan lyrics, you'll roll in the aisles. The rest of you: J m'en fiche de votre ignorance!

The Dog Bows to the Elephant

An extravagant dream last night. Art direction lifted from Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander -- in fact, I was aware that it took place in Sweden. Military aircraft continually flew overhead, going directly north-to-south, and explosions glowed on the horizons.

A new house, sparsely furnished. It needs decoration. The Whole Sick Crew (they inhabit every dream: Everybody I've ever known, basically) mills around waiting for something to happen. Apparently something's been foretold in a manuscript I've been editing, covered by another editor in both blue and red pencil (Hi, Xtcfan!). The page proofs lie unexamined on my desk.

At the far edge of the Swedish lake appears a large, floating Mexican church. Adobe. Joists protrude from its New World Baroque front. It floats toward us across the lake, framed by explosions. This, apparently, is the decoration we've been waiting for. It arrives grandly in the driveway. Someone takes from it a list of Ancient Mayan Wisdom, reads the first item on the list: "The Dog bows to the Elephant, for he knows that, when the Dog blinks, this great silent beast commits all the trouble in the world."

Woah! Unrealistic! The Mayans couldn't have known about Old World elephants!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Clearly Attempting Something

A few weeks ago I became aware that Colin McEnroe, author, radio talk show host, and Hartford (Conn.) Courant columnist, was teaching a course on blogs at Trinity College in Hartford. I had begun to notice a trickle of traffic, and then quite a bit more than a trickle, into JingoLand from the Connecticut area. I followed it back to its source, and found that I'd had the signal honor to have been Blogrolled by Colin. We got to yakking, and he hinted he was going to use Neddie as course material, which I thought was pretty keen.

The other shoe's dropped, and By Neddie Jingo! now appears in his online syllabus, in this week's unit on words, rhetoric, and writing style. The link, which gave me a hearty guffaw, is labeled "Clearly attempting literature"; I can imagine borrowing this the next time I'm asked to say something nice about some wretched musical act: "Well, I think it's undeniable: They're clearly attempting music."

Now that I'm expecting a brigade of blog-students and their Nutty Professor to come wandering through here, scribbling notes about my run-on sentences and scattershot subject matter, I confess to a certain debilitating self-consciousness. Clearly attempting literature! That's quite a presumptuous undertaking, Sparky. And I worry that, in my recognition that my little needlework is being pored over for clues about the Glogosphere, I have violated some academic Prime Directive, some Heisenbergian First Principle, about the relationship between Observer and Observed. A paramecium doesn't feel the need to primp and tidy the water-droplet when the microscope focuses in. I'm not so blithe.

Colin's amusing characterization aside, I guess the question is valid. A little self-examination never hurt. Besides "attempting literature," what the hell am I doing, here?

I started this thing back in January, when I was in a bit of a blue funk about aging, about leaving something for my children to remember me by should I suddenly go under a bus. I've watched my father-in-law sink into the dreadful abyss of Alzheimer's, and have had to think very hard about all the memories, all the joy and sorrow and melancholy and love and goodness and humanity that's just been ...lost...because his brain got gummed up with plaque. It's a strange and terrible thing, how the cold inevitability of chemistry can trump a human soul, how something as simple as an accidental surfeit of carbon monoxide in a room can snuff out an entire human universe.

(Smack! Attempting literature!)

Back this summer I wrote a post about why I don't write about politics very much. Rereading it, I still like it very much and think it's a pretty good Statement of Principles. At the risk of attempting more literature, I have consciously tried to adhere to the principle of the Universal arising out of the Particular. I believe (see, for a hint, the organizing categories of my Blogroll) that we reflect the world and the world reflects us -- and that to study the tiniest thing is to study the biggest thing of them all.

Oh, yeah: I also really hate people who are boring. I'd rather be thought pretentious, precious, dilatory, verbose, captious or even diametrically wrong than be thought boring.

Ah, well. Enough thumbsucking. Welcome, Colin's Kids, I'll try to carry on as if you weren't here watching, watching, always watching....

Next Up: My keenly observed musings on Rectal Pruritis! Foreshadowing: I'm agin' it!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Say What??!!?

I'm sorry, I must have simply missed it, so this may be a trifle vieux jeux for some of you News Junkies who turn your noses up at anything older than three hours. But here goes anyway.

In an article gauging the length and frequency of Harriet Miers' lingual ministrations to the posterior of the Governor of Texas in the Nineties, we learn of the icky little mash notes she frequently wrote to her hero. "Hopefully, Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are 'cool'--as do the rest of us," she gushes, apparently incapable of embarrassment. (This just in: You can read them in all their saccharine glory at The Smoking Gun.)

George's response to a particularly sniveling birthday greeting has got me blinking, flummoxed, unable to parse what I read:
I appreciate your friendship and candor -- never hold back your sage advice.

All my best


P.S. No more public scatology
"No... more... public...."

What in the name of ten thousand whooping Christs did he mean by that? What did he think he meant?

Can you imagine him (I certainly can) saying that verbally rather than in writing, one of those rancid little jokes that he tosses out in informal settings, accompanied by that staccato little laugh and shoulder-jerk that Jon Stewart caricatures so expertly: "Oh, and Harry, one more thing... No more pub-lic sca-tol-ogy, heh-heh, heh-heh!"

Maybe he thought he was saying eschatology, "a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind." We Comp. Rel. undergrads used to get a barrel o' laffs out of the near-homonym. Maybe Harriet had been shooting her mouth off at the Texas Lottery Commission: "Oh, who cares who wins Double Zingo Scratch-Off? My chauffeur didn't show up for work this morning, and if he wasn't Raptured, I'm a monkey's red heinie. Or a Supreme Court Justice."

Yeah, that's the sort of thing that you don't want your Lottery Commissioner saying in public. That'd earn you the old Goobernatorial Rebuke, running around saying the world's ending, jabbering about seven-headed beasts and Texas Two-Step MegaMillions Powerball and eight-legged goats and antichrists and such. That's the sort of thing you want to keep relatively private.

Come to think of it, you don't suppose it should just be taken literally, at face value? "Hey, Harriet, knock off the interest in or treatment of obscene matters esp. in literature!" No? How about, "Hey Harry, you've got to kibosh the biologically oriented study of excrement (as for taxonomic purposes or for the determination of diet)!"

Well. Considering just how far her nose was inserted up the Goobernatorial Poop Chute, maybe that's exactly what he meant.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Those Who Would Lead Us

(Crossposted, in edited form, at The American Street)

I've tried to keep the worst of the Road Paving Battle out of these pages, out of reluctance to come off like Dustin Hoffman's Lenny Bruce in the last reel. But it's really and truly over now. The last nail went into the coffin at last night's Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting. They won't try that again anytime soon. Plenty of other nastiness, sure, but not paving this particular road.

A great deal of e-mail flew back and forth from both sides during the ugly business, some of it openly slanderous, probably actionable. But one missive in particular is worth pointing up for its spectacular rudeness. It came two nights ago to my neighbor Mary, one of the ringleaders of the anti-paving effort and a fearless thorn in the side of the utterly contemptible Board of Supervisors -- one of the crookedest deliberative bodies in the United States. Cc'd to every member of both sides of the argument, it came from the beaten and abused keyboard of one Eugene DelGaudio, Supervisor, Sterling District.

I reproduce it here, with not one letter changed:



Savor the contempt and flat-out loathing for its interlocutrix that this missive barely conceals. All-caps yelling. Impatient, clipped syntax. The wingnut passive-aggressive "quote marks" around the amusingly misspelled word -- in a later reply he implied that any imputation of "secrecy" on the part of the Board was political "spin" from his enemies.*

Nasty stuff, no?

Well, this is the man who was shrieking at my neighbor.

Here's an extract:
Delgaudio [is] executive director of the group Public Advocate of the United States. For its part, Public Advocate is, on the surface, a typical "Family Values" lobbying group. However...Public Advocate has been known to support a vehemently anti-gay platform, and indeed has been known to express these ideas, both in postal mailings and even in theatric "performances" outside Capitol Hill...:

"You'll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to 'pick out' a little boy for themselves," read a 1998 letter from Delgaudio seeking money to fight gay adoptions.

Delgaudio targets "pro-homosexual" politicians from both parties, using media-ready skits that he calls "conservative political street theater." Past productions include a "Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony" outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and a "Perverts for Cellucci" rally to protest President Bush's nomination of then-Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci to be ambassador to Canada.
This is the man who was shrieking at my neighbor.

*This is nothing less than complete bullshit: If somebody hadn't caught one tiny paragraph at the end of a long, boring article in our local freebie advertiser, we'd be looking at bulldozers next week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

GrammarBoy Doesn't Take It Lying Down

One PixelWeasel has submitted a Comment on my Ann Coulter, Grammar Nazi, post, and I thought it was worth surfacing to the front page, not least to increase the likelihood of it being seen. Here's the comment:
So, GrammarBoy, the blue-pencil mavens in my shop think you’re grammatically as muddle-headed as Ann Coulter, and self-righteously pedantic to boot. That’s bad news when you’re wrong – makes you look like a complete fool. Commas, GB, commas – that’s what the “which” clause requires.

(We’re going with the Chicago Manual of Style FAQ, “Which vs. That”: “The basic rule: Use ‘which’ plus commas to set off nonrestrictive clauses; use ‘that’ to introduce a restrictive clause.” Your example doesn’t follow the exception the CMOS notes for writers of British English, either.)
I'm puzzled, PixWeasel, at exactly what it is you suppose me to have gotten wrong. I think it's because I supplied an example of a nonrestrictive clause employing which without setting it off with commas. Otherwise, I hunt in vain for an actual point in your comment.

My comma-less example was taken directly from Words Into Type (Third Edition, p. 378), if you want to play Dueling Styleguides. The absence of commas in the example is deliberate, to clarify the rule of thumb (their phrase), which is that "when a comma can be inserted, the word is which." I suggest you take up the choice of the phrase "rule of thumb" with that book's editors.

Tell me: what would your ink-stained wretches do with Franklin Roosevelt's phrase "a day which will live in infamy"? Strike FDR's which and replace it with that? I believe the Chicago Manual would insist on it, and that's the point I was implying: That hidebound copy editors insist on the application of Rules as if they were Laws -- frequently to the detriment of lively and perfectly comprehensible writing. "A day, which will live in infamy" is simply absurd; "A day that will live in infamy" is absolutely unchanged in meaning from FDR's original.

You've said nothing that undermines my central point: that Coulter's criticism of that anonymous web site for linguistic elitism was itself incorrect (she would definitely have edited FDR's phrase), and that she was trying to score gratuitous points by twitting their grammar. This is sleazy rhetoric -- not to mention, a really cheap shot.

I think your blue-pencil crowd will enjoy Mark Liberman's Language Log post, which Don Porges brought to our attention. The Executive Summary (emphases mine):
...[T]he prohibition against using which to introduce integrated relative clauses is a made-up "rule", unsanctioned by the usage of good writers in any era. Still, I think that there's a germ of sociolinguistic truth in Coulter's theory -- "which hunting" is a favorite sport of down-market American copy editors,[oooh, take that, boys and girls] so that the rate of which in integrated relatives is lower in American journalism than it is in British journalism. As a result, integrated which may indeed have an elitist flavor for those American readers who have noticed the difference.
The Language Log post also provides copious examples of sentences from Coulter's demigod Ronald Reagan employing which in exactly the way you claim is incorrect in my example.

See also:

Five more thoughts on the that rule (Arnold Zwicky, 5/22/2005)

What I currently know about which and that (Arnold Zwicky, 5/10/2005)

The people from the CCGW are here to see you (Arnold Zwicky, 5/7/2005)

Don't do this at home, kiddies! (Arnold Zwicky, 5/3/2005)

Which vs. that: integration gradation (Mark Liberman, 9/23/2004)

Which vs that: a test of faith (Mark Liberman, 9/20/2004) ("Copy-editors' strictures against using which in integrated relatives are an invention -- what in ordinary life we would call a lie -- with no basis in the facts of the English language. Specifically, that is no longer used in supplementary relatives; but in integrated relatives, both which and that continue to be in common use by all the best writers, as has been true for centuries.")

Which vs. that: I have numbers (Geoff Pullum, 9/19/2004)

Sidney Goldberg on NYT grammar: zero for three (Geoff Pullum, 9/17/2004)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Poor Old Waterford

The unfortunate town of Waterford, Virginia, was founded in 1578 by an itinerant tinker and his dam named Walter and Lita Ford, who wandered in circles on their way to founding Chicago, got tired, and simply decided to sit down and cut their losses. Absolutely nothing of interest has ever happened there, and in celebration of this fact its simple yet uncomplicated denizens invite the world in for an annual bash they are pleased to call (quite unoriginally, entre nous) The Waterford Fair.

Politely if quietly skeptically, we neighboring Lovettsvillians feel obligated to show up, in much the same way that we dutifully attend the preschool Thanksgiving pageant of a close relative's toddler -- it's more a tiresome social obligation than an eagerly anticipated event, and we can't help thinking that Waterford would just be so miffed if one year we found a more compelling event on our social calendar.

But return we do, surreptitiously rolling our parsimonious Pennsylvania Dutch eyes at the unseemly self-importance of our Quaker neighbors to our southeast, and each year we're reminded that the human capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds.

The Mayor of Waterford, Sam Drucker, is extremely proud of his poodle, Eva Gabor. The poodle attends town meetings and is considered something of an unofficial town mascot. People who appear to be about to disabuse Sam about his poodle frequently find themselves hopping about on a suddenly very sore foot. They've very protective of their mayor Sam, are the people of Waterford.

The town's musical life is greatly enlivened by the Red Clay Stumblers, a string band that plays a highly unlikely combination of Steven Foster standards and early Kinks numbers. Here, they deliver a characteristically puzzling arrangement of "Tired of Waiting/Farewell, My Lilly Dear" in which the two classics are sort of sandwiched together and played simultaneously.

That's Eb Crandall, the town's Walt Whitman impersonator, third from the right. I'm not gonna say anying predictable about "singing the shaver electric," but until old Eb gets himself a shower and some deodorant he should just give up with those dishy Civil War reenactor boys. He's pretty rank.

I mean, this pretty much says it all about the Red Clay Stumblers. The poor, poor man. Nobody has the heart to tell him the obvious. He just sits there and saws away at it. Sad.

The town did actually host one important historic event, in 1689, when a company of Cardinal Richelieu's men accosted a naive young D'Artagnan, who had inadvertently insulted them. The town commemorates the event today with the annual Display of Embarrassing White People.

"Nom d'un nom! As chief minister, your master the Cardinal de Richelieu seeks to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions! His tenure, marked by the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe, will ultimately lead to the immigration to America of the Palatinate Germans who will eventually settle in our neighboring Lovettsville to our northwest and bring their sarcastic numbers to our annual festival to mock us in satirical Internet postings! Taste cold steel, usurper!

Ah, here's Mayor Sam now, with his gal-pal, Lady DeWinter. Sam's a bit of an old-school anti-Republican. As in, he really hates the idea of Republics. Generally Waterfordians are able to dismiss this as just a charming quirk, but eyebrows were raised at last Saturday's U12 boys' soccer game (Sam's an assistant coach, which, he says, is "no reason one shouldn't dress like a gentleman"), in which he flung his lorgnette at young Chester Treadwell and denounced him for a "demnition Chartist popinjay!"

I wouldn't mind a getup like Sam's. Just for relaxing around the house, you know. Grocery shopping. Home Depot. Trips to Subway.

All in all, I think the Eighteenth Century's...

...just a little...

...overrated, don't you?

Oh, give me a home...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Grammar Nazi

For the folks reeling and dizzy at the prospect of actually agreeing with Ann Coulter about something, the world must be spinning off its axis.

It's really fun to watch the Other Side experience the sleazeball sophistry of the Coulter Method, if only momentarily. This in particular jumped out:
One Web site defending Bush's choice of a graduate from an undistinguished law school complains that Miers' critics "are playing the Democrats' game," claiming that the "GOP is not the party which idolizes Ivy League acceptability as the criterion of intellectual and mental fitness." (In the sort of error that results from trying to sound "Ivy League" rather than being clear, that sentence uses the grammatically incorrect "which" instead of "that." Web sites defending the academically mediocre would be a lot more convincing without all the grammatical errors.)
(Isn't that just so Ann? One putative grammatical error becomes "all the grammatical errors".... There's got to be a name for this greasy technique; I'd like to propose Coulterian Multiplication.)

At any rate, Ann's trying to score some cheap points here by schoolmarmishly twitting an unidentified Web site for a grammatical solecism. (Interestingly -- and oh, so Coulterianly -- she doesn't tell us which Web site it is; nor does she provide a hyperlink so we can verify her assertion that such a sentence even exists -- for all we know, she made the damned thing up.)

"Which" versus "that" is a rule of thumb, not a hard-and-fast law of grammar. I've seen many, many well-established authors (chiefly, but not exclusively, British) of enormous literary repute who exclusively employ "which" to offset restrictive clauses. I'm a former copy editor; this is the sort of thing that jumps out at you.

The particular use of "which" not "that" that Ann so confidently decries ("The GOP is not the party which idolizes Ivy League acceptability...") isn't actually incorrect at all. The phrase means exactly the same with either word employed. Go ahead; try it. "That" is preferred by many US styleguides in that case, but that doesn't mean that not using it is a violation of some kind of Immutable Olympian Law of Grammar, to be invoked by finger-wagging sleazeball wingnut columnists trying to make you look stupid.

There are times when offsetting a restrictive clause with "which" is truly incorrect. The sentence,
All the patrol boats in the Navy which are sinking should be scrapped.
is worlds away in meaning from
All the patrol boats in the Navy that are sinking should be scrapped.
But that doesn't apply to the usage that Ann castigates.

Stupid bitch.

The sentence under discussion is, it must be admitted, monumentally crappy: the phrase "which idolizes Ivy League acceptability as the criterion" is about as pompously clumsy a thing as I've read all month, but criticism of style isn't Ann's strong suit. She'd rather serve up a cheeseball dinger that she thinks nobody's going to call her on. Sorry -- on which nobody's going to call her.

Well, I just did.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's a Leap of Faith, Jack


When last we left our Lost friends, Jack and Locke, they had been presented to us as a twinned pair, warring allegorical avatars of Western Philosophy, between Jack Shephard (another suggestive name, the unconventional spelling suggesting both "shepherd" and "Sephardic") on the side of the Enlightenment, and Locke (I swear he's simply misnamed) representing Medievalism.

The writers of Lost continue to mine the West. Phil. 101 lode, and I am hugely entertained. I'm certain that they're pulling this stuff right out of their fundamental apertures by way of a long-ago undergrad philosophy class, and are only two or three steps ahead of their audience. But it sure beats the hell out of Two and a Half Men.

The climax of tonight's episode comes with Locke laying down a challenge to Jack: "It's a leap of faith," he intones gnomically as Jack fights within himself not to push the button on the computer keyboard that will, every ounce of his doctor's empirical scientific training tells him, do nothing at all. His materialistic education in evidence and rationality and the Scientific Method all tell him that pushing that "Execute" button will negate his wavering disbelief in the supernatural.

But he pushes it anyway.

It's a Leap of Faith. Søren Kierkegaard's Christian Existentialism offered as a solution to the accusation of nihilism that is so frequently leveled at materialism.

And once again, the Man of Science takes it in the neck from goddamned TV-Land scenarists who just can't possibly let the Skeptical Guy, the Materialist, win.

This drives me just a little bit batty. Is it sentimentality? Is it the demands of drama? A sop to an audience dominated by folks who don't want their cherished Sunday-School assumptions challenged? Or is it (as I suspect to be truly the case) simply the easy way out?

From the Wikipedia article on Søren Kierkegaard (interestingly -- if irrelevantly -- the name means "churchyard" in Danish):
For Kierkegaard, the present age [that is, the post-Enlightenment age] is a reflective age—one that values objectivity and thought over action; lip-service to ideals rather than action; discussion over action; publicity and advertising to reality; fantasy to reality. For Kierkegaard, the meaning of values has been sucked out of them by a lack of authority. Instead of the authority of the past or the Bible or any other great and lasting voice, we have emptiness and uncertainty.
[Ick. Phooey. Feh.]

This is not a blind leap as is often thought. Kierkegaard's concern was that faith is never easy or probable. Faith in God is an agonistic and often fearful struggle to cast one's entire person into relation to God.
Do you see what's being fought over by Jack and Locke in this episode? We're being offered an argument-sequence: Medievalism leads to Enlightenment Materialism, which yields to Christian Existentialism. Locke challenges Jack, "Why is it so difficult for you to believe?" and Jack retorts, "Why is it so difficult for you not to?"In pushing the "Execute" button on that keyboard, Jack has conceded to Locke the imperative to believe in the existence of God, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I hope fervently (and expect fully to have my hopes dashed) that the argument will continue on to its next step (it doesn't end with Kierkegaard, of course). If we don't start to see references to Nietzsche, and to (dare we hope?) Oscar Wilde, I'll volunteer to write sacks of angry letters to the management of ABC.

In other Lost News, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman was supposed to be featured prominently in tonight's episode as some sort of roadmap to the argument. But I think that viewers preparing to send away for the Cliffs Notes to O'Brien's brilliant absurdist novel were taken aback by the much more prominent presence of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Its inclusion is highly suggestive:
The story [of the Turn of the Screw] starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.
I think the writers of Lost are simply capital bullshit artists, but I just love to watch a really good bullshit artist at work. (That should be pretty self-evident, don't you think?) More power to 'em. I'm hooked.

Monday, October 03, 2005

America Eats Its Young

Notes typed while a rented DVD of Bill Moyers' interviews with Joseph Campbell, found in Blockbuster's "Special Interests" section while looking for something amusing to watch on postoperative codeine, stayed on noble, patient and resolute Pause. The author's having watched Martin Scorsese's homage to Bob Dylan a scant week earlier had no bearing on the matter at hand.

America eats its young.

There's a treasured legend among the hundreds of thousands of Smithsonian folklorists who even today trawl America's forgotten byways with 300-pound Ampeg wire recorders strapped to their waists, ready to be swung into action at the drop of a jaw-harp or a dulcimer pick. The tradition has it that Blind Clawhammer Wastrel, the Paganini of the ragtime guitar who sacrificed hearth and home to sing proudly secular hymns to passive aggression, came from a long line of faithful family retainers; his father retained railroad barons and free-range cattlemen, while his goddess-figure mother -- recumbent, great with potentiality -- retained mostly fluids. The legacy he left us includes the deathless proletarian j'accuse:
Sugar done been spilled
So's the salt
Now you gonna tell me
It's my own daggumed fault
Woah, mama, look what you done made me do!
Indeed. We students of the particularly American brand of authenticity bow our heads in tribute to such Revealed Truth.

Try this on, an American parable that explains this mad, sacred, irascible pit-bull of a nation:

Ed Grimley, Wilford Brimley, the guy who sees the past but dimly, Tawana Brawley, old Smoot Hawley, Satchmo who sang "Hello, Dolly," Goldie Hawn, Wallace Shawn, the Temple of the Golden Dawn, John Kerry, Marion Barry, Moe, Curly and lastly Larry, Alfred Jarry, Randall Terry, the Gibb Brothers, excluding Barry, M.L. King, Chandler Bing, that guy who knows most everything (Kreskin? Is it Vos Savant? Don't know them from my maiden aunt), John Paul Jones, Indy Jones, Nora Jones, Jesus Jones, Percy Jones, Spike Jones, cursed be he that moves these bones, Adam Smith, Snuffy Smith, the author of The Power of Myth...

Into a bar they once did amble.

Which brings me back to Joseph Campbell...
The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Hit a homer, ran the bases.
Rounding third, he called to fans,
"I'm the Brown-Eyed Handsome Man!"
(Just like your daddy...)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Up Against What Might Have Been

Johnnie, I think we should have stuck with Joe Orton...

Casual students of the Beatles might be surprised to find out that at the time of the recording of Sergeant Pepper, a third BeatleFilm -- a live-action fictional movie in the spirit of A Hard Day's Night and Help! -- was being contemplated by Walter Shenson, the impresario who brought forth the first two. The times being what they were, the project was abandoned in the writing stage, which is a bit sad, I suppose. But in retrospect it should cheer us that we can now freely indulge our imaginations: A third live-action Beatles movie, made just as they'd begun to soak themselves in LSD and Stockhausen and Transendental Maharoonie-ism! The mind reels at the possibilities.

The indispensable The Lennon Companion: Twenty-Five Years of Comment, edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Guterman, is a wonderful collection of contemporary primary-source material on the Beatles' rise and fall. It begins with William Mann's well-known 1963 essay -- often cited contemptuously by casual biographers as an indicator of just how badly the highbrow press of the time was unequipped to explain the Beatles' mindbogglingly challenging music -- in which Mann memorably refers to the "Aeolian cadence," used in Mahler's Song of the Earth, that ends "Not a Second Time." (Rereading it, there's nothing at all in the essay that's even faintly obtuse or thickheaded, and in fact it's an insightful and useful exploration into 1963 Beatle songcraft by a very fine, if fatally academic, writer. We owe Mann an apology.) The book ends, of course, with anguished and still soul-wrenching outcries at Lennon's murder, from Philip Larkin, Peter Schickele, John Rockwell, and others.

We are given exerpts from the redoubtable John Lahr's Introduction to Joe Orton's Beatle screenplay, Up Against It, about the stillborn third Beatles movie. In the course of the exposition, we get a remarkable insight into the madhouse that surrounded the four Fauntleroys who were at the time busily, if largely unwittingly, redirecting the course of Western Civilization. (Fans of the extremely good Steven Frears film Prick Up Your Ears will be vaguely familiar with the outlines of this story.) Orton was asked by Shenson to read an existing script that the Beatles had commissioned but disliked, and provide suggestions for improvement. Orton, at the time tired of working on drafts of What the Butler Saw and looking for diversion, agreed. This is from his diary:
Like the idea. Basically it is that there aren't four young men. Just aspects of one man. Sounds dreary, but as I thought about it I realised what wonderful opportunities it would give. The end in the present script is the girl advancing on the four to accept a proposal of marriage from one of them (which, the script coyly says, we shall never know). Already have the idea that the end should be in a church with four bridegrooms and one bride.... Lots of opportunities for sexual ambiguities -- a woman's bedroom at night, her husband outside and four men inside....
Are you starting to see how this might have been just a wee bit more fun than Yellow Submarine?

Continues Lahr, "Shenson had promised to arrange a meeting between Orton and The Beatles. In his talk Orton heard the first seductive stroke of the movie rubdown, the slap and tickle of famous names and big paydays." [It's to be noted, Orton was at this time, despite his phenomenal success as a playwright, still earning £3/10 a week on the dole.]
"You'll be hearing either from Brian Epstein or Paul McCartney [Shenson told Orton on January 17]. So don't be surprised if a Beatle rings you up." "What an experience," I said. "I shall feel as nervous as I would if St. Michael, or God was on the line." "Oh, there's no need to be worried, Joe," Shenson said. "I can say, from my heart, that the boys are very respectful of talent.... I can really say that, Joe."
The Beatles called a week later, through Brian Epstein's "personal assistant" (a designation, Orton can't refrain from observing, that reminds him that the English have never got around to finding a respectable word for "boyfriend"). He was invited into the Epsteinian world of sumptuous Fabulousness:
Arrived in Belgravia at ten minutes to eight... I rang the bell and an old man entered. He seemed surprised to see me. "Is this Brian Epstein's house?" I said.... I suddenly realised that the man was the butler. I'd never seen one before.... He took me into a room and said in a loud voice, "Mr. Orton." Everybody looked up and stood to their feet. I was introduced to one or two people. And Paul McCartney. He was just as in the photographs. Only he'd grown a moustache.... He was playing the latest Beatles record, "Penny Lane." I liked it very much.
Joe and Macca got acquainted over a hobby they held in common -- and another they didn't:
We talked of drugs, of mushrooms which gave hallucinations -- like LSD. "The drug not the money," I said.... There was a little scratching at the door. I thought it was the old retainer, but someone got up to answer the door and about five very young and very pretty boys trouped in. I rather hoped this was the evening's entertainment. It wasn't, though. It was a pop group called the Easybeats.... I talked to the leading Easybeat, feeling slightly like an Edwardian masher with a Gaiety Girl. I had a last word with Paul M. "Well," I said," I'd like to do the film. There's only one thing we've got to fix up." "You mean the bread?" "Yes." We smiled and parted.
Orton accepted £5,000 for writing the first draft. In his approach to plotting, he was "inspired" by a novel he'd written but never published called The Vision of Gombald Proval. Some weeks later (February 11, 1967, a day that saw John Lennon overdubbing dialogue on the Richard Lester film, How I Won the War, according to Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Chronicle), Orton was summoned to Shenson's office to be admonished that "the boys" shouldn't be made to do anything in the film "that would reflect badly on them..." "You see," he was told, "the kids will imitate whatever the boys do."

Said Joe to his diary, "I hadn't the heart to tell him that the boys, in my script, have been caught in flagrante, become involved in dubious political activity, dressed as women, committed murder, been put in prison and committed adultery. And the script isn't finished yet. We parted...with the good as signed. And on my part, the film almost written."

History does not privilege us to know exactly who pulled the plug on the project and diverted resources and attention to the saccharine and just plain icky Yellow Submarine property instead. But Orton gives us this bit of calumny:
[Brian Epstein is] an amateur and a fool. He isn't equipped to judge the quality of a script. Probably he will never say "yes"; equally hasn't got the courage to say "no." A thoroughly weak and flaccid type.
The script was returned a few days later.
No explanation why. No criticism of the script. And apparently, Brian Epstein has no comment to make either. Fuck them.

Yo, Mannion!

Check it, bra!

Over the last few months, Lance Mannion and I have exchanged some pretty amusing sallies on the Matter of the Chainsaw. Lance is ambivalent on the question of chainsaw ownership, citing tiresome bourgeois concerns over health and safety, the usual white-boy, blue-state, kid-gloves-in-church handwringing gabble. I, on the other hand, enthusiastically endorse the adoption of the Chainsaw in all aspects of life, with the ardor usually displayed by the most doctrinaire of NRA acolytes. Chainsaws don't rip defenseless inanimate objects to shit in an eyeblink -- people do.

That pic up there, that's people -- yours truly, to be exact -- this morning, taking the fight to an Unwanted Inanimate Object in my back yard. Sure, I could have carefully unscrewed each carriage bolt with my ratchet wrench, no doubt. I could have politely undone each 8-penny nail with a crowbar, carefully disassembled the thing down to its component parts... But instead I reduced it to flinders in about three minutes.

YA -- and may I add, HOO!

When we bought it, the grounds of Jingo Acres were configured for the amusement of kids considerably younger than Betty and Freddie, and the jungle-gym/slide thing being demolished in the above photo held no fascination for my young teens. It gathered dust for a year while Freddie hatched dreams.

He was a serious skateboardist and rollerbladificationizer when we came to Dirt-Road Country. One of the only sources of regret for me when I moved us out here was the sight of him tooling morosely around the garage -- the only place for miles with a surface smooth enough to allow a skateboard's wheels to roll. It was indescribably sad. I questioned my humanity.

Not long ago he found some plans on the Internet that showed how to build a halfpipe. It took pretty much no effort on his part to get me to agree to a father-son project that would replace that unused slide/jungle gym with a really-o, truly-o, no-shit, serious skater's halfpipe. I was Stoked.

And yes, at this point, I will pause to allow your accolades to wash over me. Perhaps I will even fold my arms and nod with my chin jutting out, like Benito Mussolini. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I am in fact the World's Coolest Dad. I simply cannot gainsay the groundswell of approval.

So that's what we're doing. After tearing down the jungle-gym and carting it to the dump, which we did today, we'll begin on Step One of the plans tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it.

It sounds like Disgusting Daddery, I fully realize, but I tell you with complete sincerity: Freddie's without question one of my coolest friends. I can't tell you how utterly destroyed I am when we catch each other's eye and laugh without reserve, holding our guts in, at The Simpsons: Sweet merciful heavens! I did something right!

You need to hear more about him. And you will.

Here's an overview of the area where we're putting the thing up:

I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I've turned on Word Verification for commenters. I had been surprised at the lack of comment-spam I was getting, given how much of it I'd been seeing on other blogs, but they made up for it with a vengeance today.

I have to admit, though, I got a bit of a giggle out of NYCGuy12, who posted,
I have a Cold Sore site/blog. It pretty much covers Cold Sore related stuff.
Come and check it out if you get time :-)
And here was me, just the other day, cursing the Internet's yawning dearth of authoritative information on cold sores and cold-sore-related stuff!

In other news, I've joined a collective of bloggers calling itself "The Liberal Prose," the point of which is to engage in collective bargaining for advertisements. Upshot: BlogAds may start appearing here in the near future. Not fuckin' Glaxo Wellcome, OKAY??? I have control over which ads can appear.

I hereby proffer my neck to Bobby Lightfoot's baleful battle-axe.