The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable.–Paul Tillich
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER EIGHT: PART ONE: THE FALL
Part of my hare-brained and chuckle-headed scheme to get back at Smash Conklin was to hunt up the known henchmen—the coves as run the crews of The Big Man, Cokey Stolas. They wasn’t hard to find, every fly cove knew of ‘em. They was superstitious critters, the bulk of ‘em, and creatures of habit, and they liked to make their mark in their own little neighborhoods where they had quite a profitable little sideline which most times involved robbing green Yellofs in one fashion or t’other.
Down to Shanty Street where the alky bums and canned heat tramps made their lurk is where you’d find scar-faced Joe Rumbuster, the black-headed and black-hearted bully and shake-down artist, menacing the trembly old Winos and Feebs with his strong right arm and his snarlface leer on a face that looked like a hunk of tinned beef. The hateful young cuss would never of menaced a full-growed man in his prime; no, toothless vags and pensioners, and stumpy vets with the morphine shakes was his specialty. He ran a crooked numbers racket on the snyde, but no man was ever known to hit the number and so that was likely just another one of his low games.
Then there was Conrad Tench, the big fat crooked cop, a bluebelly with a bald head and a blonde handlebar mustache who was round and ruddy as a copper coin and as fat as a grain-fed bull, and about as ornery. His cute trick was to roust the spooks up and down Jivetown and so he was universally hated by the smokes for his way of busting up their dice games and rent parties and shaking down the gin mills where they held their drinkin’ sprees and even barging into the barber shop of a Sunday and lounging around making sneermouth remarks and causing many a nappy head to bust out in a cold sweat. And woe betide you if you was newly arrived from down South—Tench would rob you of your last nickel the second you set foot in Jivetown and would shake you down at regular intervals once he learned you had a job, and if you didn’t cough up he would run you in for vagrancy. Many a luckless dinge would find himself hauled up into the county pokey for the crime of neglecting to say Sir or failing to give Tench a shit-eating grin or otherwise kiss his ass in broad daylight.
And who could ever forget Titus Peep, the red-handed lawyer, him, big and clumsy as a brick shithouse—him, with his busted galluses and his white shirt with gravy stains—no married man, he–with one thick thatch of crazy red hair on his bald and knobby head which in his vanity he kept slicked down over his forehead as if to say You’d best not trifle with me lad, for all my baldness I’m still a man. And his eyebrows was thick and fuzzy as a wooly caterpillar and when he looked at you from under ‘em with his tiny little eyes he bid fair to mesmerize you. He hob-nobbed with the swell Yellofs in the Uptown district, where many a Doctor and Captain of Industry hung their shingle. And wouldn’t it make a Yob want to carry the red flag in the union parade and maybe chuck a fizzy black bomb or three to see them fat boyos whoopin’ it up in the sacred precincts of their exclusive men’s clubs as they haw haw hawed over new ways to bilk the poor, which they did a-plenty.
Then ye had Cool Slopp, the Pawnbroker—not his real handle, no one knowed that, not even his Maw, if he ever had one—you’d swear the evil cuss was never born of woman—Slopp was a receiver of stolen goods—what fly coves once called a fence—an old man at forty—a rail thin miser who would steal the nails from your picket fence in the dead of night then sell ‘em back to you at the break of day, and at a triple mark-up—many’s a shivering bum he managed to steal the clothes off the back of for a penny or two—there’d be a special place in hell for the likes of him if such a place existed. His main shop was on Treasure Island, so called by the cackling coves because for the most part it was little more’n an overgrown sandbar in the middle of the Salt River connected to Old Town by a rickety wooden bridge—where they also had the Carnival—come harvest time many a Country Younker come from miles around—from Arcadia and Chokecherry, from Dowagertown and Hungry Valley, from Nitburg and Stinktown. They’d come from Harmony and from Murder Lake; from Friday Valley and Greasy Ridge; from Runnymede and Uneeda.
These men were a-starved for entertainment the year round and so after harvest into town they’d come, fat wallets bulging with greenbacks, and they would go to Treasure Island looking for a good time and they would like as not lose every last penny and a few besides at the rigged and gaffed games at the Red and Black Carnival. And then then the thoroughly fleeced sucker would get robbed agin because he’d have to sell shirt, straw hat, and gold watch, all. Sell ‘em, and much beside, to Cool Slopp–for a few measley coins—barely enough streetcar fare to get ‘em out of the city limits–and then a long walk for ‘em–back to the old homestead, to tell of how he was swindled and to have to face the music from his sour-faced Old Woman in her feed-sack dress—to say nothing of her hatchet-faced old Maw. Many a farmer I would pass on the road in later years and all would tell me the exact same story.
And still, year after year, the gulls and suckers kept right on coming.
This was the proud crew that Cokey Stolas employed. But these was only the Yellofs in charge of the foot soldiers. They had people above them, as told them what was what, and made them dance to the tune of “Pay Me, Pay Me, Pay Me My Money Down,”–as I will tell you more of next time.
FD: Message Boards are a classic ritual degradation ceremony.
Lew Mills:Only because they are filled with idiots like you, with nothing to say, and too much time to say it. Go get a life, you troll!!
FD: Listen, stupid: I have more friends than you have I.Q. points, so if you don’t like it you can hit the road!
Lew Mills: Why do these conversations always devolve into petty ad nominal attacks. I can’t believe you went there.
FD: YOU ARE FAR WORSE THAN HITLER!!!
Lew Mills: Actually, my IQ is a lot, and you just wouldn’t know. And at least Hitler made his brains run on rhyme.
16 THINGS YOUNG GEEKS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT INTERNET CULTURE
By Kevin Makice
THE DC COMICS OFFICES 1930s-1950s
WHIMSICAL STORIES CREATED BY BOOK TITLES
Target Regrets Reminding Managers That Not All Hispanics Wear Sombreros, Eat Tacos
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
Species we’ve lost in the last 10 years
Via Tim Mungenast
6* DAILY UTILITY
Freelancing: a survival guide (of sorts)
TOP CAT: THE MOVIE
REVIEWED BY MATTHEW BUCK
WHAT WAS ON THE RADIO IN 1963
If you’ve ever posted anything embarrassing on Facebook, you better hide it yesterday: http://slate.me/14G8YEJ
HOW FAR DOES THE NATIONAL SNOOPING DOLLAR SPREAD?
DON’T MAKE FUN OF RENOWNED DAN BROWN
How kind-hearted: To leap to the defence of a hack writer who has become a multimillionaire by preying upon people’s superstitions.
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
SONG SEQUELS THAT WEREN’T (PART ONE)
It’s More than Rock and Roll.
Shut Me Down
Leave as You Were
River Shallow, Mountain Low.
Got Fooled Again
I’m Not Sure I Would be Pleased to Hold Your Hand
Living Skunk By the Side of the Road.
Well Adjusted Killer.
Sour Big 17.
Love Potion Number…..oh, forget it
I’ve Got a Frickin’ Old Pair of Rollerskates
The Cover Of Sassy.
I Wanna Be Awakened
You Wore it Well
Wendell Celibacy Addict
That’s When I Reach for My Mylanta
Not Toasting Mr Robinson.
Who Brought The Dogs Back?
When You Dance, I’m Really Repulsed.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Opened, Tried On, Sent Back
Devil Bless the Pusher Girl
Tell Him Yes
He Hates Me Yes Yes Yes
Sometimes Ordinary Guys Wear Whatever They Want.
Oh To Die in Diabetes Valley.
See Emily Work
The Mayor of Liquortown
Just Got Fooled Again
I Can’t Stop This Itching
Mama Weer All Sane Now.
The Utter Indifference of a Square (Queen)
Snore Lady Snore
Died In The USA.
I want to take you somewhat higher
Turns Out This Wasn’t the End
This Is Not a Love Song or Really A Song At All.
House of the Setting Sun
The Boys Are Back In Jail
Come On And Take A Ride That Now Costs a Few Bucks.
Hate Potion Number 1
The Needle and the resulting Groovy, Lip-Smacking Heroin High–it’s Like Kissing God!!!
(With a tip of the hat to Johnny Angel, Jim Sullivan, Jon Hall, Russ Gershon, Kurt Hoffman, &c.)
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 696.
PART ONE: THE DESPERATE BADNESS OF THE EAGLES
I feel about the Eagles the way Mark Twain felt about the Cavaliers. (Please note that he essentially blamed them for the Civil War). The ubiquity of the Eagles in the 1970s was surely one of the reasons punk rock became so popular.
Because just about anything would be better than The Eagles.
It occurs to me now, many years after the fact, that the song is essentially a cha-cha. Putting funny music next to death–oldest satiric trick in the book. It’s almost a humorous novelty song!
Except that it isn’t. Would that it were.
Instead, we are served up six minutes and 26 seconds of torturously, terminally,saggy faux-Dylan “significance” What’s to like? Beginning with the pompous, repetitive 51-second instrumental introduction, and working our way through the fake-monumental affect of the allegedly heartfelt singing and the ghastly pretentiousness of the lyrics, finally working its way to a pseudo-Santana instrumental break which makes me want to block my ears with Quik-crete. And all ending on a lame-o fadeout.
It’s diminished-capacity existentialism for stoners; it’s the Myth of Sisyphus for cretinous goons; it’s fuzzy-minded poetry for steakheads and retardos.
PART TWO: DECADENCE LITE
How to explain the song’s popularity?
The fact that it addresses some sort of mystic death wish? Maybe. A hotel room is like a cave, so perhaps the song appeals to some darkly atavistic corner in the mass mind.
But I still maintain that It’s lowbrow jukebox fodder. Full of assumed plaintiveness and a phonus-balonus frisson of something dark and edgy. It’s a bit like the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” in that regard.
The lyrics in particular are Decadence lite. A laughably portentious attempt to seem ominous. Ernest Dowson would laugh them out of the room. See, for instance: http://poemsandprose.blog.co.uk/2009/05/13/days-of-wine-and-roses-6106803/
PART THREE: OMINOUS HEAVY
Journalist and critic Jim Sullivan asks: Where do I set the bar for ominous heavy? Where do I start? “Machine Gun” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Jimi Hendrix.
The Modern Dance and Dub Housing by Pere Ubu.
Pink Flag and Chairs Missing by Wire.
The gold standard? Probably “Love Like Anthrax” by Gang of Four.
As for my finding the lyrics a small boy’s idea of something ominous, that is a personal aesthetic response which is in no way intended to impugn the tastes of those who find pleasure in such lyrics. But I vastly prefer primary treatments which partake of some degree of complexity: Jim Thompson’s novel The Getaway; Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano; Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.
For poetry, I would look to Goethe’s Der Erlkonig: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Erlk%C3%B6nig;
For Greek Myth, the account of Theseus and the Minotaur: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theseus#The_myth_of_Theseus_and_the_Minotaur
PART FOUR: DEATH’S HEAD MOTH ART
Journalist and critic Jim Sullivan also suggests that the Eagles are “Ominous Lite”. To me, ominous lite seems almost a contradiction in terms. (For another good example of ominous, see Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.)
The Dylan comparisons don’t end there. Did you ever notice how the plaintiveness of the singer’s voice seems mildly reminiscent of Hebraic cantillation? (Also see Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee.’)
It amazes me how bugged people get when I mention the fact that the songs of Springsteen, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles and suchlike–yes, even Steely Dan–mostly leave me cold. (There are exceptions; songs of theirs that I actually like; there are always exceptions). People react as though I have desecrated the graves of their ancestors. But now I think I know why. I USED TO conceive of my own aesthetic preferences as constituting a large part of who I am. I now no longer feel that way. But many people still do.
I could easily see how someone could hate, or at least not get Wire. Wire is deliberately prickly; Death’s Head Moth Art; not intended for everyone. It’s a whole post-modern tendency–to flaunt “difficulty”. When my boss heard me listening to the third and fourth Pere Ubu albums, she wondered aloud whether I was on drugs.
NEW PICNIC TIME: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBtMNjhnVIM
THE ART OF WALKING: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieacH0vYQ_E
Fact is, an eclectic taste often leads one to discover that all of one’s childhood favorites were sometimes quite derivative. Led Zeppelin being by far the most outstanding example.
You might find this 1962 manifesto by Manny Farber to be of related interest: http://www.jambop.com/jambop/2004/11/white_elephant_.html
PART FIVE: PAGING CAPTAIN SATAN
According to Richard Smoley, “The truth is, the song does summarize California pretty well. Even and especially if one grants the song’s essential hollowness and banality. There was some rumor that there was some connection between the Eagles and the Church of Satan–the Playboy philosophy turned religion–e.g., Anton Szandor LaVey was apparently sometimes known as the “Captain.” LaVey, incidentally, had a jazzy Satanmobile. It was a VW bug.”
So. The Eagles are a loathsome Satan-loving crew. Now I need to look into their biography still further. I well knew about Kenneth Anger, Dennis Wilson, Arthur Lee, Scientology, The Process Church of the Final Judgment, and Charlie Manson. Who’d a thunk The Eagles and Church of Satan? (Sammy Davis Jr. also dabbled in it, BTW.)
Wendy Walsh suggests that the song belongs on an anthology of songs: “The K-Tel ‘But What Does It MEAN?!’ collection, which would include such gems as…Whiter Shade of Pale; [songs] which are pretty much nonsense because ultimately they signify nothing:
Also add “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” “Rama Lama Ding-Dong,” and “Papa-Oom-Mow- Mow”.
Such an anthology is an excellent idea! As for things which signify “Nothing,” that is a signifier nearly which itself nearly always points to what Gershon Legman (as well as legions of Shakespeare scholars) referred to as “Ophelia’s ‘Nothing’,” which see: http://books.google.com/books?id=y941X6FmC4sC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=%22Ophelia%27s+Nothing,%22&source=bl&ots=OcLUp02fsL&sig=zjpGSZeT0gL_FkdOvsgNsQjSmjk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EBbgUbmKHNWp4APvw4CACg&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Ophelia%27s%20Nothing%2C%22&f=false
And see especially pp. 525-534: http://books.google.com/books?id=vsZYihpCoHMC&pg=PA371&lpg=PA371&dq=%22Ophelia%27s+Nothing,%22+legman&source=bl&ots=q5n0hwubTF&sig=MY_O4G-ZJpyVacVA1chW5jGp_1s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dRbgUd6gK-ni4APn5oCwCQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=%22Ophelia%27s%20Nothing%2C%22&f=false
Ultimately, “Hotel California” plays out the same old Woman-as-temptress script which reverberates throughout popular music and popular culture, as well as high culture. It’s essentially the story of Eden, and The Fall.