Copyright 2017 FRANCIS DIMENNO
So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand.—Thucidides
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER ELEVEN: PART TWENTY-SEVEN: DAYS OF WRATH
“I probably don’t need to remind you, Yob,” said Count Victor Justin to Cadger Tandy, “that in a City like Noxtown, and a neighborhood like Blowtown, you can never be too careful of the lures and snares which are bound to come your way. Because everything is a fake. And everybody lies.”
Cadger Tandy must have looked at him slightly skeptically because Victor Justin thenceforth launched upon a full-blown disquisition. “Of course they lie. They all lie. An ordinary politician is a poltroon. A successful politician is likely a criminal lawyer who has proven to be an especially good teller of tall tales. I’ve seen many a poor Blackamoor go to the chain gang or get hisself lynched for a crime he couldn’t possibly have committed. I’ve met many a lag in the penitentiary who would readily confess to any number of mortal sins, but who maintained to his dying day that the crime he was imprisoned for was not the crime he committed. The prosecuting lawyer doesn’t care if the defendant is innocent or guilty. All he cares about is bolstering his reputation, with a view towards a judgeship, or higher office.
“Don’t you get it, Yob? They all lie. Everybody lies. Every one of them. All the time. For any reason, or for none at all. Judges swear to be impartial, but can easily be swayed by mere verbiage, or, more likely, with a judiciously worked application of the old ooftish. Needless to say, the same goes for the boys in blue. No rich man ever gets the darbies clapped on him. If a man in a workman’s cap is drunk, he can go to the clink to sleep it off–but the swell in the topper who wears a Monte Carlo is escorted home. With apologies! In a Hansom Cab! And his butler meets the copper at the door, and invites him in for a drink of fine old scotch or bourbon, and there’s also a magical little envelope which passes later on from one hand to the other. I have found that the rich are well aware of their advantages and privileges–they take them for granted–and they even choose to believe that anyone might aspire to their high station, given the intelligence and aptitude and a few lucky breaks. Haww…! It’s all corruption and graft, from one end of the spectrum to the other. Sex is the poor man’s cinema. But the elite tend to favor more exotic vices, which you’re too young to hear about.
“There are so many lies in the world that nobody can keep track of them all. Why, I’ll bet you could employ half the population to spy on the other half, and you still wouldn’t catch more than a fifth part of all the lying that goes on. The patent medicine boys lie when they tell you that their soothing syrups will calm a sick baby, and are utterly harmless. Haw! There’s a generous dollop of Laudanum in every bottle, and who knows what all else besides. I’ve seen three generations of dope fiends who depend on the stuff. Or just try to go to a doctor for your aches and pains. If he’s honest, he’ll tell you that you’re a neurasthenic and that your suffering is mostly in your mind and due to stressful circumstances, and he’ll prescribe a simple diet and a three-week vacation in the countryside. That’ll cure just about anyone, short of a vicious moron. But do they make that prescription? Chances are they will not, as there is no money in it, but instead they will collude with a druggist to sell you nasty little sugar pills at gold-rush prices. That’s if you’re lucky. Some quacks have been known to dose you with harmful nostrums that leave you impotent or worse. No, Yob, Dr. Rest and Dr. Relaxation will cure most colds and flus and other minor ailments, and the doctors are well aware of this, but they won’t tell you, because after all, they’re in their business for their own health–not yours.
“Ask yourself–are the vast herds of people who run this town and contrive to keep the lid on–the policemen and doctors and school superintendents and the lawyers and the politicians–the so-called ‘elites’–are they really a damned sight better than the gamblers and the card-sharps, the swindlers and the safecrackers, the pitch artists and the pickpockets, the thugs and the counterjumpers? Aren’t they all in the same business of fakery and lies, when it comes right down to it? Aren’t their so-called crimes all merely a matter of degree? Socially sanctioned on the one end, and shunned by polite society on the other? But let me tell you something–in Blowtown, a saloonkeeper and a ward heeler can do you a whole lot more good than any sawbones or shyster could ever work. If the money’s right, they can even quash a murder beef; blame it instead on some Dago or Mick–or better yet–a Darky. I’ve seen it done. You need some dope? Don’t go to the croaker–try good old Tipsy Smith; he’s the man to count on. You see, he’s got an ‘in’ with Silk Hat Harry and Princess Lotus Blossom. They’ll fix you up good. You need a new suit? Go to Cool Slopp the pawnbroker; if he don’t have what you want in your size, he’ll dispatch a prowler or a booster to get you what you need, and at a third of the cost. Nobody but a sucker ever buys retail, especially in Blowtown. Or you could go straight to the source. There’s dope fiends who hand around in Murder Alley and Suicide Park who will even make off with a hot stove for the price of a ‘jolt’.
“Desperate times make for desperate men–truer words were never spoken. That is why whenever you come into some ooftish, you should bury about a quarter of it in some distant spot which nobody knows anything about. A chink in a neighbor’s rooftop chimney, say, or under a big rock near a hollow tree in the park. Because a man without money who has been put on the spot is likely to perform any low and degrading feat in order to wriggle out of his difficulty.
“But I’ll tell you one thing–the most important thing of all–you should let it be known to all and sundry that you prefer death itself to being a snitch. Nothing will build you a rep faster in the demimonde. Even the laddies in Kindergarten have learned that lesson. Like they say, ‘Tattle tale, tattle tale, hanging on a pig’s tail.’
‘Tell tale tit,
Your tongue shall be slit,
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit….’
“Can’t ye see, Yob? Can’t ye see that what you learn in school about truth and justice and all that bullshit mostly ain’t no good, past a certain point. As long as you don’t want to be an office boy or other sort of inside flunkey or drudge, and walk on eggshells, and speak in a whisper when you speak at all. The factory will hire you whether you can read or write or not. In fact, they might prefer it if you weren’t any too smart. Only a dullard is bound to thrive in such an environment. A brute who can barely see beyond his next meal, his next drunk, his next fuck, and his next snooze– all of which will inexorably lead to his last dirt nap…and the boneyard.”
ONE DEEP BREATH
DEAD IN THE GRASS
LAUGHING DOWN THE LIMEHOUSE
TOLKIEN VS. DISNEY
COPS VS. APPALACHIAN HILLBILLIES
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
TIMOTHY LEARY VS. ART LINKLETTER
“Kids die the darndest deaths.”
MACHETE-WIELDING HITCHHIKING CLOWN
BABY WITH RAT BITES
6* DAILY UTILITY
TEN TOXIC PEOPLE YOU SHOULD AVOID AT ALL COSTS
THE DARK SECRET BEHIND THE CREATION OF BATMAN
TOP TEN WEIRDEST MUSIC GENRES
TOP TEN WEIRDEST BANDS
TOP TEN RIP-OFF SONGS
THE BEATLES: MIND CONTROLLING THE MASSES
Batshit crazy, but very entertaining. “It’s one thing to have an open mind but don’t let your brain fall out.”
STRANGE THINGS THE BEATLES SAY IN REVERSE
CONTRA SGT. PEPPER
IT’S LOVE, COME WHAT MAY
FRED MCDOWELL & THE HUNTER’S CHAPEL SINGERS
I WISH I WAS IN HEAVEN SITTING DOWN
SISTER O.M. TERRILL
I’M GOING TO THAT CITY
WILMA LEE & STONEY COOPER
THIS WORLD CAN’T STAND LONG
REV. ROBERT WILKINS
HOLY GHOST TRAIN
BROTHER CLAUDE ELY
THERE AIN’T NO GRAVE GOING TO HOLD MY BODY DOWN
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. By Amanda Palmer. Grand Central Publishing, 2014. 337 pages. Hardcover.
The world is just a little town/
Everybody putting everybody down–John Lennon
Is Amanda Palmer a pretentious, shrieking cyberspace mooch, or an exceptionally talented artist and consensus-builder who has also mastered the ins and outs of social media marketing? Some have suggested she is a shameless narcissist, while others maintain that she’s some modern-day combination of Patti Smith and Jesus H. Christ, but I wouldn’t go that far in either direction. Rather, she reminds me very much of the protagonist of the song “Sally in the Alley,” by the Holy Modal Rounders:
Sally takes her pleasure where she pleases
Sally gets her lovin’ where she can
Sally is a natural born child of Jesus
Sally is a match for any man
Basically, Amanda Palmer is a force of nature. At least, that is the distinct impression I get from her surprisingly thoughtful and inspirational quasi-memoir.
She apparently identifies with the good old Dalai Lama, which would put her squarely in the left-libertarian political camp, along with the Occupy protestors (whom she also identifies with) and Henry David Thoreau, whom she name-checks more than once.
No wonder so many people profess to dislike her–she is, in essence, a practicing anarcho-syndicalist. Whether she knows it or not.
They hate you if you’re clever/
And they despise a fool–John Lennon
Amanda Palmer reminds me an awful lot of plucky heroes and heroines such as Barefoot Gen and Little Orphan Annie, though she is neither an atomic bomb victim nor a penniless orphan periodically abandoned by her war profiteer “Daddy”.
You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear. ― Amanda Palmer
Actually, Amanda Palmer didn’t say that. She could have. But she didn’t, Sammy Davis Jr. said that.
As a matter of fact, The Art of Asking is the most inspirational showbiz biography I have read since Yes I Can! by Sammy Davis, Jr. Like Amanda Palmer, Sammy is blisteringly honest, if sometimes sententious; prone to saying things like:
Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to get insulted.
Substitute “woman” for “Negro” and you have Amanda Palmer’s whole situation in a nutshell. Why is there so much dislike for Amanda Palmer? She never once uses the “j” word, much to her credit, but maybe the very people who criticize her so harshly are simply jealous of her. What with their jobs and kids and pets and mortgages and car payments and all the rest, they are encumbered. They are mostly waiting to retire for a few years, and then drop dead.
And Amanda Palmer gives the impression that she’s doing just whatever she wants to at all times, though I suspect that is far from the case. Because she’s basically the CEO and CFO of Amanda Palmer, Inc., and that’s a 24-hour job. Other than her penchant for ceaseless self-promotion, she has a great many admirable traits, foremost among them empathy, and, as far as I can tell, she harms nobody. We don’t hear from disgruntled service workers or cab drivers who she stiffs on tips; we don’t read tell-all exposes in the National Enquirer from doormen and hoteliers who say she is a shitty human being. So–why all this hatred? Why? Why? One can scarcely imagine how she feels when she reads odious and hateful comments such as these:
Amanda Palmer’s poetry is so bad that, when exposed to it, death row convicts run screaming down the Last Mile in three minutes and fifty-nine seconds, then strap themselves into Old Sparky and holler for the juice.
It’s so bad that when tiger sharks hear it, they leap out of the water and lie gasping and twitching on the shore in order to escape it.
It’s so bad that when Saudi Arabian sheiks read it, they blow themselves to smithereens and murmur “Inshallah” as their brains and turbans splatter the palace walls.
I’m afraid I’m going to have to differ. It’s not really as bad as all that. Anyway, The Art of Asking is crammed chock-full of sage advice about how to exploit loopholes in the star-making machinery, albeit through dedicated hard work. For example:
There is no ‘correct path’ to becoming a real artist. (43)
The whole point of being an artist, I thought, was being connected to people. (122)
For most of human history, musicians and artists have been part of the village, accessing one another freely. (171)
Look at the media: we deify artists one second, demonize them the next. Artists internalize this and perpetuate the cycle; artists do this to each other, and they do it to themselves. (220)
…even the perfect tools aren’t going to help us if we can’t face one another. If we can’t see one another. (303)
Amanda Palmer: a second-class intellect? Maybe. But a first-rate temperament. Her emotional intelligence is off the charts. You feel guilty about even trying to quantify it, because if you do, you’re missing the point. She. Is. A. Force. Of. Nature.
12* CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE
THE MOST ANNOYING MOVIE CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME
THE FACE OF COUSIN ITT: