THE INFORMATION #974
JANUARY 5, 2018
Copyright 2018 FRANCIS DIMENNO
Every artist was first an amateur–Emerson
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER ELEVEN: PART FIFTY-EIGHT: DAYS OF WRATH
“I’m telling you, Yob, San Francisco in the days before the big quake was a wild town–a wide-open town–like Paris, if the truth be known, back when Paris meant something. And I should know, because I’ve been to Paris. When I was a young sprout, back when my parents was still subsidizing me, they sent me on one of those European tours. In America a father gives his growed-up son a horse; in Europe, it’s the fucking Grand Tour. I’d of rather had a horse.
“It was in Gay ole Paree that I came up with the cockamamie idea that I wanted to be a painter. Don’t laugh, Ettil Yob–you’ll make much worse decisions in your own young manhood, of that I have no doubt. Well, back in them far off and distant days, Impressionism was just beginning to make a stir. But I was havin’ none of it. It looked more like Astigmatism to me. From where I sat. The old ways was the best ways, so far as I was concerned. So I contributed my work to the Salon. It was summarily sent back. As I was not a Frenchman, one of the judges was kind enough to summon me to lunch. He then gave me a talking to, like a Dutch Uncle.
“‘Dear fellow,’ says he, ‘you have the inklings of some talent, but I’m afraid that what is wanted in the world of art is sheer genius–or, at least, premonitions of same. This you have not got.’
“”Actually, my dear boy’ says he, ‘if you wish for to solicit my honest opinion, your choice of subject matter is insipid and your renderings betray only a rudimentary sense of proportionality so necessary to the crafting of a balanced composition. But don’t ask me–I’m no painter myself. I am merely an art critic.
“‘Furthermore,’ he says, ‘that eager pleading look I see upon your crooked face–like the anticipatory look of a greedy hog–is so pathetically needy that I have no choice other than to banish you from my sight. No, no, my dear boy, it shall not do. An ordinary painter you were born and, if you persist in this reckless course, an ordinary painter you shall remain–until you’re old with disappointment and broken by life’s vicissitudes.
“‘Cruel? No. I do not wish to be cruel, my child, but I feel that it would be most unkind to encourage you in your cock-a-hoop ambitions and candy-colored daydreams. For I have seen your other drawings–that insipid ‘fashion sketch’ of a girl, for instance–and I’ve heard of the encouragements of your well-meaning but thoroughly ignorant self-styled artistic “friends,” urging you to become an “artist”–pah! as if any of THAT lot had even the slightest idea how you should go about this business of making your way in the world. But I think there is something you should know. Only one person in a thousand–nay, in a hundred thousand–has enough talent to make it in the rough and ready world of the fine arts–and even then, seeking such a career is useless–an exercise in futility–unless one has the social connections which can be gleaned solely by a conventional education gained in some sort of a professional art school–and not a disreputable mail-order diploma mill which solicits your work from the back of a worn out calendar or shouts its dubious wares from the pages of a vulgar pulp fiction novella.
“‘What you would require, at a minimum, is expensive private training from a professional artist in anatomy, perspective, and other artistic techniques and competencies, simply in order to even accumulate a portfolio professional enough to convince an art school that you have some minimal degree of talent. Once graduated from art school, your utter lack of craft and imagination world invariably foredoom you to only the most menial of chores. Your best bet to get ahead in art school–despite your misshapen physiognomy and your needy, almost infuriatingly anxious demeanor–would be to lend your smock to a clubfooted newspaper cartoonist who has accidentally torn his pantaloons on a nail, and, in that fashion, to render him obligated to you. That, I can assure you, is one chance in a thousand, but if it’s a chance that you feel impelled to take despite the admonitions of one who is far more experienced in circumnavigating the lures and snares of a cruel world anxious to corrupt and deprave the naive and innocent, then by all means throw away your youth and vigor in chasing after an impossible chimera–but I’ll tell you right now that you can expect absolutely no help from the likes of me or any of my fellow professional critics.
“‘Because as surely as the sun rises in the east, I will tell you what happens next. Even if you do manage to become some kind of an artist, in time your permanently embittered wife will throw you over for a wealthier man and you will be reduced to working as a plongeur in a stifling basement full of vindictive, worn-out alcoholic sous-chefs, and you will earn, at best, a few sous over and above what you would require merely to keep body and soul together. Your fellow workmen, of course, will resent you for your demeanor as surely as Saint Nicholas hates the poor the poor and improvident. Their rude remarks will drive you to loathe both them and yourself and you will end your days in a common rooming house, toiling as a drudge in exchange for a daily mess of carrots, potatoes and onions. Your handsome demeanor will by then be long gone. You will lose your pride, and eventually your sanity, and will have nothing to show for it other than a notebook of pathetic scribblings and a flock of white hairs on your knobby brow.
“‘Others have followed your sad path and have disastrously failed. Somewhere, on a bridge at the end of the world, another so-called “artist” no doubt, even now, teeters on the edge of eternity, longing to do away with himself, and thereby cease to live in a world of mockery and pain. Mark my words–the civil service is best for one such as you. You will meet an uncouth but kind-faced woman with no ambition. She will keep your house and glean dandelion leaves and burdock for your salad and you will feed her pork chops and hominy. You will have a brood of fat and happy babies, and one of them will surely support you once you both are pensioned off and superannuated. If this should be the case, I only hope that you spare a thought for the poor rogue of an art critic who gave you the benefit of his thirty-five years of accumulated wisdom–and endeavor to think of him in as kindly a way as possible. That is all, my dear boy. Now, please go–I have much to think about and I shall pray that you make…a sensible decision.’
“Well, Yob–that sage counsel certainly helped me set my priorities straight. Fame and glory were not meant for a man such as me–it was money that I was after. And…it was money that I got.”
MIDDLE GEORGIA SINGING CONVENTION NUMBER ONE
BELLS OF LOVE
STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF TRACK LISTING
RETURN OF THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF TRACK LISTING
2 hours of alternative Xmas music:
THE TERRIFYING ORIGIN STORY OF SMOKEY THE BEAR
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
A Pitiful Clown Singing ‘Hallelujah’ Is A Strange Kind Of Beautiful
6* DAILY UTILITY
Kicker (Prison Wine)
by Nick Crouch
10 peeled oranges cut into wedges
10 browned, soft apples cut into wedges
1 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 yeast packet
16 oz and 1 cup warm water
8 oz can of fruit cocktail
1 packet of raisins
1. Combine the fruit cocktail, apples, raisins and oranges in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag and mash them up taking care to not pop the bag. Once the fruit is beaten into a pulp, add the raw sugar and mix.
2. Add the 16 ounces of warm water to the bag and then seal it. Submerge the sealed bag in a sink of warm water for 15 minutes.
3. In a bowl mix the yeast packet with a cup of warm water and 3 teaspoons of raw sugar and wait til it froths up. Add this to the bag of mushy fruit then store in a dark place.
4. Every day for seven to eight days pour warm water (not hot) over the bag then wrap it in a towel and store. Never allow the bag to cool, else the yeast will die.
5. As part of the fermenting process, the bag will bloat up from the carbon dioxide so you’ll need to burp it by opening the bag and releasing the carbon dioxide. Repeat this process every day until there’s no longer any bloating.
6. Filter the contents through a cheesecloth. Enjoy on the rocks or do like Crouch: “I use some bitters since I’m not locked up anymore.”
By the way, I’m checking with Crouch about the possibility of barrel-aged Pruno.
“You have to have the wine to make the shine.”
Classic pruno tastes like a bottle of Thunderbird filtered through a dumpster full of rotted garbage. Also, a stray dog laps it up from the alley floor and vomits it into a dirty hubcap….The equivalent of back alley sex with a toothless crack whore.
THE CATTANOOGA CATS
“The Cattanooga Cats don’t ever purr, they know how, but not what fer,/The Cattanooga Cats don’t go meow, wouldn’t try it if they knew
how, they’re doin’ their thing!”
Note: Hat is not included and not offered for sale.
9* RUMOR PATROL
BILL BUCKLEY, CRYPTO-NAZI
Bill Buckley to Gore Vidal:
“Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered—”
MY BLOODY VALENTINE
11*DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
Into the Mystic: The Visionary and Ecstatic Roots of 1960s Rock and Roll. By Christopher Hill. Park Street Press, paperback, 294 pages.
Review by Francis DiMenno
Christopher Hill is an intelligent and insightful critic, and his enthusiasm for his subject tends to be infectious. He writes here an ambitious but not overly broad commentary on the emergence of a Dionysiac tradition of sixties rock and roll taking place in the midst of an Apollonian power structure collapsing under its own neocolonialist weight. It is possible; it is, in fact, likely, that Hill attributes too much significance to the power of art to transform what he calls “the postwar American consensus.” However, whether you accept his thesis or not, he charts many hitherto little-traveled byways offers up many intriguing theories. Hill suggests that rock and roll concerts are similar to religious rituals. He further suggests that rock and roll has roots in the writings of the English Romantics, the French Symbolists, and, especially, “the black church liturgical tradition”. Add psychedelics, and voila! A new consensus is born!
If only it were that simple. But Mr. Hill, in his enthusiasm, is inclined to stack the deck when it comes to explicating the Dionysian nature of the type of rock and roll which was popular in the mid-to-late sixties. For instance, in persuasively seeking to rightfully restore the influence of rock and roll, call and response, and the ring shout upon the formation of what he calls “ecstatic” rock and roll, he either downplays or ignores influences such as the “honkers and shouters,” guitar boogie specialists, and other jump blues practitioners, not to mention the influence of Country and Western and Western Swing music, with their electric guitars.
Hill can be very persuasive, however, when he pinpoints the appeal of the Beatles, and the rest of the (often mushy and twee) British Invasion bands as, in part, a return to the “magical…history” of a fabled Albion. Hill states, “It was as if the new hip culture was finding a frequency which had been broadcasting for centuries…an alternative narrative…a subversive treasure.”
In California, meanwhile, amid the practitioners of Yoga and the Rosicrucians and the teachings of Manly P. Hall, a “transcendent” teen culture also began to emerge, as epitomized by bands such as The Leaves, TheByrds, The Beach Boys, and, of course, The Grateful Dead. Hill claims that “While it was the culture of the East Coast–rogue Ivy league academics, eccentric Episcopalians, renegade establishment scions, CIA tricksters, raving beat poets–that in a sense thought up the sixties, when it came to putting it into practice the West was the only place that was still open enough.”
One can reject such extravagant claims and still greatly enjoy Hill’s further forays into highlighting somewhat obscure eclectic influences upon the syncretic rock genre. Hill highlights the reemerging importance of the mystic concept of “Romantic love” in song-craft by discussing, at great length, Michael Brown and his nearly forgotten “chamber rock” band The Left Banke. (But he omits any mention of the Jaynettes and their equally epically produced single “Sally Go Round the Roses”.) The author also offers a plausible, if rather far-fetched, explanation of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper as an acid-tinged “song suite” which follows the journey of everyman-figure “Billy Shears” into a “visionary realm’; a “dreamscape” which “could contain the world.” The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, supposedly represent, at the apex of their career, the old culture of a carnivalesque “festive perception of the world” (in the words of Mikhail Bakhtin). In Hill’s telling, Mick and Keith are the Lords of Misrule, “who spoke with a kind of dark merriment” in a world which “needed to be turned upside down”. And Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is the “most profound meditation on suffering in pop music.” This is arguably true (though what about Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom?). But then Hill makes an even more exaggerated claim: Astral Weeks is also “a kind of rite of passage, a version of the oldest story there is–there and back again, the journey to the land of the dead and the return to tell the tale.” Hill also makes the controversial claim that the “perverse” Velvet Underground’s first four albums constitute a monomythic “full cycle” with “four phases”: “contention for the soul of the hero”; “the hero…descends into the demonic world”; “the hero’s purgation/purification”; “the hero is reintegrated into the world.” Maybe Hill is right. But I don’t see it. The explanation is simply too pat. (And I find it rather odd that there is no mention of the actual influence the visionary poet Delmore Schwartz had upon Lou Reed.)
No discussion of the transformative psychedelia of the sixties can be considered complete without mention of the Incredible String Band, and Hill gives them no less than their due, claiming that the faithful listener will be “rewarded by moments of strange loveliness, mad invention, [and] dark magic that do not exactly have a useful comparison elsewhere in pop music.” So far, so good. He also links their appeal, such as it is, to the type of Victorian children’s literature exemplified by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s (somewhat treacly) novel The Secret Garden. It is, he admits, a somewhat subjective opinion. It is an interesting point, and I can understand what he is getting at, but, like a great many of Hill’s theories and suggestions, it seems more than a bit overdetermined.
Hill concludes his interesting and eclectic survey of sixties rock and roll by asserting that the MC5, the hippie agitprop band from Detroit, were actually avatars of “the ecstatic rock and roll moment” who worked their “enthusiastic” stage magic by drawing upon the Holiness Church convention of “testifying,” while at the same time their “acid-Marxist” rhetoric offered “experiential confirmation of a type of energy and consciousness that would require a new society to embody it.” (This hardly explains, however, the band’s failed bid for mainstream success on their follow-up album, Living in the USA.)
In his afterword, Hill argues that the “development of vision” which took place among certain select British and American rockers may, over time, provide “political ramifications [which] can be earthshaking.” He unabashedly hopes that this music might ultimately provide “a way marker, a pointer to the work ahead, to the next convergence of the two worlds, inner and outer, imagination and history, ecstasy and politics, heaven and earth.”
To quote Hemingway, “Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.”
*11A BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED
ALL-STAR BATMAN 2. ENDS OF THE EARTH. ***
ALT-AMERICA. NEIWERT. ****1/2
AMERICAN TABLOID. ELLROY. ****1/2
BLACK PANTHER 4. ***
THE BLACK SINISTER. ***
BLOOD’S A ROVER. ELLROY. ****
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FEMINISM. PATU & SCHRUPP. ***1/2
BUT WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG? KLOSTERMAN. ***1/2
CAST NO SHADOW. TAPALANSKY & ESPINOSA. **1/2
THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. ELLROY. ****1/2
DARK REIGN. ACCEPT CHANGE. ****
DARK REIGN. THE UNDERSIDE. ****
DARK WOLVERINE 1. THE PRINCE. ****
DAVID & GOLIATH. GLADWELL. ***1/2
DEADPOOL 1. SECRET INVASION. ****
DEADPOOL 2. DARK REIGN. ****
DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR 3. NUCLEAR WINTER. **1/2
FOOD & THE CITY. YANOV. ****
GREEN ARROW 2. ISLAND OF SCARS. ***
THE HOMINTERN. WOODS. ***1/2
THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES: DARK REIGN. ****
INFAMOUS IRON MAN 1. INFAMOUS. BENDIS. ****
INTRO TO CAMUS. MAIROWITZ & KORKOS. ****
INTRODUCING LINGUISTICS. TRASK & MAYBLIN. ***1/2
JOHNNY CASH: I SEE A DARKNESS. KLEIST. ****
KNIFE’S EDGE. LARSON & MOCK. ****
LOUIS UNDERCOVER. BRITT & ARSENAULT. ****
M.F.K, MAGRUDER. ***
MARCO POLO: DANGERS & VISIONS. TABILIO. ***1/2
MARVEL HORROR: THE MAGAZINE COLLECTION. **1/2
MICHAEL CHABON’S THE ESCAPIST. VAUGHN. ***1/2
MYCROFT HOLMES 1. ***1/2
THE MIGHTY 1. ****
THE MIGHTY 2. ****
MIS(H)ADRA. ATO. ****
MORTON: A CROSS-COUNTRY TRAIN JOURNEY. COLLIER. ****
NIGHT SHIT. GLIORI. ****
PASHMINA. CHANARI. ***
PERFIDIA. ELLROY. ****
PRESENT. STEIN. ***1/2
PROVIDENCE ACT TWO. MOORE. ****1/2
REPUBLIC OF SPIN. GREENBERG. ****
SERENITY. NO POWER IN THE ‘VERSE. ***
SHERLOCK: A STUDY IN PINK. MOFFAT ETAL. ****
SKELETON KEY. HOROWITZ, ETAL. ***1/2
STEVEN UNIVERSE. ANTI-GRAVITY.***
THE STUFF OF LIFE. SCHULTZ & CANNOn. ****
SUNNY’S NIGHTS. SULTAN. ****
SUPERMAN 4. BLACK DAWN. ***
TRUMP…. OLBERMANN. ***1/2
THE UNQUOTABLE TRUMP. SIKORYAK. ****
WONDER WOMAN 4. GODWATCH. ***1/2
X-MEN BLUE 1. STRANGEST. ***
12* CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE
I LOVE LUCY
As an infant, I cringed at the very sight of the hag Lucy, for I feared that Ricky was beating her. And that her croaking ejaculations of dismay were cries of genuine pain.
On Christmas Day I saw that stupid colorized Lucy show. Quote: “Ricky can’t hit me if I have sunburn!”