By Richard Meltzer
MY CENTURY, YOUR CENTURY,
BOBO OLSON'S CENTURY
but centuries long
--"Microwave," William Carlos Williams
It ended abruptly around 1970, or slightly earlier. '69 would be a good likely date. If you were born after that and care about such biz, too bad--and too bad, yes, 'cause it is too bad--but everything since then has just been Out There somewhere, off the frigging Map. After the century and its representatives tossed it all away.
The century where it all went to hell--but WHAT went to hell?
Where the means were found to sweep all wisdom, all true sass, and most (if not quite literally all) beauty under the rug, to brush it off humankind's underwear.
Where the distance between the real and the acceptably fake narrowed and narrowed to functional insignificance.
New new NEW, lotsa freaking N*E*W, but ultimately (and merely): new bread, new circuses, new repression.
But nothing as utterly new, as new w/out historical precedent, as terminal closure. Termination 4-ever. Although Burroughs used to claim It closed, ending all real earthly Possibility, in the 18th century. Or was it the 17th? Dunno. (You could ask him if he weren't dead.)
So many, so-o-o many things happening only to unhappen; to be trivialized and marginalized by failure, success, and the oversight of Crowd Control Central (which you bet your ass exists); to undercut their own being, deflavor and denature their own act, to wet-tissue-paper nullity. And I ain't just talking rock rock rock and ROLL...
On the shortlist of things/lost, or even not-lost (and possibly lookin' quite healthy), but still g-g-GONE:
The NF fucking L (NB fucking A) (March--ha ha ha--Madness).
Boxing as an event staged in venues other than cow pastures.
Wrestling, for crying out loud.
Hollywood, anyone? (Independent cinema, ditto.)
Did I hear the word "journalism"?
TV. TV? Tee vee??
Democracy as even a phantom cliche tendered as a sop to rubes (still the major mega-demographic).
Cultural liberation. Sexual freedom. Civil, y'know, rights. Public...what was it?...education.
Anybody in the house remember graduated income tax?
Watergate, by golly. What'd it lead to besides Nixon being SAINTED? (Century of the Bully.)
Marx proven right! And right ON! Again and again and AGAIN! (You bet your mom's rosy ass he was.)
Capitalism (which in endgame = Hedonism) and Puritanism: two nasty trains, always running, but now running in sync: the scare of nastier, more existentially calamitous mortifications (like another Depression, or nuclear snuff-out, or no more dirty mags) to keep us neurotic, force us to settle for less dire plights and lower-yield varieties of (ever more expensive) symptomatic relief.
Kicks??? A concept nuked back to the Stone Age; a shell game, at best, translucent as a broken bay window.
A century in which some odd couplings occurred, where (for most intents and many purposes) a familiar face named Jesus, for inst, got mated with this new guy named Hitler, yielding one awesome composite force, a unitary "belief" generatrix for some kazillion-plus population units...something t' do with racism...discipline...robotic obedience...and of course Clean Living. (Is anyone paying attention?)
It was the best of shit.
It was the worst of shit.
It was the best of shit.
It was the worst of shit.
It is the worst of shit.
It's the shittttttttttttttt.
PROPHECY AND POSTPHECY
"2000 Man"--who'd have thunk it?
What seemed at the time like a bit of comic relief, a topical joke on side one of Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones' entry (11/67) in the Sgt. Pepper overproduction sweepstakes, now reads like one of the great, and maybe the last great, documents of future-think.
"My name is a number, a piece of plastic film"..."I am having an affair with a random computer"...even a dose of multiplanetary multiculturalism: "Oh Daddy, proud of your planet; oh Mommy, proud of your sun"--how's that for prescience?
Who'd've thought such a lampoon of future-think would come to pass so quickly, so thoroughly--or was it a truism even then?--and nobody'd even be snickering?
And that other more-than-date: 1984.
By which time, compared to the hand history had actually dealt, "1984" (the concept) had become a mild little what-are-you-complaining-about?, the Orwell vision having been superseded by something far more weaselly and malevolent. Big Mean Uncle certainly did watch you, but more than that you were watching him (his 8-ring circuses, his news and commercials, his Master Program), addictedly, on a monitor YOU paid for. (More effective and cost-effective.)
And the year itself, diggit: Reagan had to be Prez; the Olympics had to be staged in LA (Vegas wasn't ready yet). There was no irony left in the world.
A year later, when Terry Gilliam's Brazil came out, a reviewer or two copped to its taking place, perhaps, in not so much the future as an alternate present, but nobody picked up on it as a film in fact about the past--1965, say--a time when Control was still analog, and occasionally (in both theory and practice) fallible. A nostalgic little period piece.
AS I LAY DEAD (CHAPTER FROM A NOVEL THE CENTURY WOULD NOT LET ME FINISH)
It's 2035. I've been dead 30 years. Welcome to my treasure trove. My hand-chiseled mausoleum. You and eight or nine others have stumbled in here: lots of goodies, take 'em and enjoy! And take your merry time, they ain't going anywhere. Where the hell were you when I was alive?
Ah! the thudding frustration of "slipping through the cracks"--"dying invisible"--or even worse: being branded a "cult writer" (whatever that is. Sounds like caves and dungeons. Moonlight); the bitter exhaustion of having to cheerlead my own act, my so-called career (why do we strive? why do we strive?)--fuck me. Luck was never mine. Whatever could go wrong, did. But now that it's over, what's the diff? What ever was the diff?
But anyway, come in, take your shoes off, probe and grope me. While I was alive I didn't care much for the notion of scoring--being "discovered"--after I died. It means nothing to me now. "Me" doesn't exist, not anymore, "I" don't either, and "we" never did.
Don't wanna sound like a frigging solipsist (I die...it's over...I take it all with me), it has nothing to do with such biz. Obviously life goes on--the last reader isn't dead yet--so here's how we maybe should play it: I was generous then (i.e., now: my now), always gave the whole wad away, squandered my fluids on writerly whims with but the most esoteric of payoffs, spent 5-6-7 years on books that didn't get me laid, didn't earn me a can of clams, and the bounty of that generosity lingers on. If I can have a corpse, if I can be a corpse, so can my work...consider it dead. Bountifully. Does death fascinate you?
(While we're on the subject, I sort of doubt my corpse wishes were heeded: to be left naked in the street for the flies to feed on. Please be sure my grave is kept clean.)
Anyway, here 'tis: a gen'rous helping of smut, rant, provocative grocery lists, reviews of wrestling and lubricated condoms, bon mots, lively filler, evidence galore of the author's having ripped the eyes off his face, ripped the skin from his bones and poked it with an icepick, hammered the bones with a claw hammer, lopped them with poultry shears...a carload of fine "stuff" from a deadman who knew how!
Hey, I was a contender--almost--in the final uneasy days of writing as we the still-living know, er, knew it. Or am I lucky I ever got published at all?
None of which exactly matters, y'understand, but it can still be a pisser, still living, to live with it. The taint of "failure." Non-recognition. Something almost like "shame." A cheesy burden on waking consciousness. (Fuck me fatuous.)
And why do we strive? Why in the face of setbacks and etc there aren't sticks (bats) (clubs) enough to shake at, do we persist in believing it matters? Damned if I know. (Don't give me any hogwash 'bout the "indomitability of the human spirit.")
Listen, I grew up at a time when TV was new...none in my home till I was five years old. Imagine such a world (a world also without rock-n-roll). Now you're probably six steps beyond laser discs--I'm talking your now. Do "novels" exist anymore? Books as such (without compulsory audio/video/smellorama)? Is "text" just something you at your option download off a CD-ROM, database X, or the Internet, or whatever's replaced them? (Do eyes exist anymore? Do teeth?) This is not a science-fiction novel. Or maybe it is. I don't care if you don't.
In any event, behold the document: a "kitchen sink" (as we might once have called it) of life-wish and death-wish and grandiloquent nullity...a swag chest knee-deep in glowing all-for-naught...a rich accumulation of aromatic dust.
Early in the final decade of the last century, I got interviewed for a French documentary about a 1960s band called the Doors. Their singer was hot shit for a while. "How," I was asked, "would you describe the sexuality they projected?" Well, I told the guy, making it up as I went along, it wasn't basic rock whiteboy sex of either the 50s or 60s; it wasn't black, y'know, R & B sex, the blues; and it wasn't British-style androgyny or anything especially kinky or even all that topically macho. It wasn't specifically any of that so much as--well--it seemed from this end, seeing them in this crummy little club every night, like nothing less than a musical evocation of MY OWN dick.
May this heap-o-pulp likewise serve as the ur-expression of YOUR vanity. A foretaste of your own aftertaste, of your own extinction. Don't be shy: use me. I don't mind at all being useful. Let my legacy be your legacy. Fuck legacy. Fuck fuck--I'm a duck.
Personally, I don't think the CIA killed JFK, and the first click in my head after something reminds me of his snuff-out is its position, of all things, in sequence with the rebirth of rock and roll. The snuff occurred in November '63, late, and by the dawning of '64 rock was back again, full force, after being dead in the water since 1958. Really, trust me on this, that was the sequence, one two, bing bing, in the consciousness/mindset of callow American whiteys my age (18-19)--I was THERE, believe it.
Anyway, back again: doing its trademark mind-body-heart-soul redemption number: the second flowering of rock-roll as such, as an officially so-named whatsit, or if we're talkin' real history (or izzit prehistory?), counting the 20s--Delta blues--as the first, and postwar Chicago as the second, early 50s R & B as third, maybe throw in 40s jump blues too, we're looking at possibly the fifth or sixth time it happened (no sweat, tho--it worked): but in any case also its LAST flowering (punk as long as it was punk was something else).
But flower and flame it did, and no matter how you slice or critique it, by '65-'66 it was like this torch held high in the World--as bright as your proverbial 10 thousand suns--which in congress with certain other factors more or less formed the mid to late 1960s--where, regardless of what Clinton and his ilk would prefer you to believe, something, as they say, OCCURRED.
The frigging SIXTIES!--the buzzword, the stereotype, the noumena & phenomena!--plenty of bullshit, too, of course (too kneejerk an Us-versus-Them, too fat and specific a brand new style sheet)--but what did happen was elemental and massive, involving tens of millions of people, a third (easy), maybe even half, of the youth of America, in a just-say-no to toomany things to grocerylist here, and a hogwild hell-yes to even more.
If you wanted to, heck, you could try and isolate a few of the chickens and eggs, some primary causal "culprits." Drugs (natch). Consciousness as a tangible whoozit (and nascent Force). Probably some residual sadness (cynicism) over Kennedy. The ur-loathsomeness of tootoomuch mainstreamamerican life (revealed!) (along with the means, and the warrant, to burn every BRIDGE to it). The hoodoo of the too-long "forbidden," its allure magnified by context to the breaking point: forbidden no more. The demotion of God (from boss to player) in the court of the cosmic and eternal. A provisional end to manymost variants of Judaeo-Christian guilt. Vietnam, the last war with a draft (fear of death at its most functional) gave the whole show mega-sufficient urgency and gravity, but England and Canada didn't have 'Nam, and it happened there just as elementally, and maybe even as massively.
And one of the most telling, and most underrecognized, aspects of the whole business is kids, the cognoscenti, having better, livelier things t' do, DIDN'T WATCH TELEVISION.
What they did was hang out with friends, play records, smoke reefer and take pills, stay up all night, carry on, meet and greet the world, and if all else failed they might have turned a TV on with the sound off, smoked more reefer, and GOOFED ON IT. (These wags nowadays who wanna claim TV helped radicalize people in the 60s--news pics of action in the War, for inst--are only looking at a sampling of Old Squares too numb and dumb to have "known" such stuff without the see-Spot-run, not the already converted.)
Oh, and it didn't end suddenly somewhere towards the end of the decade-- "decades" have nothing to do with anything, and certainly nothing to do with this--but in increments, and by sections. The rock side of things--the torch held high--was hanging much less high by the three-quarter point of '67. Corporatization was rapid-fire and crass. "They can't bust our music," read a Columbia Records promo for several of the bands in their "stable," including the hapless Moby Grape (on whose behalf they pulled the inane grandstand play of simultaneously releasing five singles, thus dooming the truly terrific LP from which they were culled). Too many labels across the board signed (and would never stop signing) too many bands. MGM tried to pull off an "instant scene," the Bosstown Sound--Boston, y'dig?--featuring such happy hokum as Ultimate Spinach. "Alternative culture" came to mean nothing more, nothing less, than alternative product (in the same old, if resized and repainted, marketplace).
Even before the '68 Democratic convention, before even Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy got shot, the political wing--the "Movement," the "Revolution" (ha ha ha), and more concrete (and practical) manifestations like the Panthers--was already gimpy and staggering under the weight of reactive brutality and internal frustration, coupled with diminished ideology. "Purity" is never an easy stance to maintain.
When at last it finally did end, it was clear it was over. Thuddingly. By the spring-summer of '69 (Easy Rider, say, then the fucking Moonwalk), everything in counter-land was down the tubes, the toilet, sixty feet under, and with it the last vestige of interest ('cept to necrophiles, archivists, and profiteers) for the remainder of the century. Events after that, from within and without, were just nails in coffins, coffins, too many coffins to count. And Manson had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, I don't think the CIA killed JFK (with a chessplaying org so concerned with Control, it's hard to believe you would take the KING, and I don't mean Camelot, off the chessboard--especially one whose politics were prob'ly more their own than their founder Truman's, for inst--and expect to retain the social order...like he was one of our more RIGHTWING postwar presidents, f'r godsakes, and one so natural to the PR of it all--the source of Reagan!--he had the masses considering him "liberal," a populist, how absurd...as to a "splinter group," some buncha renegades, acting independently--against the dominant Agency grain--you've gotta imagine there would've been repercussions, retribution and whatnot, heads would have rolled or at least bounced, conspicuously...and mustn't Kennedy have had his PARTISANS inside the Agency? wouldn't there have been some ripples of reaction from them?...anti-Castro Cubans as perps?--while meanwhile, way after the Bay of Pigs, which the Agency botched, not him, he'd never lost his enthusiasm for KILLING CASTRO--checking the agency's progress towards which was a daily task assigned to brother Bobby--I'm not sure why we're s'posed to believe the Cuban faction wasn't a party to, or at least privy to, that number...as to the need to even shoot the prez, make a martyr out of him for whatever the hell he was or wasn't, there had to 've been e-z ways to neutralize and subdue him--White House fuck tapes? photos of him "doing" Marilyn?--if in fact there was much of anything to subdue...heck, if the Agency, if some agency, had a hand in undoing Nixon w/out murdering his weird ass, why the need for bullets with Kennedy?...not to mention he was a literal IVY LEAGUER like manymost of them, an elite goddam player from the getgo, unlike Ike/Dick/Harry/et cetera... whereas the prospect of, say, the Mafia--some mob guy whose girlfriend Johnny mighta diddled--committing the deed, eh, now that seems eminently credible), yet they certainly didn't waste any time TAKING CREDIT for the deed (so future idiots like Carter and Clinton would be certain they'd done it and never risk "stepping out of line" during their own presidencies), doctoring and creating evidence to the point where relatively little of it, especially the sort of "new evidence" still surfacing at this late remove from the event, is to be trusted; nor do I believe in Conspiracy Theory in general.
Very few designated conspiracies, in fact, would seem to be the outcome of collaborative intrigues, of confederates sitting down at a table, planning you do this, you do that, and together we'll fuck with history, by gum--they're usually just the inevitable consequence of manypeople--way beyond those at any and all conceivable tables--being simply on the SAME TEAM. Like Foucault, I don't think you need sinister coalitions willfully scheming anything--whole entire SHITLOADS of folks who'll never meet are already on the same team, and the way teams do their thing hasn't changed much since the dawn of civilization. Did Reagan have to "ask" Hollywood to make the cultural cornerstones of his presidency (the enlistment films of the post-braindead multi-decade), Rambo and Top Gun--or even, for that matter, the soft-sell slop of Stripes? Was it really necessary to bean-count heads in "both" parties to guess the upshot of Clinton's "impeachment"? Did Bonnie Raitt need to be "cajoled" into vacating the bench of that other team, the long-in-a-slump Peace Team, to lend her careerist "support" to the we-love-our-boys-in-the-fucking-Gulf fandango? (Or might it be, apropos of how a fellow sing-songer had put it, that she jus' wanted to be on the side that appeared, for the moment, t' be winning?)
There are, however, some historical scenarios that look too, too scripted, where unscripted is extremely implausible--as if, well, some well-oiled think-tank or somesuch MUST HAVE conceived, coddled, brought them to fruition. "Been responsible" in an originative sense. In this category I put MTV.
Fact: the 60s, whatever did or did not (in reality) go down, scared the shit out of lotsa people in lotsa pockets of power and privilege, your so-called entrenched interests, including the grimgrey forces of Death-over-Life per se (you know them). Fear. Trembling. A taste of vulnerability (for the previously invulnerable). Were instilled.
Is it plausible that such slaphappy fuckers, their "world" thus threatened, would hesitate a second, once the threat had passed, in tossing 'round the bigbucks, funding to the TEETH any and all nefarious efforts to ensure that nothing similar would ever go down again?--or at the very least, failing to achieve such omnipotence, and since accidents do happen, to see to it that some failsafes be in place to limit the damage?--is it plausible they'd pass THAT up?
Enter: one or more mercenary "study groups," gaggles of amoral brainstormers--pay 'em, they'll without compunction piss on any world including their own. If happyfolks at the Rand Corporation (as we later were told) dropped acid and sat around discussing ways of winning nuclear war--fun & games w/ the Apocalypse--imagine what a hoot some favored colleagues had running down the psychedelic 60s.
And a prime ensuing "project," it sez here, was to make sure the youth of America got its full dose of TV like ev'ryone else (come rain or shine).
Becuz here were these pricks who (upon reflection, and after research) DID notice how many kids had passed on "the tube" from such a date to such a date. And why didn't they watch? For starters, the obvious: the sorry dearth of televised rock on a regular basis. There was all the Dick Clark shit, sure--ersatz till you puke--and occasional name guests on Ed Sullivan or The Smothers Brothers, but nothing to set your watch by. As a youth sop, Mod Squad fooled no one with two-tenths of a brain (and it didn't have cameos by actual bands). (Only 8-year-olds watched The Monkees.)
Needed: a viable means of both showcasing and neutralizing (compromising) a steady stream of frontline rock on the home screen.
So however these things work...seeds planted...circumstances tweaked...record companies goosed (dig this new marketing tool)...a slow, steady groundswell of greed fomented...advertisers felt up and out (let 'em think it's their idea)...greasing the wheels (c'mon, somebody greased 'em--y'don't buy the MTV "instant success story," do ya?)...say, isn't that former Monkee Michael Nesmith over there?...until finally, early 80s, here 'tis: an actual rock-roll channel. Network. Crowd control module. Whatever.
By which time, in the wake of punk having bit the dust, then circled back itself t' join the marketplace, rock on its own was already not about redemption (or liberation) (or empowerment) or anything close, and couldn't wait to comply: the wundaful world-o-videos. (Monkee-ization of the whole shebang.) When the frigging MINUTEMEN did a vid you knew it was completely over. The commercial, the come-on, was the product, the thingie, the "art form." Where once there had at least been a semblance of polarity, of a dialectic (the Big Score vs. unbridled Whoopee Per Se), now you had none. Rock and the marketplace were indivisibly one, no separation, not even an argument, just like TV and the 'place: an early warning that dialectical materialism (as we knew it on earth) would soon give way to unrepentant MATERIALISM. For the rest of our lifetimes, anyway.
FINE TIME TO BE BORN
Couldn't be finer.
May 11, 1945. Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" is recorded in New York. Though not the original version, this is the ONE, with players including not only Charlie Parker but Sid Catlett, arguably the greatest drummer jazz has produced (more sizzling in context, it could be shown, than Elvin Jones at his Coltrane-era best), and it's probably produced more great-great A-1 drummers than A-1 alto sax players. Parker, 24, the highwater mark for alto, jazz's most mind-blowing soloist (any instrument), and prob'ly the greatest musician (period) ever to record a note, would be dead in less than 10 years. Gillespie, a more cautious breed of hellion, would live to perform "Salt Peanuts" at the White House, with guest vocal by peanut farmer Jimmy Carter: great moments in kitsch.
I'm one day old.
If I'd been born just two days earlier, my parents would later claim, they'd've named me Victor--for V-E Day--lucky me.
And luckier still for THIS, and its ilk, to have been the music vibrating the air, if not down the block then close enough, in the very town where I entered this life, though it would be 17 years (during one of rock's major down times) before I would fortuitously get t' hear it: frenzied, frenetic, frantic--stop, start, fly, floop, over and out--go 'head, call it nutty. But not nutty like Spike Jones, or Hellzapoppin, or a Bugs Bunny cartoon: nutty like a miracle in the wilderness.
NUTTY, RECENT, WHITE
Twenty anagrams for "Twentieth Century":
THERE WENT UN-CITY T. (Trumancapoteville: g-g-g-gone!); HENCE U RENT TWITTY (y'need Conway for a party, so you pay for him); WHUT TEN-C ETERNITY? (what endless import, 10 centuries?--"millennia" debunked); IRENE NETTY "T.W." CHUT (1914-'76, proponent of "tough weakness" therapy for substance abuse); TENT-CUT THY WIENER (so sayeth Leviticus, one O.T. scholar insists); W.C.T.E.: 'NUTHER ENTITY? (is the Women's Christian Temperance Enfederation really diff'rent from their Union?); HY TRICE WENT T' UTNE (Hyman Trice, cofounder of the Utne Reader, went there straight from McCall's); WET TEN-INCH RYE TUT (medium-size Egyptian novelty bread, after the rain); TENTH WETT-URINE CY. (nine, make that ten cyclopses, consecutive, whose pee ain't dryy); CHEWY TINT-NET--TRUE (no lie about edible colored women's hose); TUNNEY ET IT W/ "H" CERT (Gene followed lobster with a heroin-flavor breath mint); HEY, T.R. WENT T' TUNECI (no shit: Teddy Roosevelt attended classes at the Technical Univ. of Northeast Connecticut, Illimantic); NEUTER THE WITTY N.C. (Noel Coward should be desexed, humorless critics contend); TEEN WINE TRUTH: C.Y.T. (choose your toxin, kids); TWIN TRUENCY TEETH (jeez: she cut school twice t' visit the dentist!); RECENT N.U. WYETH TIT (exceptional breast painting by Andy Wyeth's unheralded cousin, Napoleon Ulysses Wyeth); WUTHERIN' TENCTETY (Emily Bronte's turgid, yet still unpublished, sequel to Wuthering Heights); T. IN THE EYE, 'TWURN'T "C" ('twas only English Breakfast, not cancer, thank fuck); TUNE THE Y. WIRE (CTNT) (made-for-Canadian-cable film o' the year for '93); YET THE WINTER CUNT...
Obviously, centuries don't exist. Not like days, nights, seasons, or years do.
Ten fingers (Caesar had them, as do we), hence the decimal system.
In long retrospect or short, sequences, chronologies, linkages could doubtless be otherwise. All ascription of the squawk of moment, of its raunch correlation with neighboring moments (and the longer haul), more than, oh, two years after the fact is purely revisionist.
It so happens the century ended last week. If it ended in 1956 or '57, unencumbered by the anathema such truck would entail today, we could conceivably be discussing, even in this exalted weekly, gross inanities like GREAT CHICKS (HOT BROADS) (BOSS BABES) OF THE 20TH (Josephine Baker... Harlow...Lana...Ava...your ballot on page 52!); might even be proposing, in the afterglow of her lurid bump through The Girl Can't Help It (costarring Little Richard), Jayne Mansfield as THE manwoman of the whole cha-cha-cha.
Is there not something grossly revisionist, in a very real sense, that only a current menu of options--contexts--perspectives is "legitimately" considered?
We all comply at times in our own undoing.
Lots-o-persons in most lines of etc have thrown in the towel, but for writers to have done it as early as they did was a particularly bad omen, a foretoken of just how quickly and nastily all the dominoes would fall.
Sheesh...it's downright tragic.
Writepersons, who at least in theory should know better, and who dealing in words and ideas and such crap--keepers as they are of the oldest flame going: the flame of MEANING--bear a certain, uh, responsibility for and to the welfare of all livingthings, well they shoulda knowed right off the bat what it meant.
Publishers of newspapers & mags, to save money, make things "go faster," started firing typesetters, and the writers for these rags became typesetters, what they turned in was already set, but no savings or perks of any sort were passed on to them. Editors, editing on these little screens, fucked up more than before, stupider typos, more ridiculous line breaks, as copy routinely got mangled. The only side of writing that one could argue had been improved was the clerical side (hey, y'mean I don't gotta retype? it'll check my spelling?--gosh), never the creative side.
Nor the economic side. Where once all anyone needed t' write was a pencil, suddenly you had to INVEST IN all this ugly machinery, the equivalent of a washer-dryer-airconditioner. And that clickety-clack typer that'd served your techno needs--manual; electric; even a Selectric--well it won't write to disc or double as a printer, so chuck it: a useless antique.
In '91, after being told by every paper I worked for that if I didn't submit copy on disc I would hafta come in and retype it into their computer anyway, I succumbed to the coercion and bought my first computer. Not wanting to be distracted by superfluous opticals--I'm a writer, 's not a hobby, don't insult me with toys--I got a monochrome monitor. My first impression was of having to drive to work--to work at home. A bleary-eyed commuter. It made the process of writing so unpleasant that the genesis of paragraphs, pages, pieces ultimately took me longer.
Today, with E-mail and the Internet and truckloads of unwanted "applications" and vid-games and Zip drives and scanners and all the standard compulsory whatnot--shit I don't want, and don't want to need--it feels like I've bought this car that was out of my range, and I also had to shell out for 7,000 teddy bears and a million pairs of purple socks and a 300-year subscription to Field & Stream. Ninety-nine percent superfluity. (Every second I'm sitting at the fucker, I feel like I've been HAD.)
"Personal" computers: nobody needs th'm. It isn't about need! Well, animators for the graphics on Monday Night Football need th'm, but FUCK the animation on Monday Night Football. The world would go on fine without it.
Coercion. Fooling ostensibly all of the people closer, ever closer, to all of the time. Soon we'll be expected to pay our goddam bills online, and if y'ain't on it yourself you'll have to subscribe to a service that does it for you. How long before we gotta pay to breathe? Don't know your take on this madness, but it's the bitter END of mammal life as I used to know it.
The stations of my loathing...
I basically haven't watched TV news since 1980, or about the time Jimmy Carter reinvented the Cold War, table-setting the Reagan years. The fraudulence of this prick's daily TV PERFORMANCE, the sick macho gesture of an Annapolis wuss who'd used coverage of Three Mile Island (him in a spacesuit) to prime the pump--this to me was what the Cuban Missile Crisis had been to others...never again. My decision wasn't driven by escapism--an attempt to avoid knowing "what was going on." I simply no longer wanted any part of Master Control's by-the-numbers show & tell--the sights, the sounds, the easy trifling with every sinew of our being.
Likewise, with computers, it is not bad enough that they exist and are heinous and more or less mandatory. Knowing that is merely knowing that, but to SEE its ubiquitous face is to BE THERE yourself, witness to the SAME pinks, luminous greys, cerulean blues, all the dings and dongs from cyber hell, which constitute the universal workspace of the damned, lockstepping to the horror, the horror.
A future-vision straight out of Disney, or to be precise, Disneyland the original weekly series. Several times each, they'd served up pap from Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland before finally, in '54 or '55, they aired the first Tomorrowland segment--some unremarkable animations of space flight shown-and-told by Werner von Braun. With much cash, effort, and national sacrifice, said the denazified Nazi of the hour, we might make it to the moon by the year 2000...ooh, wouldn't das be wunderbar.
Well, they never did get us there, the bastards, but they also never lost the pre-rock fiftiesness of the dream, which they assault us with today WITHOUT MERCY: Eisenhowerland! whitebread uber alles! thesauruses w/out the word "shit"! mall-world before malls! A perfect Formica simulation--do they even make that stuff anymore?--that's what I see on MY so-called desktop (don't know 'bout yours). On which must be endured an endless procession of ads for shit I don't want/need/wanna know about. Every screaming icon is a product i.d. How long before you click on "save" and there's an ad for some fucking bank?
All this "virtual" bullticky--addresses that aren't addresses, access that isn't access, E-mail "relationships"--is an imitation-of-life more ludicrous (and hideous) than made-for-TV movies of the 70s and 80s. "User friendly," what a laugh--as bogus as "have a nice day"--while an elite core of PLUMBERS are the only ones who even sometimes know the bowels of the operation, what's indeed going on. This isn't relative unreality, but the absolute unreality of it all--as sham as a speech by Pat Robertson. Or is an absolute anything no longer feasible?
Why don't people read books anymore? Because after a day at the office in front of a freakin' screen, they're TOO BLIND to read a book. Fewer books being read, and fewer being bought, "literature" is no longer a relevant category at a single major U.S. publishing house--true!--you could call 'em up and ask. Coffee table garbage, self-help, textbooks, designated best-sellers, and of course computer books--such is our current literary lot. And I'm not talking "good writing" vs. "bad writing," I'm talking language as a solemn goddam cross to bear, writing by people who take risks as large as life (when it was still large) itself.
There is more need right now to unplug from the prevailing "real world" scam than there was in the 60s. Are you man/woman enough?
The year instant replay became standard for major league baseball, not merely for homers and crucial fielding plays but practically every pitch ("Curve ball, low and away, Ralph").
An accursed season not even redeemed by the up-from-the-sewer N.Y. Mets snatching the World Series.
This wurn't no simple, gratuitous recoverability number, like reruns of old films or "oldies but goodies," the concept/package introduced on AM radio around 1960, but something (in the scheme of things) genuinely pernicious: the undermining of spectator consciousness.
An end to unidirectionality...to events in time heading somewhere...to time/expired actually meaning something.
PLUS: the root beginnings of nonstop cross-cut sports editing (with hyperactive fans and players' wives and the crippled kid who's got a month to live and all o' that), employing "cinematic" means to manipulate the perception of real-time events in real time, thus rendering space permanently unreal (first done "experimentally," and with major malice, in the live broadcast of the JFK funeral some five-plus years before), a follow-the-dots aimed at more than a quaint li'l studio audience: the stay-at-home sporting masses, bub!
Our first taste of such as STANDARD MALICIOUS BROADCAST PROCEDURE.
A very early warning.
In his first novel, the Less Than Zero of its time, F. Scott Fitzgerald plays the hole card of socialism, only his socialism is quitelike fascism, and not just the way it might transmute into something like fascism, y'know down the road, like when Stalin would go and do all these purges (and pogroms) in an excess of institutional whatever, but fascism already, originally, pretty much by definition.
In short order, This Side of Paradise would sell 2 million copies, a prototype of the literary killing for ages-to-come of young American doodooheads, and make its author (the emperor's new clothes of mock-modernist trend-think; jock-sniffer to the Rich decades before Capote, Tom Wolfe, or P.J. O'Rourke; debaser of the concept of "jazz" before it was even a third of a concept; grandfather, godfather--or simply harbinger?--of the Yuppie) the toast of who fucking gives a shit.
Imagine the play he'd've got on Entertainment Tonight or PBS. 'S a good thing, in those days, only the literate were subject to such crap.
Why do you think Nixon abolished the draft? Not from compassion, that's for sure. No draft = no draft resistance. Or much resistance, or protest--as opposed to mere objection--to anything, really. Why do you think there's no perceptible leftist presence, nor even much of a politics, among the formerly draftable (18 and up) anymore?
AIDS. Not too many're claiming anymore it was custom-designed--scientists (outside of fiction) just ain't that ingenious--or even, especially, that somebody in fact invented it. It would still seem, howev, that at some point, by hook or by crook--"accident"? "discovery"? "engineering"?--whoever they were had something on their hands, this virus, this bug--what t' do with it? First off, let's see what it can do--who'll we test it on?
And why does it seem likely it was tested? 'Cuz epidemiologically, ha, there apparently is NO WAY (contrary to the usual "explanation") for AIDS to have gone from being a heterosexually based epidemic (in Africa) to a homosexual one (in the U.S., "via Haiti"--or so the story went) as rapidly as it did. It isn't even a long shot--it's off the actuarial page. Demographic breakdowns on early HIV distribution--the earliest hints of outbreak--point to recipients of an experimental hepatitis B vaccine tested exclusively on gay U.S. men, and of a tainted batch of smallpox vaccine administered by health workers in Africa. Tested, inotherwords, on a pair of population groups--blacks and gays--deemed expendable.
From genocide to mass-manipulating the living. Once the virus was out there, the policy among the elite that knew (however much or little) was to let it flourish, reveal nothing that might prove helpful in saving a life or umpteen thousand. If junkies and hookers were soon getting sick, fine, that's cool--who needs either o' them, either? By which point new malevolents were "joining" the plot, hopping the bandwagon, to make damnsure there would be no needle exchanges, no free condoms, no encouraging people to just beat off already, no advice to anyone except just say no, and by all means keep away from queers--demonized this time around as the source of pestilence. (And what, pray tell, is the Ameri-Christian beef with homosexuality? That it is, bottom line, from their tightassed perspective, prima facie sexual--the very word conjures up images of sex acts--sperm flying all over the place--while the fact of Donny Osmond, say, as a professed heterosexual evokes nothing.) When the bandwag reached its broadest mass-media phase, the evil got more omni-directed, and the goal, clearly, became to SCARE THE SEX OUT OF EVERYONE. Hedonism = freedom...fuh...it'd gone on long enough. One custom-designed consequence: an upswing in hetero monogamy--gee, how sweet--to nudge the birth rate up another notch.
Disposable diapers. As the 60s were waning, the American birth rate was at a postwar low. This at a moment when young'uns were fucking like krazy--and abortion was still, in most places, illegal--so how to 'splain it? More important for corporate America, how to overcome it?--to reattach babies to the sex urge?--get some economic mileage out of orgaz and ejaculation? Whaddaya think the REAL objection to abortion is in high U.S. places? Squeezing votes from the most easily led of constituencies is small potatoes--there's always other ways, too many ways, to pull those people's chains. Nah, chalk it up to corporate greed. Corporations always want MORE mouths to feed, and bodies to dress, and suburban commuters to sell cars and gas and garage door openers to, and more occasions to market symptomatic relief to more sufferers from a life more inhospitable every day. If it ain't more, it's as bad as less. Plus: more unwanted (and unterminated) pregnancies means more neurosis in the world, which means more consumers consuming neurotically, thus micro-manageably, on corporate dotted lines.
For the record: starting during Reagan's first term, and no diff due to a Democrat taking office, the U.S. has done its utmost to dismantle every third-world birth control program it helped initiate in the first place. Keep 'em hungry, keep 'em needy, sell 'em more and bigger Bruce Willis movies--keep those debtor nations under our boot! The Population Explosion, that late-50s cause celebre--when there were only two billion people in the world--what ever happened to THAT? (And don't tell me Ben & Jerry name flavors for it.)
So anyway...births...60s...down...how come? And somewhere on the massive list of "reasons" some research outfit ultimately compiled--way, way after the important stuff you can't do much about, in some cases 'cause you caused it, oh, like the unlivability of life (y'know, at this stage of decay on the planet); the basic expansion of people's moral conscience over their parents' (the karma stops here); the magnanimous avoidance of the sheer ego-puke of "my son, my daughter...mein kampf"; the polygamization of p.o.v. (even if you're only sequentially lining up alternate partners, offspring complicate breakup and mobility); the cost of baby food, baby shoes, the cost of...college (none o' that gettin' cheaper); a simple, basic refusal to get sucked in, go with the program (better to stick your nose in a garbage disposal)--down near the bottom had to be diapers: who wantsa deal with 'em? To dissuade that marginal minipercent to whom such b.s. might somehow be a deciding factor, voila:
Disposable diapers (but won't they pollute the earth?)--who could ask for anything more?
Since then we've had ovarian vogue...the culture of babying...10 billion baby films...a population increase of 70 million (U.S. alone). Dominoes, anyone?
RED HERRING OF THE CENTURY
Child abuse. Child abuse?
All parenting is abuse. (Sure as meat is murder, property is theft.)
Physical abuse bothers you? Well, what about spiritual abuse?
My idea of a major felony: inflicting on a child, age 0-12, the concept of heaven and hell. Especially hell.
"Teaching" a kid hell oughta be worth a mandatory minimum of 20, no, 30 years. On a fuckin' chain gang. No lunch breaks. (Don't let nobody say I'm soft on crime.)
In its sorry, sordid end run, has "religious freedom" as practiced in this country ever done much more than buck up the right, the compulsion!, of various afflicted grownups to perpetuate the germplasm of whatever strain of fire-and-brimstone they themselves were once branded with, i.e., to inflict their ongoing dogma on innocent, unmolded lumps of dough? And what of the rights of goddam dough? Where are all our "victim's rights" advocates on this one?!
If Satanism, whatever the bloody hell, in theory or practice, that even is (though a 'ligion, like all others, f'r sure), can be systematically denied Constitutional protection, then phuck its hand-in-glove "opposite" number.
(Crowd control in the ozone, crowd control from hell.)
The "threat" of pornography to today's unwashed youth (on or off the Internet).
Dunno about you, but I wouldn'ta made it to 13 without pics in smutmags to cue me to what the whole wide world of carnal oo-poo-pa-doo was ABOUT.
The aforementioned Jayne! Mansfield!--hoo wee!--tits out to HERE--first nipples I saw on anyone 'sides my mother: oh nurture! Just a peek, mind you--mags back then didn't really show that much--but otherwise there'd've been no peek, nothin'.
1956: forty-four years ago. We're supposed to believe preadolescents need this shit less TODAY? (Pshaw.)
Denying them porn would be abusive.
Some cheezier modifications of the record:
Cus D'Amato as a "fine boxing mind"--as opposed to just the formulator of an ultrasafe "Floyd Patterson strategy." Floyd lacked ferocity ("killer instinct"), grit, guts, nerve, much of a punch, viable footwork, and a chin--a lot to cover for. All he was was fast. So Cus matched him against nonentities--Roy Harris, Pete Rademacher--and even these clowns embarrassed Floyd, knocking him down in early rounds, though through the accumulation of punches he ultimately triumphed--big deal--the most unloved heavyweight champion since Jack Sharkey.
Only because of his short-lived connection to Mike Tyson, whose stock-in-trade, when he was still on, was unleashed ferocity, plus enough power in either hand to take out a mule, things beyond being taught, was Cus, in his lifetime, ever regarded as anything but a marginal schmuck.
The title of an article in Sport magazine around '58 or '59, before Floyd got KO'd by Ingemar Johansson, whom Cus regarded lightly (he was European, see) or he wouldn't've allowed the fight, said it all: "The Terrible World of Cautious Cus."
And try this on for size:
The Beatles will not fare well in the new century, if only 'cause the full gamut of their once-accessible sonic past no longer exists. 'Cept on warped, scratched vinyl, and when they stop making record needles, that's that. By going beyond normal remastering to REMIX certain "classic" Beatle cuts for CD reissue, Paul McCartney has canceled any ongoing role for them--except as an adjunct, largely mythical, to his own vanity. Devastated in the process is music (yes: music; not recollected youth! not sociology!) an even billion people have got stored in their heads, their hearts, their bones--and can imagine verywell, having memorized every nuance--but will never HEAR, as vibrating columns of air, again. (Unless they're enterprising millionaires who can score lingering undebased analog sources and do what they fucking want, formatwise, with the sonic genepool. Otherwise, from here on out, there is no sonic genepool.)
Which is kinda like taking some print classic like Huckleberry Finn, something read and reread for the last 100 years if for no other reason than it's always been there, burning all copies, then issuing it in BRAILLE ONLY, or on the backs of oatmeal boxes (in Greek).
For ex.: "Penny Lane," a full half, along with "Strawberry Fields," of the second greatest two-sided hit of all time (after "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel"), was originally a very decent treble-heavy song, but in remix Paulie brought his bass way up, and the drums feel different too, and it all sounds between two places (almost like the Drifters' "There Goes My Baby," an early, not totally successful, rock experiment with strings), which it didn't before, it felt indivisible--it's not the same song, not even close. And it's more offensive when we get to "Baby, You're a Rich Man," on which John played this squeaky, spooky, very interesting keyboard thing (a Clavioline?)--it was WHAT made the recording so engaging--that's now mixed down, and Paul's bass is up again--it sounds like crap. (Plus John is dead, eh?) These two cuts heard in sequence, on the CD version of Magical Mystery Tour, are particularly exasperating, they make me gag.
What's this cheesepuff solipsist worth, 8 billion dollars? Why can't he leave this shit alone?
BEATS "R" US
Mea culpa, mea culpa. Yes, I have colluded in denigrating, sullying, STINKING UP the Beat archive. Can't you smell it?
The redolence of coffee, of Starbucks, and of coffee tables.
There's probably been more unmitigated bullcrap written about the Beats than any quantitatively similar culture scene, including white probes of black music and all the dumb inquiries-cum-exploitations of the hippie 60s. John Updike scolded the Beats as bratty, self-involved children; that academic slime Norman Podhoretz called them leather-jacketed savages with zipguns: these too-generous, too-virtuous rogue pilgrims whose writings were as perfect an antidote to 50s Drear as rock & roll, as sublimely uplifting, if less instantaneously magical (you had to spend time and read 'em).
And NOW, folks: the coffee table scuzz of The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats (1999). While not the first c.t. Beat book--Allen Ginsberg did at least three c.t.'s on his own (as opposed to just large format, 9x11, like the posthumous Kerouac whatzis, Some of the Dharma)--one of the heavier ones with more text than pixtures...I've got the longest thing in it.
An edit-down of a five-year-old article originally called "Another Superficial Piece About 176 Beatnik Books"--they cut me down to 158--but it's anything but superficial: a stone-serious take on Beat as writ and published...text as direct emanation of self...the intersection of kicks and cellular concern...the litrachoor of let's-get-naked-for-10-minutes-and-maybe-tell-the-truth--if we fail, at least we tried, y'hear? I talk about all these books and point out how like On the Road is really no better than Jack Kerouac's fifth or sixth best novel, after Big Sur (one of the two or three ur-masterpieces of the English language), The Subterraneans, Vanity of Duluoz, Tristessa, and possibly The Dharma Bums...so maybe you don't read the wrong one first, just 'cause you're s'posed to, and get discouraged, and never read Jack again. Nothing on my part to be embarrassed about, I guess, but, but...I dunno.
Shoot, there were some very suspect early Beat collections that included people like NORMAN MAILER, someone about as Beat (or Beat-cognizant) as Tony Curtis. Thank heck he's not in this one, but take a look at the sad parade of interlopers, slummers, and party poopers who are: Yoko Ono, Johnny Depp, Lee Ranaldo, Deborah Harry, Graham Nash...Graham Nash? My erstwhile pal Patti Smith, as phony as 80 days are long, whom I remember in '71 calling Ginsberg "that Jew queer," contributes the gushing, almost toesucking "Dear Allen" (p. 274). On p. 307, Don Waller, a slick-haired hepcat wanna-be, the 2nd or 3rd jivest person I've ever met, one of that vast army of jerks who have made the term "cool" useless till the end of time, makes the claim that "Any serious discussion of 'Beat humor' starts with Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce"--no it doesn't!
Nor were the Beats themselves especially "hipsters"--sure they were, but they were also distinctly (and distinctively) not-that, and some--Ferlinghetti, John Clellon Holmes, Carl Solomon--were not-that, period. Kerouac once presented his take on karmic responsibility as "No rest until every sentient being is redeemed"--show me the hipster in them apples, Don.
Listen, I'm no Beatnik--born in '45, you can't be one in much more than spirit (unless you're Anne Waldman, who based on her connection to Ginsberg at Naropa, though she isn't even small-b beat, often gets tapped the youngest "actual" Beat) (Trixie A. Balm, eat yer heart out)--but at least I've got some respect, see, for those that truly be.
Ain't no Buddhist, but I hold this stuff sacred, okay?
And it gives me a creepy feeling to be in a volume so brimming w/ not only coffee grounds but COOTIES.
So why am I in the damn thing? Why have I given it my consent? Hey: I even participated in a reading at Borders to hype sales. I give it my consent for the illusion of visibility, the self-deception of a mission of truth, and, last but not least, a mess of pottage.
WHALE OF A POET
As dandy a poet as Sappho, Shakespeare, Blake, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Dickinson, Whitman, Pound, Ginsberg, or Ogden Nash.
Now that everything he wrote has been devalued from science to hermeneutics ("interpretation"), while Jung is classed (and revered) as some weird sort of pagan mystic, and frontline beatniks never lost their affection for Reich, let's just keep Siggy around for what he most IS: an ole-fashioned coke & tobacco motherfucker whose unabashed MAGNILOQUENCE puts him up there with Freddie Blassie and Rabelais.
Poetry: the root, if not route, of ALL philosophy (and science!) worthy of the name.
ED WOOD VS. COCTEAU: WHO WILL WIN?
The notion of Greatness--the judgment, the sentiment, the nervous tic: great albums, great cinematographers, great draft beers--do we really need to waste our time on that worn and weary road? Is it any longer an attribution of anything pertinent--germane--worth a ding dang dog's dick?
The rise! the fall! (the bloody persistence) of Charisma. As in the charismatic Brad Pitt--a dishrag who "looks like James Dean."
The April '98 Gentlemen's Quarterly, a "special collector's issue," pays tribute to the Athlete of the Century, Muhammad Ali. There was a time, back when I was more immersed in boxing, when I'd've called him the Man, the Manwoman, the PERSON of the Century. Of course, no doubt, beyond all hype, he is the sportsperson of the 20th, just as he was with 25 years still remaining, and his '74 knockout of Foreman in Zaire stands as one of the two or three most conspicuous public achievements since, well, after my own arbitrary cutoff date, '69-'70.
But achievement, merit--what is the cash value (in the William Jamesian sense) of either of THOSE curios in 2000 AD? Possibly they never meant a fuck of a lot without the requisite hype, without a coercive lesson plan for dumbass mortals, a hierarchic see-Spot-run of canonical More to our abject Less...so good riddance. And in one sense at least, if still below the level of reflexive consciousness, of our common awareness, I think we are rid of one twang of the shuck: "high" art vs. "low."
And I don't mean 'cause people in gen'ral seem more, more?, maybe more attracted to lowstuff like gothic romance or yuppie sitcoms or whatever, which isn't really even the low I'm getting at (that stuff's just lowest common denom, and what's at issue here is lower than the denom--low as in lowlife: gutter stuff)--I mean that among incrementally more of those who not long ago would've been patrons of high, exclusively, it's no longer as systematically, or as automatically, exclusive (with or without the alibi of "guilty pleasure"). And like I said, not too many of these geeks are actually, wakingly aware of it, but habits of valuation have changed--slightly--there's a certain piecemeal laxing of the rigor--even among those of 'em you can fool all of the time.
DADA come home to roost? Duchamp (et al) propheteering? Hardly.
Marcel Duchamp, who abandoned "retinal art" not long after painting the arch-retinal Nude Descending a Staircase, was one of the supreme foreshadows of the early 20th, even begetting a workable copy--a xerox--a silk screen, anyway--in Andy Warhol, but his wisdom, his shrewdness, his cool-customerhood would have been as zilch without an adventitious mass means of activating some mighty riffs (as infantile as they are intellectual) lurking in everyone's art-critical toolbag, of deconstructing sundry impractical (but ingrained) valuational norms, of delivering the package on a bedrock of common utility, of normal situational perception, and that means was/is/has been--to the extent that it has been AT ALL--not the beats, not Pop Art, not the hippies, not punk, not specifically anyway, but rock & fucking roll--the Whole Damn Thing--45 years down its long & winding pike, still rolling (clunkily) on.
The massive means, the massive hap, the massive rub. To even begin to collapse, demolish, reduce (or at least fuzz over) crucial distinctions in the public eye between high and low, we've needed more years of rock than it's actually functioned as rock (as opposed to as Big Culture, or as Typical Showbiz, or as Monster Trucks Soundtrack): the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s...longggg after it ceased being useful for much of anything else...
If you view them with an open heart and an unjaundiced eye, Jean Cocteau's Orpheus, the celebrated "art pic" of 1949, and Edward D. Wood's Night of the Ghouls, "celluloid trash" from '59, offer surprisingly, yet undeniably, similar takes on Death and the Other Side, but the bottom line is this: Wood is what Cocteau is trying to be, he's a Cocteau pulling no punches, (put this in his resume!) COCTEAU WITHOUT RESTRAINT. Testament of Orpheus, meanwhile, the Frenchman's pretentious '59 sequel, is the stale sweat of a sweaty poet, while the meagerest works of Wood radiate sheer delight.
(Wood: you might know him from Tim Burton's less than flattering Ed Wood, '94, which doesn't completely mock the guy's work, heckles it mostly in fun, but stops far short of true admiration. At least, tho, they now got some actual Wood films at the video store, at more video stores. For starters, I recommend Bride of the Monster.)
No more Art (sent or received) on a pedestal: wouldn't that be nice!
Carl "Bobo" Olson, born July 11, 1928, Honolulu. "The Hawaiian Swede."
Champion? Also-ran? Both.
Great? Not-great? Not-great.
Overreacher? Underachiever? Overreacher.
Interesting? Interesting enough...
In '53, following the retirement of Sugar Ray Robinson, won 15-round decisions over Paddy Young and Randy Turpin to gain recognition as world middleweight champ.
June '55, moving up in weight, challenges Archie Moore for the lightheavyweight title and is knocked out in the 3rd round. In December, Robinson (unretired) KOs Bobo in 2, recapturing the middleweight crown, and in the rematch six months later, in 4.
1960: campaigning as a lightheavy, with pretensions of moving up to heavyweight, he is kayoed in 6 by an up-and-coming Doug Jones, the first serious challenge (two years later) for the young Cassius Clay.
Career continues through '66. Final record: 92-16-2. In the end: broke.
Rumors of bigamy? Of two entire families in different cities? Um...uh...that's more or less correct.
Did someone say bozo?
STALER BREAD, GRIMMER CIRCUS
My wife's been sick, the young'uns too,
And I'm durn near down with the flu,
The cow's gone dry and them hens won't lay,
But we're still a-livin', so ever'thing's okay.
--"Everything's Okay," Luke the Drifter (Hank Williams)
The commodification of despair...the "populism" of universal slip-slide...the no-future of an illusion...the mega-marketing of leaner pickings.
In 1980, during the Iran hostage crisis (and the CIA's Afghan incursion), Slash editor Claude Bessy, aka Kickboy Face, punk rock's hottest voice-in-print, announced, without a trace of grief: "We will not live to see the end of this decade"--he figured Carter would be blowing up the planet any day. "I only regret," he added, "that I won't live to see enough of the horror." Slightly later, after the threat had subsided (but why forget its sting?), Slash reviewer Chris D. hailed some German punk LP as "adequate sonic preparation for the heat-death of the world." Torment, torture, and subjugation as the trip...dig it.
The X Files: of course they lie to us--or is it simply we'll believe anything? Either way, the endless wellspring of a real kink of a show...both ABOUT the ruse and the ruse ITSELF...Twilight Zone, or is it Gilligan's Island?, as 60 Minutes...escapism and surrender at the same time, in the same breath...can't wait for the next episode!
David Cronenberg's eXistenZ: the abhorrent yuck of what cybershit hath wrought, and of what we've been duped into demanding from it...done as perhaps the most seamlessly, elegantly crafted LSD movie, ever.
KEROUAC NEVER DROVE,
SO HE NEVER DROVE ALONE
You're born alone, you die alone, you pull into a 20th century truckstop alone where every trucker looks like the devil. Like pictures of the devil. Like they'd kill you worse than cops or buy you a beer, two beers, if they knew what you were thinking. About their looking like the devil or killing you or buying you beers. But there's no beer at this stop, so it's only devil, killing...
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Terry Laban.