for July 11
Now that I'm applying for a two-year program in "Media Practice" I realize I should practice more, so I turned on the radio -- an ethically suspect media practice, since I don't pay the $5 monthly radio tax. (When the inspector came to the door, I avowed my ownership of a radio and my determination to listen to it free of charge, and he agreed that my paying the tax would outrage every sacred principle.) A woman informed me that last week's number one, "Lady Marmalade," had slipped to number two. "Voulez vous coucher avec moi?" I was asked repeatedly. Then a deep, earnest male voice intoned, "Today in Wales two prisoners learned the meaning of the word 'mercy' when they obtained early release after rescuing a warden, whose wounds necessitated 98 stitches, from a furious wild boar. The Bible tells us ...." I squinted and looked at the display again. It was still SWR3, K-ROQ style urban-contemporary sensory-barrage from hell and the only station I can bring myself to listen to with any regularity. I thought, "This must be their thirty daily seconds of programming in the public interest." Generally I turn on the radio when I want to hear a noise. If I wanted to pay attention, I'd put on a CD -- lately Paula Frazer's 'Indoor Universe,' to which I sing along,
'cause each time I get close to you
there is something wrong with everything I do
you say there's a right time, maybe tomorrow
so I wait around for someday
wait around, for what I don't know
The prisoners were released at the victim's request. A 900-year-old law sanctions the release of prisoners who have displayed exceptional courage. The boar must have been very frightening, ripping and chomping like a hyena. I was happy for the poor prisoners, who were in for robbery and assault. If a wild boar were after me, I'd most prefer to be defended by someone guilty of assault, or even murder. Best would probably be someone who had killed a warden with a shank made from a mechanical pencil, but anyhow, I also thought, "Bible?" Why does everybody always have to pin it on Jesus every time somebody is nice? Why be surprised that robbers don't enjoy watching people get ripped to pieces by pigs?
I could advance the idea that it's possible that the robbers weren't even Christians since, in fact, not everyone is a Christian, but I prefer that my liberal agenda be lost in a forest of preciosity.
Last night I went to a lecture entitled "Sounds of the Third Way" (club zatopek,
www.immerdienstags.de). It was mildly disappointing (the speaker lost sight of his putative theme) and everybody bitched and moaned no end. He laid himself open to pithy remarks and even, unfortunately, to a few ad hoc lectures that could have used evenings of their own which, however, no one would attend. He said hippies were political but punks only pretended (true enough), ergo politics had vanished from pop music by, say, 1973. Initially apolitical punk and industrial poses, especially that of "male hardness," then lent themselves to co-optation by the right. The best pithy remark was offered by someone I'd never seen before, a 40ish blond with little round glasses, who remarked that the glorification of success for its own sake, as seen in critical appreciations of e.g. Madonna, goes neatly hand in hand with neoliberalism. My pithy remarks addressed the speaker's hard, male success in repressing the realization that in the early 80s when Throbbing Gristle and Rammstein were busy supporting his thesis, the airwaves were awash in Tracy Chapman, the Indigo Girls, Culture Club, the Eurhythmics, Prince, and other political and/or gender-bending "heinous" "crap," as I'm confident he calls it privately (in German). I suggested that the scene's male hardness may have been a direct reaction to pop culture's soft-butch mincing. He caved immediately and I could tell he longed to lick my boots, but since I was wearing dusty sandals and short shorts that revealed an unappetizing skinned knee, now three weeks old but still laced with the telltale red stain of mercurochrome and a fresh dusting of what I call "spray vodka" -- anyhow, he kept his distance, despite my erudition and awesomely cool t-shirt (Beat Happening kitty-head, 1990), and I got into conversation with a Sonic Youth fan. "Sure, I saw them around," I ended up saying. "They practiced in Hoboken in the same space we did so ...." I thought he would pop. That's probably the happiest I'll ever make a 22-year-old boy.
The speaker served up some interesting quotes from contemporary policymakers who are trying to save national musical genres (such as the heinous, crappy German "Schlager") by advocating native-language pop radio stations and boycotts of American music (currently with reference to the environmental sins of George W. Bush). If he had stuck to that line of argument -- that legislating language and culture is fascist and, by extension, that globalization and the free market offer a third way -- he might have gotten a lot less heckling. Everyone would have looked thoughtful and confused and wandered off to the bar to drink "Pine Cone" brand beer from the Black Forest.
Thou, Whose Exterior Semblance
I'm not obsessed, I'm really not, and to avoid the appearance of obsession I've put off writing about this, but I saw a slug like the slugs in Prince Myshkin's potted plants (I wrote about them sometime during the winter) in the wild.
At first I thought it was a snake. About eight inches of it was protruding from a stone wall behind an immense right-wing fraternity house. Like Myshkin's pets, it was light grey with small, pale brown spots. I earned my British "Get Out of Jail Free" card by boldly prying it from the wall with a stick. It fell three feet to the ground in a splatter of mucus and, to my dismay, shrank to a mere three inches. It turned to face me. I pushed it towards the wall.
After that I waited, but the slug seemed to be taking its time regaining its former size. After watching it for a while, I continued my walk. It was almost dark. In the twilight I had hardly been able to see it.
One thought comforted me. The banana slug of the Pacific Northwest is reputed to be a foot long. What if it's like this slug, and if you poke it one time, it retreats to a manageable (I mean conceptually manageable) size? That would be good.
If you look up at the fraternity house from the town you might imagine that it commands a surpassingly lovely view, but actually it looks down on the broad, empty roof of a parking garage.