Writings and Letters

A blog oeuvre… a "bloeuvre"

Tag: humor

What’s the Title? Tittle? Title.

We got stuck out near the desert with a flat tire. I was staring off at the sun and wondering why they say: “Caught a flat.” Why is that a turn of phrase? Term of phrase? Can that be right? Can it? What’s the term of a phrase? Fuck. What’s a turn of one for that matter. This language makes no sense. Who’s idea was the English?

Next thing I knew Merle was cursing the, uh, the… “Hey.” “What?” “What d/ya call that thing? Spigot?” “Spigot?” “Yeah.” “Who you calling Spigot?” “No. That thing.” “This?” “Yesh.” “I’m using it.” “What’s it called, a spigot?” “What’s a spigot?” “That’s my point. What the hell is that thing called?” “Aw hells bells, this thing here? It’s a doobermeringue.” “You’re shitting me.” “Like… literally? No.” “Of course not, unless we’re talking literary-rally fictionally. Then yes.” “Ah, you mean metaphorically.” “Do I?” “How the hell am I supposed to know? Aw, dammit! I swear—by the Stallions of the Valkyries!—I will shoot you in your stupid iron-wrought face, you goddamned double-crossing criss-cross abomination!” “Me, or the spigot?” “What. In the hell. Is a spigot?” “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I don’t know what you’re working with over there. I think the actual name for it is ‘spigot.'” “What origin is that from?” “Huh?” “What human spit that out of their mouth when they saw whatever the hell a spigot is? Hounds of Love! this thing is really driving me nuts.” “Merle, you’re loosing me.” “You mean losing.” “Hmm… no I think I mean loosing.” “Huh?” “What?”

She went back to cursing at the metal apparatus… and I was trying to figure out if I was upset with her for having a man’s name. Was it her fault? She was a legal adult. She could change it if she wanted. What’s that saying: What’s in a name? Does that apply here, can I applicate it, is it applicatory to the application of… “Hey, Merle.” “What?” “What’s in a name?” “Letters, what else?”

Why did I say “legal adult”? As opposed to an illegal one? I suppose I don’t know what one would look like. A child? “Hey, what’s an illegal adult?” “I don’t know. What?” “No. It’s no joke. I’m asking.” “No joke? This goddamned tire is no joke.” “Of course, but what’s an illegal adult?” “A criminal. What else?” “Hmm… no I don’t think that’s what I’m getting at.” “Getting to. And we’re not getting anywhere if this abortus of a doobermeringue can’t help me take these goddamb niblets off the tire!” “Sure, sure, of course we agree, but I think my point is that—Wuthering Heights!—it’s too damm hott!! to think.” “You’ve got one too many consonants.” “Where?” “Right…     here ^” “Ah, I see. I was kinda going for an affect.” “You mean effect.” “I really don’t know. I’ve never known. They can both literally—like literary non-fiction, real deal Magillicutty—be the same thing.” “You mean mean the same thing.” “What’s the difference?” “Well… being and meaning are rather different aren’t they?” “Are they? Like if they are the same thing, then why would they mean different things? Like what does Heidegger have to say about all this?” “No, that’s Being. We’re talking about being.” “So many B/beings!” “Tell me about it. Hegel, too. Only with ‘negativity.’ The negativity of a negativity is a negativity with low-grade high-functioning anti-social attention-seeking personality disorder, but it always bends towards positivity.” “So says you.” “Yeah, it’s a flab-nasting wonder any of this gobbledygook has been able to pool into some sort of logical coagulum. Seriously, think about it… Diamond Dogs! I think I got it.”

I took a picture of her after she finished changing the tire. “I’ll post this. I’m so proud of you. I want to share this will all my friends.” “Oh yeah, post it where?” “Instachatty, TwertFace, they’re all the same… Booktwart…” “Very cool.”

Then we got the hell out of there.

Anyway, what was my point?

Pork Soda in a Time of Tremendous Tremendousness

“Art” is malleable. Not only is a work’s meaning derived through the individual’s consciousness (both creator and interpreter), but the same consciousness over time. It is through this subjective-temporal evaluation that a larger appreciation, or contextualization of said work can be realized in its totality.

But as much as the observer is analyzing the work, the “Art” also acts as a tool of analysis on the observer, and as much can be said about the evaluator as the work being evaluated. Not only are the work and viewer being evaluated, both then and now, but the surrounding apparatuses that construct the scenario.

So when we revisit a painting, or novel, film, musical album, etc. we are not only attempting to arrive at a better understanding of the work, its creator’s intention, and all the like, but of ourselves and the extending circumstances we find ourselves in, too. These moments can give way to beautiful, personal intellectual satoris, but also act as wedges to reinforce particular myopias. We may very well emerge from the cage, shackles untethered, only to never realize we are inside a prison.

Not similar but running parallel to this risk of shortsightedness is the misreading of the past: events, works, or people. This type of thinking can be seen in certain opinion articles claiming certain actors in the past (Richard Rorty, David Foster Wallace, or even the Frankfurt Scholars) had predicted the rise of Trump and conditions of 2016 that would precipitate his election. These thoughts are a) flattering to the thinkers they label as prescient minds, b) fun to read and remember the pleasures of said thinkers, and c) completely ahistorical and thus silly.

The anachronism is best dismantled in Andy Seal’s critique from the wonderful USIH blog.

Neither Richard Rorty, David Foster Wallace, nor Adorno, Marcuse, Benjamin and the rest of the Frankfurters were capable of reaching such heights of clairvoyance, no matter how brilliant they all were. To claim otherwise is a dangerous form of closed-mindedness and recklessly treats the past with little reverence, and history as a plaything.

Why. With such logic, one might credit the band Primus’s 1993 album, Pork Soda, as being much more than some “goofy” “amalgam of elements that have no reason to be joined together in a sane universe,” but an artistic cri de cœur against the decline of the human condition in this ever-modern world and a quickening doom at the hands of the 45th President. It would not be difficult to then say that Les Claypool predicted Trump!

trump-soda-3

It starts with a brief overture called, “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty”. A quaint intro of mandolin and faint percussion lulls the listener inward to this unknown world. Like a mixture of Disneyland’s Splash Mountain and the promises of Trump’s slogan, it seems colorful and wholesome until (with the slap of a bass guitar) you nosedive into the macabre of “My Name is Mud”. From that point forward, you experience a wholly different realm, one that feels very much like an alternate reality but in retrospect is a death knell foretold: it signals the undertow of hillbilly malice about to be unleashed.

For Primus is, in many respects, a more apt representation of white working class ethos than the sitting President or any member of his cabinet. It’s unorthodoxy is only matched by its simplicity, and its irreverence for what mainstream pop culture audiences (i.e. typical bourgeois consumers) is indicative in its apoplectic distortion, manic guitar solos, and un-artful lyrics which either offer cheekiness or champion quotidian life. One sees this working class attitude unveiled best in songs like: “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” “John the Fisherman” “Shake Hands with Beef” “Those Damned Blue-Collared Tweekers”: and particularly on this album we find “The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part 3)” and “DMV”. Primus is the soundtrack to white working class id. And in Pork Soda, the band is demonstrating this spirit from the very start.

The song”My Name is Mud” is concerned about a man who has, in the heat of argument (“a common spat”), murdered his friend (“sonsofbitch who lies before me bloated, blue and cold”). It is a chilling representation of the repressed rage of the white working class, who feels marginalized and whose concerns (mainly about their livelihood) are not taken seriously. So they have lashed out, mostly in the form of voting into office the only man who seemed to notice them, but also in the most extreme examples through reified hate (few though they maybe, still terrifying). It is a new reality we find ourselves in, to which Primus says: “Welcome to this World”.

The song perfectly captures the world to come over the next four years: a world of unfettered neoliberal economic policies that will enrich the already wealthy and place an unbridgeable gap of inequality in the void of gutted welfare programs designed to aid the lowliest, and where hardcore rightwing policies suppress goodwill and civil liberties in the name of national strength and homogeneity, cultish adulation, and “pink champagne and swimming pools”. For the sociopolitical atmosphere that will be unleashed on the nation will be tolerated by many for the sake of prosperity. But as the song suggests with its clownish melody, this is a mean joke. The affluence imagined by many but experienced by few cannot resolve the existential dilemmas of what it means to be human in this world. In the absence of meaning, with close to half the nation in a state of nationalist fervor, when the dreams of the left and the attempts of liberalism have failed against outright hostile capitalist hegemony and ruling class power, perhaps the only remaining option is the big fail for some. To excuse themselves from the world completely, which may have been what Claypool and the boys were getting at in the song that immediately follows: “Bob”. A song that tells of a friend “who took a belt and hung himself” in his apartment. A moving dirge of Claypool’s artistic friend “who drew such wondrous pictures in the apartment where he lived” and was found “dangling” by “his woman and his little bro”. It is a cry of pain, not only at the loss of a friend but what Bob represented. The closest expression of what it means to be human can only be found in those “wondrous pictures” or songs of Claypool, or in “Art” at-large. But in an ever-shrinking market world, aided by big data, where algorithms enhance a homogenous culture industry, and someone’s human worth is equivalent to their net worth, the marginalized artist is rendered valueless. For the survivors, like Claypool who learn of Bob’s passing, we are left with the same powerful image looping through our memories and the weight of its meaning, like the chorus that plays out the song until Claypool is reduced to illogical scatting: “I had a friend that took a belt, took a belt and hung himself // Hung himself in the doorway of the apartment where he lived”.

The album is full of these lamentations. It may have been unclear for people of the early nineties to understand or appreciate Pork Soda until now when the true genius can be appreciated some twenty-three-plus years later.

In fact, the fingerprints of 2016 are all over this album.

Look at the song “Nature Boy”—about a man who shelters himself in his room/house, gets naked, and masturbates to bottomless pits of porn, is irritated by the fact that his “genitalia and pectoral muscles aren’t quite what I’d like them to be”, and craves his privacy/secrecy: “But you don’t see me” “No one can/should see me”—which is a clear portrait of hyper-agro men’s rights Internet trolls who scurry through the web to prey on decency and spread their vicious hate-mongering, anesthetized by the veil of faceless avatars, deindividuation, and outright psychopathy. There is also “The Air is Getting Slippery”, a clear nod to the environment spinning radically out of control while Average Joes (portrayed by Claypool here) focus on Pink Floyd and hanging out at the bar, completely oblivious to the creeping doom set upon them. “Air” connotes two other thoughts. There is a nefarious quality to the use of the word “slippery” both used in the title and song. As if, this destructive change slips our grasp of it, or slips by and grows more dangerous by the year without our intervention. Of course, the other side of “Air” only  hinted at is the suppression or outright willful ignorance of vested interests in climate change’s cause. They try their best to evade or silence evidence and knowledge and let humanity rot because they: “don’t give a F***”.

“Pork Soda” addresses the confounding stupidity of modern life and our inability to comprehend it, to which consumer culture can only prescribe more capitalism: “Grab yourself a can of Pork Soda // You’ll be feeling just fine // Ain’t nothin’ quite like sittin’ ’round the house // Swillin’ down them cans of swine”. In one of the least-known songs of Primus, “The Pressman” is certainly a diamond in the rough. Not only does the song relentlessly drive at you with it’s haunting melody (again, simple but effective), hypnotic in its quality, but the lyrics Claypool writes vividly paint the picture of rightwing media in today’s society. A Bannonesque protagonist tells us of his days reporting the news: “I deal with fantasy // I report the facts”. A clear nod to the “alternative facts” we are accosted by daily, an endless spew of disingenuous half-truths, logical fallacies, misrepresentations, misquotes, and outright fabrications from this bile hurricane blazing across our news feeds. For Bannon and his ilk, they have done what hard-right reactionaries are best at: take the humanist logic of liberals or the left and use it as a cudgel for their own purposes. So, the rightwing media takes relativism (which they despise in theory, but use to their advantage in practice) and bludgeons our concepts of “facts” and “truth” until they are unrecognizable only to their own side. They gerrymander the American Mind, cutting out large swaths of the country like Swiss cheese, and build a wholly separate country with their “fountain pen[s]” and “stain” our memories, so that when we use history to look into the past we confuse the victims for the villains and carry this broken translation with us into the future.

Even the instrumental tracks carry this prescient, unwavering grief. How else can one explain the song “Wounded Knee”? Clearly, in the advent of the Dakota Access Pipeline (as it continues to unfold) one must not forget what happened at Wounded Knee. It cannot possibly be a coincidence that this song was released on Pork Soda! In any other year, on any other album, the song makes no sense. Only listening to this album in the context of 2016 can one truly appreciate all the correlations!

But the clearest example of the album’s instrumental disquietude comes in the song “Hamburger Train”. It plays out like a psychedelic jam session, only some joker slipped us a bad dosage of the electric Kool-Aid and we’re having a very bad trip. What better way to explain the emotional, psychological trauma we felt that night?** The song comes towards the end of the album, as did the election in that god-awful interminable year. While you listen, you can almost feel the walls melting around you and world collapsing as you did well into the wee hours of that night, only to realize it is the physiological reaction of your brain when hope partially dies. By the time the distorted guitar comes into focus again, bleating like a stuck sheep, so too does the realization of what is to come—paralyzing you in waves of terror. It summons a sense of cosmic dread to stay henceforth until the song collapses under the exhaustion of its own inertia right into the arms of the second rendition of “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty”. It plays again like a taunt to remind us civilization and barbarism are tied together by the same dialectical rope, and it has just swung quite negatively.

And so it makes perfect sense to close out the album with “Hail Santa”, which for obvious reasons is the band’s darkest, cruelest joke of all: combining imagery of the fascist salute with the personification of capitalist joy. It welcomes us to this new world by leaving with a wave and wink to the amalgamation of these two forces: our 45th President.


** Incidentally, the song for conservatives on November 8th was: “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” 

The End of History… (Cubs ed.)

by Francis Fukuyama

 

In the course of watching Game 7 of the World Series, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental was happening in world history. To read some of the recent articles posted after the game seems to point to the end of over a century’s worth of misery and the upcoming of spiritual “peace” throughout the hearts and minds of North Siders. Most of these analyses lack a certain macro-study of what is ultimately of merit and what is analytical rubbish, and thus laughably cursory.

And yet…

These articles nevertheless (poorly, by accident) point towards some grander conceptual apparatus at play, viewed through the praxis of the Cubs playoff run: first with the remnants of a once powerful San Francisco Giants team, then the tinseltown darlings Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally a revamped derelict named the Cleveland Indians that threatened the hopes and dreams of America’s Pastime with the apocalypse. But the beginning of the twentieth century has been bookended by the beginning of the twenty-first in very much the same fashion: the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The triumph of Chicago, of the very idea of the North Side Cubbies, is not only evident in the final tally, the hoisting of the gold-clad trophy, or the deluge of tenth-rate bubbly, but it transcends into the highest form of Western excellence: consumer products. Lakeshore Drive Yuppies and Northwest Suburban Soccer Moms wearing T-shirts, caps, pajamas, and flags all doubled their original markups; post-college bros and dentists alike with their signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys for upwards to $4000; picture frames, bobbleheads, commemorative books or Blu-rays, you name it! found in Belmont as well as Boystown, or Albany, Norwood, and Lincoln Park, and “Go, Cubs! Go!” can be heard on radio waves all across the city; over $70 million dollars-worth of merchandise sold within the first full day alone from buyers all over the country (even the poor children of Laos, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Haiti, and more, who will wear the over-sized T-shirts intended for hulking adults paid exorbitant salaries so high the gap between the two is as imperceptible as the words “World Series Champions” and “Cleveland” or the beet-faced racist caricature smiling back at them, even these children are a sign of the overwhelming success of the Cubbies excellence).

What we maybe witnessing is not just the end of the century-plus epoch of misery for Cubs fans and thus the exuberance of fans and profiteers in an orgy of commodity exchange, but the millennium of peace and prosperity for all baseball fans at the behest of The Loveable [Winners] and ergo: THE END OF HISTORY.

I

Of course, the concept of the end of history is not original. No. It started over seventy years prior this essay with the deleterious Greek, William Sianis, and his filthy goat: Buckles. Upon being ejected from the World Series game in Wrigley Field on account of either his or his goat’s smell, he used his crypto-gypsy black magic (sacrificing Buckles outside the gates of the historic ballpark) to curse the Cubs, stating: “These Chicago Cubs, they ain’t gonna win. They’re a buncha bums. They ain’t gonna win the World Series. Because they insulted my goat. They ain’t never gonna win a World Series ever again, or my name ain’t William Sianis of 374 South Halsted Street! Mark my woods [sic]. It’s da end of history for d’em!”

Sianis was borrowing this concept of the end of history from a far superior German thinker: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Puff’n’Stuff Hegel: whose legacy has been tarnished a bit at the hands of Billy Goat-worshiping descendants of Sianis (and possibly closeted Satanists) who appropriated Hegel for their own anti-Cubbie rhetoric, he now has the misfortune of being seen mainly as a precursor of Sianis goat cursing.

However, there was a man from Wrigleyville who attempted to wrestle Hegel from the claws (or hooves) of the Goaters. He was Harry Carey, and he held a long and prosperous career as a baseball announcer for various clubs, including over a decade and  half with the Cubs until his death in 1998. One fateful day in fall, Carey made the astonishing claim: “…sure as God made green apples, the Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” he spoke of the key ingredients of their success that were already in place, even though the team had only finished in first place twice in a thirty-year period prior and achieved a winning record just five times in that span, went through twenty-two different managers, and would eventually lose ace pitcher Greg Maddux. To peers of Carey’s in 1991, comments calling for a new manager “maybe Jimmy Frey” (who had been fired five years previously) or “this is a veteran team, guys who are young but still are veteran,” must have seen like ramblings of a senile loon, trapped in a quixotic myopia that was the blind love of a perpetually tottering baseball club. To some now, he might seem prescient. But Carey was just a dogmatic Hegelian.

II

Hegel is key to understanding the Cubs triumph and the end of history.

To summarize Hegel’s idealist views in a few pithy sentences would be a disservice to the philosopher and only accentuate the intellectual pratfalls of this essay. But fuck it.

Hegel believed the “real” world could be impacted by the “ideal” world (not necessarily directly, but indirectly), so our historical consciouses guide our human action which influences world behaviors which influence our historical consciouses.

So, when Carey stated twenty-five years prior to the realization that the Cubs would win the World Series, he was merely speaking from the realm of consciousness that all Cubs fans had, and eventually that idea broke through the nebulous of ideas into the world of reality, bringing in the end of history.

III

“But,” some might ask, “are we really at the end of history?”

Well, are the Cubs the World Series champions? Can any other team in Major League Baseball win the 2016 World Series now? Can anyone buy merchandise that claims otherwise?

We need not ask every crackpot fanatic their answer to the above questions. It matters very little what supporters of the Colorado Rockies, or New York Yankees, San Diego Padres or Detroit Tigers have to say about matters for they are not important enough. No. We need only ask these questions from other like-minded Cubbies.

Previously, the two biggest challengers to Chicago Cubs world dominance were the St. Louis Cardinals and goat curses. But as 2016 has shown us, what we always knew would be the case from the start, the Cubs handled the Cardinals (starting back in the 2015 NLDS when they defeated them to advance to the NLCS, but then winning the head-to-head series in 2016 and finishing seventeen and a half games ahead of them in the Central Division), and eventually broke the back of the vicious curse (with the throw from Bryant to Rizzo to capture the last out of the season).

Some may point out the Cardinals were plagued by injuries, suspensions, and other setbacks, and in an already weak Central Division, the Cubs were able to move through an easy schedule, or that they benefitted from a Giants victory over the Mets (a team they had a combined record of 2-9 over the past eleven games) in the Wild Card game, or that if the Cleveland pitching staff and outfielders had not played with comical Little League bungling in Game 6 or were not overwhelmed by the weight of their own being Cleveland-ness in Game 7, the Cubs might not be World Series Champions, and others point out that there are particularly searing issues the clubhouse will have to face in the future (Chapman and Fowler might move on; Heyward was not the player they paid for; no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees at the turn of this century) to ensure the Chicago Cubs hegemony.

With all these accusations flying about like a cherished W, it is possible to forget a simple truth. In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. The present world seems to have confirmed this fact and stayed relatively close to the fundamental principles that a baseball team should win the World Series, and even though it might have been 108 years between then and now before the Cubs won the championship again, no one can deny they did, in fact, win the World Series, thus not only breaking the curse but establishing the greatness and ubiquity of Cubbie-dom.

IV

What, then, does it mean to be at the end of history?

Ultimately, because the Cubs are World Series champions it means they will remain so for the foreseeable future and thus live at the end of history in their surfeit of celebratory goodies, parades, and glad tidings.

Clearly, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins still exist in the world, and thus in history, but for any team (or their fans) that want to experience the joy and wonder of being a champion, all they need to do is to stop being them and become a Chicago Cub.

Based off my connections with the front offices in Cleveland and even the South Side the intelligentsia is most likely already starting to make their moves northward.

V

The victory of the Cubs spells the death of the Billy Goat curse. Its passing means the growing “Common Cubbietization” of Major League Baseball, and the unlikely return of any other equal-measured competitor to rise from now till the Rapture.

This does not mean the end of all problems, per se, in Chicago. The river will still need to be dyed a natural color, Jay Cutler will still be the Bears quarterback, and millions of Chicagoans will continue to drink Old Style and eat a glorified bread bowl of meat, cheese, and red sauce they call “pizza”… which might compel one to wonder how significant a Cubs victory is, but… … …

Now and forever, the Cubs will remain the victors valiant, the heroes of the West(ern civilized world), there need not be another champion of the Major Leagues for there is no alternative now to the Chicago Cubs.

The end of history will be sad for many. The struggle for a new identity will be felt. Many Cubbies will have a hard time coming to terms with being winners. The willingness to get piss-drunk and risk arrest for a purely abstract goal of greatness by punching a Brewers fan in the face will be lost. The ethic of “Loveable Loserism”will be replaced by something less adhesive, some cold calculation of victory, an endless sea of championship paraphernalia.

All we will have to look forward to now is this boredom, and perhaps, one day, look back longingly at history.