Entries tagged with “Slim” from this Public Address 1.0
Then a strange imperative wells up in him: either stop writing, or write like a rat . . . If the writer is a sorcerer, it is because writing is a becoming, writing is traversed by strange becomings that are not becomings-writer, but becomings-rat, becomings-insect, becomings-wolf, etc.
Deluze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (240)
Walking with the beast
Desparate for something new, I mined an old tape case, and pulled out some music I hadn’t listened to in years. My listening habits have changed since I became more of a bibliophile. I don’t listen to music while reading like I used to. When I do listen, I tend to listen more deeply, and often repetitively. I suppose I got that habit from Slim.
Before I left on my trip, I had just received a copy of “Exile in Guyville” by Liz Phair, one of those records I didn’t pay any attention to when it first came round. I think I listened to it four times in a row, while getting the stuff together for my trip. I keep wanting to buy something new, but when I cruise the CD listings I balk at paying $18 for a CD. I tend to cruise for gems that I might have missed over the years, and buy the bargain CDs. This was a good choice, a real gem that I hadn’t heard before. Sometimes history seems so deep that it is hard to expend the energy on keeping up with the present.
My old tapes are split into three categories: live tapes of things I don’t want to risk to a car tape deck (probably about 5 or 6 hundred), a core group of around a hundred old beer-soaked and sun-bleached tapes that used to get me down the road in crazier days, and around a hundred tapes I made for archival purposes when I was living in a record store.
It wasn’t really a record store, it just had more records than many small record stores. It was the only time that I had a roommate. In a tiny ghetto apartment, Rick Hodgson paid half my rent, even though he spent most of his time with his girlfriend (now wife). He had a collection of around 2,000 records, and it sat in the same room with my collection of 1,200 or so. So I frantically taped a lot of his stuff. There was only a little overlap, though we did have many points of coincidence in our collections. He was more of a “hippie” type (though he had short hair) and I was more of a punk (though I had long hair). I never sold him on the Minutemen, but he never sold me on the Grateful Dead. It was fun for both of us to try though.
I pulled out a tape of Creedence Clearwater Revival albums, “Cosmos Factory” and “Willie and the Poor Boys” that I made from Rick’s albums, sometime in the early eighties, and a few beer soaked tapes from a little later than that from those old beat up tape cases, and hit the road.
From the moment that “Las Vegas Story” by the Gun Club started playing, I was transported back. Though I favor the Ward Dotson line-up (“Fire of Love” is one of my all-time favorite albums), it was a refreshing blast of tribal power. Music sets up territories, creates communities, and has a social function beyond its entertainment value. There is just something bestial about this music, then and now, and I was reminded just how small that community was. It was all about the tone. I never managed to sell many of my friends on this tone. They missed the point; it wasn’t about songs, lyrics, or chord structures. It was the tone.
I know a lot more about it now. Looking back, I can see that The Cramps had it; The Scientists had it; Neil Young and Crazy Horse had it; The Wipers had it. And the next forgotten gem on that tape, The Toiling Midgets “Deadbeats,” had it. So what was it?
Researching Defoe’s The Journal of the Plague Year has pointed to the power of historicity over and over. I think that has a lot to do with it. Rex, who turned me on to most of these bands, used to always say in the mid-eighties when we would listen to local schmoes pounding out their cover classics that “They have deep musical roots all the way back to 1977.” I think that’s it. What the tone I became sensitive to was the echo of a chord stretching all the way back to Robert Johnson and beyond; it was muscular, it had a power that refused to let go. Jeffrey Lee Pierce tapped into that tone, and like Johnson, he was walking with the beast. The claim to historicity gives weight and substance to any argument, and seemingly separates it from myth while it creates myths all its own.
When I heard the long versions of “Heard it through the Grapevine” and “Effigy” on that Creedence tape for the first time in 20 years or so, I realized that it was that same tone. A primal tone stretching back to the moment when humanity first began to make sense of pain through music. I resist all tendencies to abolish history, particularly that part that resonates inside me. That’s the problem with most Internet histories; they want to deny those things that ultimately, refuse to die. It’s the animal inside.
But some people just don’t hear it, and can’t hear the difference between the antiseptic studio perfection that some bands strive for, and real human tone. I’m not that interested in perfection. I’m in it for the beast. Sloppiness isn't a guarantee of it though, I still believe that the Grateful Dead definately never had it. I suspect they were just too stoned to let the beast in.
Searching the web a while back, I noted a brilliant site containing many poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.
But one poem was sadly lacking: "A Ramble in St. James Park". So, I decided to add it to the fine works of literature available on the net. It's a bit long for the front page, and a bit saucy. Please refrain from clicking the more link, if strong language and sexual content offends you.
I think if poetry like this was taught in school, there would be greater interest in poetry.
My friend Scott was always quick to announce that he didn’t jam. He wrote songs. I liked his reasoning, and it became a part of me. I don’t like jamming much at all. It just wanders around and goes nowhere. I like to get somewhere when I write, even if it’s just a closing paradox. I’m forever trying to get things to gel.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t riff sometimes. Sometimes, weird connections result. I was thinking about Technicolor and quicksand.
Quicksand is easy. When too much fluid quickly enters a loose collection of silica particles, a flux results. The flux doesn’t bear weight easily, and things that rest upon it slide down, engulfed. Is this a bad thing? It’s actually close to HP Grice’s view of the process of making meaning. Essentially, humanity is awash in particles of meaning. We reach out to adjacent particles of meaning (implicatures) and depending on where we are in the cultural flux, we grasp at the particles of best fit dependent on our situation. But the postmodernists claim that the concrete grasp of meaning is impossible and our only choice is to swim in the flux playfully rather than drown, struggling against the shifting tide of history.
The particles of meaning could also be called beliefs. In order to be useful, they need not be fixed— just close to where we are at that point in time. But quicksand is a much more poetic term for the process involved, and naturally it made me think of the Bowie song.
I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
I'm living in a silent film
Portraying Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power, anymore
No I ain't got the power anymore
How can I make this gel with where I am now? It’s easier than it seems.
WB Yeats was a member of the Golden Dawn. Yeats and his beloved Maud Gonne were wrapped up in it, and Yeats was instrumental in exiling Crowley from the order. Yeats believed in responsibilities, whereas Crowley’s edict (appropriated from Rabelais) was “Do what thou wilt.” Freedom from moral responsibility was not something that Yeats could buy into, though as I researched it today, the parallels with Crowley are astounding. The oft quoted Crowley maxim was conveyed in a book supposedly dictated by spirit voices to his wife in 1904, thirteen years before Yeats claimed his own credo was delivered by the same method. The quicksand deepens.
Yeats cut deep to the core of mythos throughout most of his career. It was also the project of Maud Gonne and the women of the Golden Dawn to create rituals for a “castle of heroes” where the old ways of moral responsibility might be recaptured. They were repulsed by Crowley’s debauchery, though they were hardly prudes themselves. The “secret knowledge” that Yeats felt was “just for schoolmates” was part of an effort to reclaim a higher moral ground in Ireland.
The Western Esoteric tradition, which both Yeats and Crowley are voices of, sought to reclaim the power of the individual in a neo-romantic way. There is a conflict between freedom and responsibilties that Bowie conveys amazingly well through his slippery dialogic song. I find it interesting that Bowie chose the image of “living in a silent film” to convey the monochrome nature of the conflict. You can envision the goose-stepping propoganda films, and Ezra Pound's (or perhaps Mussolini's) Italy where the trains run on time. All systems are by nature reductive; even when couched in elaborate mystical mumbo-jumbo they don’t capture the full spectrum of life experience. Sometimes bad guys don’t wear black, even if we wish they would, as we all drag closer to that ragged hole in the ground where we find rest.
I'm the twisted name on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of Churchill's lies
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Should I kiss the viper's fang
Or herald loud the death of Man
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore
“The vipers fang” is a Golden Dawn reference as well,and it seems implicit that if we all did what we wanted it would be the end of society. But there is no stability to be found at either pole; the chorus of nihilism is the only relaxation of tension contained in the song.
Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release
But in the grand old Greek tradition, the actions of the speaker are not in concord with the chorus. Though the nihilist cry that nothing is worth believing seems trapped in an endless loop, the credo is far outside real human experience. One doesn't have to be a prophet to believe in something. And believing something doesn't mean that you'll believe just anything.
I’m not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On the next Bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore
The spectrum expressed here isn’t colorful, it’s reason versus the emotional need for faith. I’ve been told my worldview is monochromatic, and I suppose it is. Too much time as a photographer. Color film (and or CCD sensors) don’t ring true for me. Technicolor lies. When I owned a photo lab in the early 80s, I sent film out to the Technicolor processing plant in Fresno, California. My slides always came back blue. Though it was flattering on skyscapes, it was quite far from the reality of a blanched greyish-brown California sky.
Nothing really captures the spectrum of reality and it seems as if reduction and negation are our only tools to deal with it. Yes, it is quicksand. I may not have the power, but I’m doing my best to learn to swim through the particles I can grasp. I don’t think I’d look as good in a funny hat as Crowley does.
I can’t jam. I’m stuck with making jelly out of my brain. It beats having the blues, especially the phony Technicolor ones.
In a Dark Time is right about poems being “living things.” I'd extend that to words in general. Language is a living, evolving, changing thing. When I first heard this Bowie song, I had no clue about Nietzsche’s superman, or the Golden Dawn, or any of this stuff. I just liked the song. My feelings and interpretation have changed, obviously, over the years. They are deeper now, but I still mistrust the notion of color. I’ve sunk a long way into the quicksand.
One of the weird observations that has been made about me over the years is that I don’t think the way other people do. My process is different, and some people I’ve known have found it fascinating. They just couldn’t figure out how I got from A to B. I get pretty twisted-up sometimes.
But I don’t jam.
Someone from the Mike Watt mailing list typed it in, and in order not to lose it I decided to save it here. Jeffery Lee Pierce is quite a guy:
"People who take things that seriously should just go out and commit suicide. I was drunk when I wrote most of those songs - I don't remember anything!"
Now that's a good excuse
Watching Go West by the Marx Brothers oddly reminded me of a Leaving Trains song from the seminal album Fuck called "Temporal Slut." Falling James is a nice guy, happily an ex-husband of Courtney Love. I was luckily able to photograph a side project of his involving my friend Slim, called the Space Okies. I'll have to dig those photos out someday.
But I digress.
While I'm digressing, the altavista translator is great for hours of fun. A German article about the Leaving Trains translates quite nicely. Here's the section about Well Down Blue Highway, the first album of theirs that I heard:
The debut has a very melancholischen Unterton and sounds in the comparison to the later work of the LEAVING TRAINS somewhat unausgegoren and toughly, but nothing the despite are some beads on the disk, which let hope for large. Until today James has never also only a lausigen cent for " waves down Blue Highway " seen. Enigma, the exploiter sow. James operates in the local public library, picks dear novels out for old Vetteln, is mostly deprimiert, no woman does not want Sex with it and many clubs to want the Trains not post, because James has so a large lip and so that a safe guarantor for annoyance is.Many of my friends are that way: "so a large lip and so that a safe guarantor for annoyance is." And I'm always letting hope for large myself, even though I have some beads on my disk.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Marx Brothers. The movie featured some nicely stereotypical movie Indians running around saying How! Ever wonder why Indians in the movies say how? Why not Why or Where or When? Anyway, the only way that the Marx brothers are able to communicate with the Indians is when Harpo turns a loom (textism?) into a harp and begins to play. Music has an interesting correspondence with speech acts. They are both durative: they take place over time. Musicians are, in the best sense of the word, temporal sluts that communicate in a way that is meaningless without a sense of time.
The only way to impose a sense of time on a written text is through narrative. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. Use tricks to speed it up and slow it down, through meter and alliteration, imitate the presence of existential time. I think that's the key difference between conventional hypertext and blogging: the presence of a sense of time. Without it, there is no narrative.
I like the definition of time offered by Michael J. Toolan in Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Approach:
Time is perceived repetition within perceived irreversible changeThis ties together the patterning, the repetitions of most blog entries, into a neatly tied bundle of narrative time. It seems to me that we're almost programed to do it, in order to make sense of time.
Turner Classic Movies answers the big questions, indeed. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex is up later. I can't wait.
I took out the trash late last night and noticed that my neighbors are more prominantly displaying their pictures of Vishnu, perhaps to remind everyone that they are hindu and not muslim. I doubt if most rednecks know the difference. The one thing I've missed all week is all the Indian children playing outside my door. They are so well behaved and polite, especially when compared to American children. But they've been inside, even though the weather has been beautiful.
I read the essay I finished last night, Hot and Bothered this morning and was appalled at all the errors. Of course, in fixing it it's now grown to 3,000 words. I actually requested that I not be forced to read it in class, partly because it contains drug references that some might take exception at (being the bible-belt and all) and partly because I have the sneaking suspicion that most just won't get it. After I finish posting this, I'll fix the online version. There were some good essays read in class today, and I wonder at my ability to always pick the most complex things to try and convey. Yeah, like I'm going to explain a town in a 1000 word essay. It's tough, even with 3,000 words. But I've never been good at scaling back. This crap just flows out of me, and I'm starting to really appreciate just how much people just don't want to know.
My buddy Slim wrote a song about that once. People always ask "how are you doing?" but they sort of brace against it, because you know that they don't really want to know. People are complicated; you've got to be careful who you let in. The problem is, eventually, no one gets inside without bursting into flames from the pent-up tangle of emotions, especially from so-called arty types like me.
When I walked outside after class, it was black. The rain clouds moved in, and I knew it would be sprinkling by the time I got out of the library. I had to xerox four essays to read tonight, but I think I'm going to put that off and read more of Hume's History of England instead. I can read more about "process theory" tomorrow. The books I ordered from Powells shocked me by showing up today: Doing Documentary Work by Robert Coles and The Mind's Eye by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I'm tempted... but... school, think school. The history at least helps me make sense of Milton!
When I got home I could see the little indian children playing inside their apartments through sliding glass doors. There are a lot of Indian or Pakastani children, and adults, in my apartment complex. I really hope that things stay as low key as they've been. Everyone is looking so serious. Smiles are hard to come by these days.