Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 14, 2009 - July 7, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Supreme hearings today. Watching?

Later, they both met with Harry Reid or some other Dem handler.

SUPREME SILLINESS. I have nothing but sympathy for the legal experts over at NRO who are carefully examining Sotomayor's judicial record for hints and penumbras and suchlike about her views vis a vis "the law." They are concerned. They have documentary evidence for their concern. They have impeccable explanations of the precise reasons for their concern.

I'm not concerned. I'm just mad. The hearings today are a formality, a foregone conclusion, a farce. Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians aren't going to do anything. They were more upset about Harriet Miers than they are about this washerwoman.

It's a good thing justice is blind, isn't it?
Oh, that's right. It won't be much longer.
Maybe implants and lipo
are a good idea.

What is there to analyze? She's another Obama race fascist, or he wouldn't have nominated her. She despises white people, she supports partial birth abortion (for white people), and she'd just as soon wipe her ass with the constitution as with a lily pad. She'll do everything she can to facilitate the Mexican invasion that will help fulfill Obama's dream of turning the United States into a poor, lawless, pidgin-speaking Third World Nation.

So, today, our Defenders of the Constitution are going to ask her -- what? How many lies she's willing to tell to get a prestigious lifetime income for committing treason?

NRO can't say this. They're required to be reasonable. We're not. We can look at the situation and call it what it is -- a joke, a travesty, a tragedy. But don't expect us to go into details about every single step of the BataaanObama Death March. Not going to happen. If somebody says something funny, like, say, Arlen "Who Can I Betray Today" Specter, we might weigh in. Otherwise we're going to sit right here on our own pastoral riverbank and pretend we're as myopic as good old Mr. Mole.

Ratty's got a full-boat ride at Princeton, so he won't be rowing much longer.

What are you doing today?

In a hole? Beat it.

YIPPEE-KAI-O-FORGET-IT. Here's the scoop, kids. Well, it's not really a scoop, because there are no new factual revelations to spin your head around. It's a conceptual scoop. You get to decide what you think it's worth. But here it is.

The Obama administration does not believe that Islamist organizations who claim to hate the United States pose any threat. There is no need for any War on Terror. Or: the casualties of any such war against the U.S. and for sharia simply do not matter.

Maybe that's reassuring to you. If so, good. We're not evaluating anything here but inescapable implications. Which are that the Obama adminstration and the Democrats in charge of congress have left themselves so wide open that any attack on America which occurs in the next three and a half years will sweep them from power for a generation. The Justice Department has a bee so far up its nose about the Bush administration that it's prepared to cripple the already, uh, "challenged" CIA for the purpose of prosecuting Dick Cheney and (pant, pant, pant...) well, guess who. Here's an excerpt from the sexiest new political tabloid in the nation's capital, the Newsweek Enquirer.

Independent’s Day

Obama doesn't want to look back, but Attorney General
Eric Holder may probe Bush-era torture anyway.

It's the morning after Independence Day, and Eric Holder Jr. is feeling the weight of history. The night before, he'd stood on the roof of the White House alongside the president of the United States, leaning over a railing to watch fireworks burst over the Mall, the monuments to Lincoln and Washington aglow at either end. "I was so struck by the fact that for the first time in history an African-American was presiding over this celebration of what our nation is all about," he says. Now, sitting at his kitchen table in jeans and a gray polo shirt, as his 11-year-old son, Buddy, dashes in and out of the room, Holder is reflecting on his own role. He doesn't dwell on the fact that he's the country's first black attorney general. He is focused instead on the tension that the best of his predecessors have confronted: how does one faithfully serve both the law and the president?

There's an obvious affinity between Holder and the man who appointed him to be the first black attorney general of the United States. They are both black men raised outside the conventional African-American tradition who worked their way to the top of the meritocracy. They are lawyers committed to translating the law into justice. Having spent most of their adult lives in the public arena, both know intimately the tug of war between principle and pragmatism. Obama, Holder says confidently, "understands the nature of what we do at the Justice Department in a way no recent president has. He's a damn good lawyer, and he understands the value of having an independent attorney general"...

The next few weeks, though, could test Holder's confidence. After the prospect of torture investigations seemed to lose momentum in April, the attorney general and his aides turned to other pressing issues. They were preoccupied with Gitmo, developing a hugely complex new set of detention and prosecution policies, and putting out the daily fires that go along with running a 110,000-person department. The regular meetings Holder's team had been having on the torture question died down. Some aides began to wonder whether the idea of appointing a prosecutor was off the table.

But in late June Holder asked an aide for a copy of the CIA inspector general's thick classified report on interrogation abuses. He cleared his schedule and, over two days, holed up alone in his Justice Depart ment office, immersed himself in what Dick Cheney once referred to as "the dark side." He read the report twice, the first time as a lawyer, looking for evidence and instances of transgressions that might call for prosecution. The second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was "shocked and saddened," he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America's name. When he was done he stood at his window for a long time, staring at Constitution Avenue.

Awwwww. That is just soooooo sweet, isn't it? The idealism of the guy who, according to a WAPO columnist, did this::

[Marc] Rich was a commodities trader who amassed both a fortune and some influential friends in the 1970s and '80s. Along with his partner, Pincus Green, he was indicted in 1983 on 65 counts of tax evasion and related matters. Before he could be prosecuted, however, he fled to Switzerland. There he remained, avoiding extradition and eventually arranging to be represented by Jack Quinn, a Washington lawyer and Clinton's onetime White House counsel -- in other words, a certified power broker. Quinn did an end run around the Justice Department's pardon office and went straight to Holder and the White House. With a stroke of a pen, justice was not done.

Holder was not just an integral part of the pardon process, he provided the White House with cover by offering his go-ahead recommendation. No alarm seemed to sound for him. Not only had strings been pulled, but it was rare to pardon a fugitive -- someone who had avoided possible conviction by avoiding the inconvenience of a trial. The U.S. attorney's office in New York -- which, Holder had told the White House, would oppose any pardon -- was kept ignorant of what was going on. Afterward, it was furious.

When I tell people that I am bothered by the choice of Holder for attorney general, they invariably say that everyone is entitled to a mistake. Yes, indeed. And I add for them that in almost every other way, Holder is a dream nominee. He has been U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a judge and a well-regarded lawyer in private practice. Moreover, to my personal knowledge, he is charming and well liked by his subordinates. A better attorney general nominee you're not likely to find . . . the pardon excepted.

But the pardon cannot be excepted. It suggests that Holder, whatever his other qualifications, could not say no to power. The Rich pardon request had power written all over it -- the patronage of important Democratic fundraisers, for instance. Holder also said he was "really struck" by the backing of Rich by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the possibility of "foreign policy benefits that would be reaped by granting the pardon." This is an odd standard for American justice, but more than that, what was Holder thinking? That U.S.-Israeli relations would suffer? Holder does not sound naive. He sounds disingenuous.

Wake up, people. If Holder is going after Cheney and Bush, it's because the president wants him to. I'm not even going to comment on what it means that a sitting president is intent on criminalizing his predecessors. All I'm interested in for the sake of this post is what it means about the assumptions of the Obama administration with regard to the War on Terror. They don't believe there's any threat from Islamic fascists who want to bring down the United States. If they thought there was a threat, they wouldn't allow all the morale-sapping sniping by the congress at the CIA. And they certainly wouldn't risk going after the people whose record is inarguable: during the Bush administration, the United States was not attacked on its home soil after 9/11. Why would you fuck with that record? You wouldn't. Unless you really truly believed that we're in no danger of future attack or you don't care if we are attacked.

I'm prepared to believe the Obama administration thinks another attack would be good for us, another humbling experience for which our president would no doubt apologize again to the perpetrators. But I can't believe the Democrat Party shares this view. They MUST know that any attack on U.S,. soil, given the adminstration's ostentatious dilution of all anti-terror measures and vindictive persecution of the very people who kept us safe for so long, would represent immediate electoral death.

Therefore -- the Democrats really, truly, honestly, completely believe that there's no threat to worry about.

If that's the case, why don't they bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq immediately? If there's no threat, there's no need for "our boys and girls" to risk their lives for a single additional day. And why don't they share with us the reason for their certainty that every city and town in America is immune to the crazed adherents of what they all insist on calling the "religion of peace." (Which is only accurate if "peace" is synonymous with "submission," which begins to seem like an understandable Democrat use of the Thesaurus.)

OR. Are they really this fucking stupid? So fucking stupid as to bet that they can stop fighting Islamist terror without making it inevitable that the rest of us will pay a huge price for their unprincipled whoring after more partisan power? Is this really what Chuck Schumer learned at Harvard Law and what Harry Reid learned at the Nevada School of Crooked Auto Mechanics?

You decide. I'm too busy throwing up in the bushes over here.

Gypsy Jackknife

HE LOVED HER. He was three and a half feet tall. But he was there. Which is more than most people ever are. Another story of the beginning:

From the rope of Gypsy Jackknife,  last king of Punk City:

This length begins with a scrap of shiny blue cut from the sleeve of the cop who sneered, “All the scum in Philly is moving to  South Street. Why don’t you?”
2  I had been a sidewalk artist on the streets of Center City. I had been a vagrant.
3  In summer I slept on grates or inside the empty clanging bells of dumpsters.
4  In winter I holed up in flophouses and slept with my hands wrapped in dirty rags.
5  At twenty years of age I had achieved nothing but subsistence, and my belongings amounted to no more than thirty feet of rope, a bag of art supplies, and a knapsack full of clothes.
6  These I carried with me on the long baking walk from City Hall to the end of South Street, where I set up shop on the concrete median that bisected Headhouse Square.

South Street was a different world.
2     Downtown is big and smells like steel.
3     Headhouse Square smelled of brick and the river, which flowed not half a thousand yards from my median.
4     There were other scents as well—a trace of sweat, a now and again hint of booze or burgers, the gray exhaust of trucks and cars, and the once in a while perfume of ladies in silk.
5     I tossed away the steel of my downtown style and painted pastels on parchment outside the grand main entrance of the New Market Mall, to which shoppers flocked like gilded geese.
6     A quaint brick arcade stood due north of me, and beyond it sat a row of eighteenth century townhouses, snug and invincible behind barred windows and rich brass locks.
7     From that direction came my most lucrative trade, young bankers with fins to spend on their perfect girlfriends, lawyers’ sons and daughters with chemical visions and cash enough to pay me for making them real, lonely divorcees in search of an excuse to stand in the street flaunting their wares while I made them lovely in chalk.

I made enough of them lovely enough that I was able to rent a home of my own, the first I had known in years.
2     It wasn’t a house but a loft above a secondhand store on South Street, opposite a crumbling movie theater called the Emporium of Cinematic and Creative Expression.
3     I chose the loft because it was large and cheap and had a freight elevator that allowed me not to climb stairs.
4     It also had a room as long as a short city block, which permitted me to work on art projects of my own, not for money but for pleasure.
5     I laid my canvases on the floor, under a low lattice of scaffolding that enabled me to crawl about, inches above the canvas, with palette, brushes, and rags in my hands and teeth.
6     I had to do it that way because easels and even upright canvases stand too tall.
7     I am a dwarf, you see.

I worked the median for months, through summer, fall, and winter, while the Square underwent a transformation.
2     The punks had been there when I arrived, but they had not ruled South Street. They seemed to live only in the few hours between dark and last call.
3     They drank, they pranced, they bounced their music off the city’s streetlit sky.
4     Briefly they attacked the world across an iron sea of guitars while half a dozen bars on South Street trembled to the dissonant directionless beat of the slam dance, which built like nausea into a vomitus that erupted onto the pavement in drunken fistfights and earsplitting obscenities.
5     The arrival of the cops was a ritual, the signal to end the horseplay and go on up to bed.

The punks had been, like me, the refuse that drifts across any urban landscape, unsightly but unowned by anyone of importance, a concern only to the city’s army of maintenance personnel.
2     But sometimes what should be washed or flushed away in the natural course of things is not flushed away but clogs the drains, and the distasteful here and there of litter grows into an appalling noisome everywhere of useless nothing that suddenly cannot be ignored.
3     And so it was with the punks. Unwanted, uncalled for, they nevertheless multiplied.
4     No longer content to live only at night, they moved by degrees into the daylight, like shocking clouds that will not drift away.

They roamed everywhere, white pinched faces wearing warpaint and cold eyes, leather and denim steeped in sweat, hair like psychotic topiary.
2     As their numbers grew, they established new rituals.
3     Once a week they blitzed the mall in metallic glee, hard shouldering the shoppers, slam dancing the aisles, leaving a trail of broken things behind them.
4     On a gunmetal day in February, they broke the arm of a Pinkerton who tried to stop their fun, and when the medics arrived they broke the light bar off the ambulance and took it for a trophy.
5     In time, they broke the simple commercial rhythms of Headhouse, and half a dozen merchants fled the mall, which closed its doors for a month before reopening under new management that believed in armed guards and police dogs and mounted troopers circumnavigating the New Market courtyard once an hour.
6     The punks laughed and jeered but took the hint and painted a line down the middle of Headhouse, one foot to the South Street side of my place of business.
7     My median thus became the great divide – between the Headhouse arcade and South Street, between permanence and transience, between the old guard of Society Hill and the young lions of Punk City, who were building into a dangerous new pride.

I had my own encounters with punks. No one had taught them not to stare at people like me, and often I would look up from my work to see a couple of them laughing and pointing in my direction.
2     A few seemed to regard my little business as an opportunity to pick up women.
3     One afternoon, I was doing portraits of two young girls. I took them to be college students. They wore expensive clothes and jewelry, but they giggled at every detail I added to the parchment.
4     A shadow swallowed the light I had been working in. I turned to see two punks standing, hands on hips, in a spot that allowed them to compare my rendering to its model.
5     “What d’you think?” the tall one asked his companion. He was long-legged and powerfully built, the muscles of his chest too massive to be contained by his leather vest. His coal black hair looked like it had been cut with a knife, and his nose was pierced by a safety pin.
6     “I think the retard is for shit,” said the other. He was rock-star thin, with a face so pretty it explained the swarm of ugly tattoos on his arms. “She’s a lot foxier than the crap on the paper shows.”
7     The girls giggled again. Maybe this was why they had come to South Street, to have a brush with lower class testosterone.
8     The tall one made introductions. “I’m Slash Frazzle,” he said, as if everybody knew it already. “This is Johnny Stamp. He’s the drummer in my band. Hate Mail. You’ve maybe heard of us.”
9     Receiving no reply, he advanced on the closer of the two girls, placed a hand on her back. “Johnny and I was on our way to my place to blow some weed. How about it?”
10     The girl shrugged away from his hand and, no longer giggling, edged toward the street with her friend. They hadn’t paid me yet and I was nervous.
11      “Maybe you gentlemen wouldn’t mind taking a raincheck,” I said. “I think the young ladies have another engagement.”
12     So easily that I might have been a doll stuffed with straw, Slash Frazzle plucked me off the median and held my face to his own. His words struck me like spit. “The next time you get between me and a bitch I’m trying to ball, I’ll tear your f___ing retard head off. Got it?”
13     Then he tossed me casually into my chalks, crushing most of them. When I got to my feet the girls were scampering toward the mall, and their would-be suitors were sauntering in pursuit.
14     I watched until the girls disappeared around a corner into an area I knew the cops patrolled. Then I gathered up the ruins of my supplies and went home.
15     It was the first time I had ever exchanged words with a punk. I couldn’t sit without discomfort for three days.

Soon afterwards I met my first female punk.
2     I was packing up for the day. My take had been good, and a plump little mountain of bills sat inside my cigar box.
3     When I had closed the knapsack containing my chalks and paper, I reached for the box and saw a pair of shabby spike heels and slim but grimy ankles almost straddling it.
4     I looked up in surprise. Above the ankles was a pair of long legs, and much more.
5     It must have been her performing costume: a slitted crotch-length skirt, a leather corset that barely covered her nipples, a painted, aquiline face, and topping it off, a tiara made of red-tipped syringes.
6     She wasn’t wearing any underpants.
7     I stumbled backward away from her but she followed, extending an arm covered with blotchy bruises from wrist to elbow.
8     “I have to go stage in a hour,” she said. “I’m a singer. My band’s got a gig at Gobb’s tonight.”
9     Her eyes were as vacant and inert as if they’d been installed by a taxidermist.
10     Her voice was husky, vaguely accented. “I have to buy something before I go on stage, and you can see I don’t got a purse with my outfit. Can I borrow a few bucks. Say, twenty-five?”
11      I stared at her. She was a dyed blonde, that shade of platinum which glows and shimmers even when it’s filthy.
12    She went on in a monotone, as if reading the lines from a script. “I could make it worth your while. I could make you feel r-e-e-e-al good.”
13    I felt sickened, humiliated, to be the living proof of another’s degradation. And diseased for wanting to take advantage of it.
14    I dove for the box, grabbed it with shaking hands, and thrust it at her. “Take it,” I said.
15     Clutching her prize, she began walking unsteadily away, hesitated, looked back. “Maybe I’ll see you again,” she said. And then – as if remembering something long gone – she added, “Thanks.”
16     “You’re welcome,” I said.
17     She gazed down at me without expression. “You’re a nice little man,” she ventured. “What’s your name?”
18    I told her. My heart was hammering. “What’s yours?”
19     “Liz Smack.” With a dull laugh she added, “My stage name.”
20     Then she walked away, her heels clicking faster and faster as she remembered what she could buy with the box.

I kept an eye out for her after that. She appeared on the edge of my horizon now and again, but always at a distance, in glimpses that confirmed her reality but told me nothing new.
2     I worked on a portrait of her from memory, but I couldn’t capture such emptiness in paint.
3     Maybe I didn’t want to.
4     My canvas seemed to contain my wish for her, the eyes waiting and watchful, which was a lie.
5     When I finished it I turned the painting to the wall and tried to ignore it.
6     But one rainy night when I couldn’t sleep I got out a can of red paint and slapped it over the canvas until there was no remaining trace of the strong-boned face and its wideset eyes.
7     It didn’t help me sleep any better.

As time went on, the punks became an inevitable part of my life.
2     There was a huge drunk with a bushy mohawk set off by tattoos on the shaven sides of his head. But he didn’t ask for the warhawks and demons that adorned his skull. From me he wanted willow trees.
3     I could not afford to be careless. Each time I had to scan his face and read today’s tree, which differed from yesterday’s by the amount more or less than yesterday he'd had to drink.
4     A six-drink tree glowed with late afternoon sun, each slender strand of bunched leaves outlined in gold light.
5     A ten drink tree wreathed a barn light at night, the curve of green tresses defined by tattered reflected glitter.
6     His mood also affected his trees, so that I had to watch his bloody eyes for signs of winter ice or green spring lingerie.
7     He called me Sawed-off, and I called him Stoplight for his nose.

There was a sad-eyed, broken-nosed blond who called me Two Stroke and paid me a dollar apiece for cobras that breathed flame.
2     I greeted him as Snake Man, but I didn’t think the name really fit until later, when I had occasion to see him as something more than a loose-gaited country boy who’d wandered too far from the farm.

There was an Amazon who defied the punk fashion code by dressing completely in pink, from hair to boots and from nails to makeup.
2     With me she was jovial and hearty, trading spare change for glamour portraits of her face and body, always in pink pastels.
3     When she got to be a regular customer, I asked her, “Can I just start calling you Miss Pink or do I have to get a formal introduction first?”
4     She laughed. “What are you? Psychic or something?”
5     I tapped my temple to confirm it.
6     “Then you must know my full name,” she teased.
7     “Miss Pinkie Pink,” I suggested.
8     “But you know I’m a punk,” she chided me. “It’s got to be nastier than that.”
9     “I give up,” I told her, putting the finishing touches on a hipshot, she-cat version of her intimidating figure.
10     She raised a finger. “Okay. A punk joke. What do you do after a slamdance with a gorilla?”
11       “I don’t know.”
12    “Piss Pink.”
13     I was incredulous. “Piss Pink?”
14    “Not here,” she said primly. “The cops wouldn’t like it.”
15     She seemed the happiest punk on South Street.

The most mysterious punk on South Street was another one of my regulars, a taciturn fellow who always asked me to draw the angel of death.
2     He invariably thanked me but my drawings didn’t hit the mark, even though he gave me as much as he could afford, which was usually only a few pennies.
3     He was slight and diffident under his mohawk, with deep-set eyes and hands so pale they resembled blue-veined candlewax.
4     When I saw him walk by I’d ask, “Angel? Try again?” and he’d wait patiently while I chalked another figure on the median.
5     But I always failed. My angels looked like church ornaments copied from statues and stained glass windows.
6     “What am I doing wrong?” I asked him finally, frustrated that I couldn’t earn even the pennies he paid.
7     He gave me a half smile and made a quick gesture with a finger around the eyes.
8     And so I started again, this time doing the eyes first, allowing the rest of the image to develop slowly around them, like a photograph.
9     When I finished I glanced my question at him, and he nodded, rummaged in his pocket for change that wasn’t there.
10     He scowled, then reached for his throat and untied the red neckerchief he always wore. He folded it carefully and placed it in my hands.
11      “You are a lens,” he said, “Small, yes. But powerful enough to start a fire.”
12      “Thank you,” I said. He walked rapidly away across the Square.
13     I studied what I’d drawn. The angel’s eyes seemed to sink miles into the asphalt bowels of the city, and there was a power and immediacy in them I’d never achieved before.
14     The effect was disquieting, as if the force behind the eyes might erupt through the pavement and mold my flat chalk lines into a solid presence.
15     Within an hour I’d made up an excuse to wash the drawing away, and I watched the white chalk slip down the sewer grate like a shroud being yanked into the underworld.

The punks who talked to me and paid me for drawings were the exceptions, though. Most seemed intent on acting cold, tough, rude and apart.
2     When I saw how they treated one another, with cruel cuffs and jibes, I was grateful to be ignored.
3     South Street did remind me of a lion’s den, full of hungry young carnivores who had yet to learn about men.

But the punks weren’t the only predators in town, and their appetites had awakened the jackals who lurk in the corners of every urban territory.
2     From my bed at night I began to hear the rumble of Harleys as inner city gangs rolled in to promote the drug trade.
3     For a month or two there was a honeymoon, as bikers drank and partied with whitebread punks.
4     The bikers’ was a false and exaggerated friendliness, like the outlaw’s compliments to the barmaid he plans to drag behind the stable.

By summer’s end the mounted police had deserted the mall, and even the cop cars had ceased cruising South Street.
2     Instead there were bikers stationed at every corner, parading their colors and doing a brisk business in packets of white powder.
3     The punks were traveling in larger groups, and at night there were no longer parties but cash transactions at the corner of Third and South.
4     The music was still loud, electric, and angry, and its crescendos sometimes exploded into bloody brawls, with bikers on one side and coked up punks on the other.
5     Once, when a foghorn woke me prematurely in the gray of false dawn, I looked out to see four still bodies lying in the street, their mohawks not suggesting slain Indians so much as children butchered at a costume party.
6     They disappeared before the sun could prove they weren’t just shadows or a dreadful dream.
7     Then and after, the men in blue avoided South Street with maddening consistency.

Less cocky now, the punks weren’t so quick to laugh at me, and they accepted my presence as part of the landscape. When they got bored, they sometimes gathered to watch me work.
2     They had few suggestions, but I saw the sack of Rome lying dormant in the concrete, and I extracted it one chalk stroke at a time into the light.
3     Goths and Visigoths and Vandals stormed across my median into the villas of the Seven Hills, burning them to the ground.
4     I strove for the spectacular, hoping that bigger audiences might bring back two of the regulars I hadn’t seen for a while.
5     Because I suspected that something had happened to Stoplight and to Angel. Something grim and something final.
6     My suspicion turned to dread when I had to watch another of my regulars fight for his life.

Unlike most of the other punks, the Snake Man went his way alone.
2     One day I saw him walk through a knot of bikers and make some derogatory gesture, whether at bike or rider I couldn’t be sure.
3     They erupted in foul-mouthed rage.
4     I saw the sparkle of a swinging chain. I saw the bikers crouch, move in, arms pumping, fists gleaming with brass.
5     I was terrified for their target, recalling his melancholy smile and the time he had gravely shaken my hand.
6     But somehow he eeled out between their legs and whirled back into their midst with the tire iron he wore under his long khaki coat.
7     The iron struck again and again, quicker than a glint of silver, and the fight was all over before I could even gasp my surprise.
8      One biker was holding his forearm, not stopping the bright fountain that spouted from his wrist.
9     Another lay on the ground, blood pooling under his head.
10     A third had the tire iron buried in his belly, a look of petrifying shock on his gray face.
11      The Snake Man was nowhere to be seen.

I should have been outraged that he could do such violence.
2     I should have been sickened by the blood and nearness of death.
3     But I had begun to realize that the punks had nowhere else to go,
4     And a part of me admired the Snake Man for not being afraid of the colors and headbands and hidden weapons.
5     The punks were teenage delinquents. The bikers were murderous mercenaries.
6     They looked at me with funny smiles, as if I were some stupid toy they wanted to smash, later on, when the mood struck them.
7     I wasn’t sorry they had misjudged my friend.

He showed up two days later with a dollar for another drawing.
2     “You had me worried,” I told him. “You’re one of my best customers.”
3     “Scooter trash,” he said shortly. “It’s time we took Punk City back for the punks.”
4     The terminus of South Street was due south of me, an angled glimpse of the squalor that had sired this hard new world.
5     I could just make out the ECCE marquee announcing the newest weird exercise in film.
6     Beneath it, the bikers were parked like sentinels, waiting for any excuse, and I could feel their eyes on the Snake Man and me.
7     “Maybe,” I told him. “it’s time for me to move on. You know what happens to people who get caught in the middle."
8     “Nothing will happen to you,” he declared.
9     “There was a big guy with tattoos on his head,” I said. “And a sad guy with a red neckerchief. Nothing happened to them either, I suppose.”
10     The Snake Man mused for a moment. Then turned and whistled at some punks who were turning the corner, heading up South Street.
11      “Come along,” he shouted.
12     They came and the Snake Man introduced me to all of them.
13     Like most of the punks these days, they were wearing white pancake makeup, and black grease around their eyes.
14     It was hard to tell them apart, but they grinned at me through anthracite lips, and I tried to grin back.
15    Their names were Ripp Starr, Kassander, and Zero Daze.
16    “Two Stroke here is familish,” the Snake Man told them in the new lingo used to keep conversations private from the bikers. “Blood. Spreaddaword.
17     “Anybody rocks him gets rocked.
18     “Any dukeshit mocks him gets rocked. Same as they mocks us.
19     “The same,” he repeated, glaring. “Tadeath.”
20      Then each of them bent down and shook my hand, swore he would spread the word.
21     They strode away across the Square, and looking after them I felt, not safer, but more at home.
22     “Now don’t talk no more about leaving,” the Snake Man said, reverting to English now that his comrades were gone.
23      “It’ll get better here. And you’re good luck. I can feel it. Okay?”

And so I stayed, through another summer, into the false gold of autumn in Philadelphia.
2     Business stayed bad and got worse. But the Snake Man still wanted cobras, Piss Pink still had her appetite for self portraits, and other punks kicked in too. I didn’t prosper but I was getting by.
3     Then came the first sign of the horror to come. I awoke to see it from my window, across the chasm of South Street.
4     It is this knot here, tuxedo black with a glaze of rust.

Perhaps there is something called truth, but who gets to decide what it is?
2  The papers stirred their pots of speculation and presumed to explain it all, though they never offered reasons and never solved the crime.
3  They reported that a well-to-do young lawyer had been abducted from a Main Line church in the middle of his own wedding.
4  A day later his body was found nailed to the wall of the ECCE under the Coming Attractions sign.
5 The corpse was encrusted with dried blood, its eyes and mouth agape in the stone horror of rigor mortis.
6  For once, the police did find their way to South Street and quickly announced that a splinter group of outlaw punk rockers was responsible for the atrocity.
7  Eyewitnesses at the church were contradictory about details but unambiguous about the punk attire of the kidnappers, and for a day or two the tabloids throbbed with pleased revulsion at “The South Street Crucifixion.”
8  The ECCE closed its doors and did not reopen.
9  No theater could offer an illusion to compete with such a reality.

The punks I knew declared the incident a setup, and I wanted to believe them.
2  The bikers could have done it, I thought, even if I couldn’t imagine what they had to gain.
3  I could not drive from my head the image of the body on the wall. It was far more terrible than the results of streetfights.
4  The victim had provoked nothing, had no reason to expect the vicious termination of his life.
5  The spikes in his hands and feet, the frozen terror on his face were not the effect of some cause; they were the mark of random atrocity.
6  I attempted to calm my fears with the fact that I was not a lawyer, did not live on the Main Line, and was not likely to be married, soon or ever.
7  But that night I had a dream, a nightmare, in which I was pursued by a giant bird of prey with scarlet wings and talons like the buttresses of a cathedral.
8  As I crouched on my median, it descended toward me, blotting out the sky with its appalling shadow.

When I was a boy, Lilith gave me a rope, made of crocheted rags drawn from the fabric of my life.
2  She gave me the rope to help me sleep in peace, because I was subject to nightmares.
3  There was one that terrified me more than any other, a huge black bird that pursued me, its raggedy wings flapping about my face as if to suffocate me.
4  In the dream I could not get away. There was no room to run to, no bed to hide under, and I took to crying at the first sign of darkness.
5  It was then that I first took the rope to bed, curled against me like a beautiful secret, and my hands remembered its power even in sleep.
6  When the bird came, I tossed the ends of the rope out to either side of my arms, and they bloomed like flowers, opening into the lush patterns that lived like seeds in Lilith’s knots.
7  They grew, joined, spread, became vast rainbow wings on which I could fly away from the blackbird, faster than its flight, higher than its shriek.
8  “The blackbird isn’t death, my darling,” Lilith told me, “though it seizes near as many as death. But you can always beat it if you know how.”

And so, in my nightmare, I felt for my rope, which is never far from my hands, and I fled the great red-winged predator that was descending toward me.
2  But this was not the blackbird, was some other being altogether, and my fear was mixed with an odd sense of surrender, as if this one owned the power the blackbird lacked.
3  Nevertheless, I flung my wings about me, pumped my arms, and rose slowly toward the crystal blue vault that roofed my dreamland.
4  Then panic swallowed me as I saw the edges of my wings turn brown with rot, falling away like dead useless skin.
5  I pumped harder and the wings shredded, dissolved, and blew to pieces in the upper air.
6  Finally, I too began to fall, and I felt, like blasts of hot wind, the wingbeats of my pursuer closing in.
7   I awoke screaming in my bed, felt myself all over, and laughed out loud with relief that I was still alive and uneaten.
8  My rope too had survived, its colored knots intact and whole, but why had it failed me in my dreams, and what defense could I make if the thing returned?

It was three days after this that the magic man arrived. Not that I actually saw him make his entrance. He was just there one day when I went to work on my median.
2  He had set up shop in front of the mall, where the sidewalk and the entrance to the New Market courtyard merge into a good-sized areaway that had always been a favorite with street performers.
3  I couldn’t work there because brick paving stones are death to pastel drawings in chalk, but Bill the spoons player and Mickey the violinist had once been able to do steady business in that location serenading the patrons of horse-drawn carriages.
4  Now, though, the volatile combination of punks and bikers had driven the carriage trade to safer sidewalks, and the mall itself was fading into the dusk of discount stores, junk shops, and shuttered empty spaces.
5  I suspected the newcomer had a rotten sense of timing.
6  He was immensely tall and thin, and his skin was the color of ebony, almost as black as the frock coat and top hat that made up his performing costume.
7  When I first laid eyes on him, he already had an audience—a pair of clown-faced, skinny-legged female punks—for whom he was doing tricks with pigeons, causing them to disappear inside his red silk scarf and then reappear in his hat, from under his coattails, and even from inside one of his white gloves.
8  I crept closer. He was good, though his props looked worn and his coat sleeves were shiny.
9  A crowd gathered as he continued to perform his illusions. I saw Piss Pink walk by, slow down, stop, and return to watch the magician.
10  I was disappointed that she hadn’t noticed me. I began to draw, without thinking about it at all, a bright little vignette on the edge of my median.
11  It started as a copper cone but curved toward a dagger point that dripped blood onto the asphalt.
12  No one paid any attention, but I was becoming absorbed in my work.
13  Above the fat base of the copper cone, I chalked in a massive red shaft that soon stretched all the way across my median and into the empty parking slots beyond the curb.
14  Alongside this shaft I drew another that also extended into the street, and by now I had an audience of my own, divided into two widely separated clusters.
15  A dozen or so punks loitered in an oddly quiet crescent on the South Street side, and a handful of bored bikers eased their motorcycles close enough to make out what I was doing.
16  I worked quickly because I had at last recognized my subject, and as I added gargoyles and filigree to the buttresses of my nightmare, I saw that the magician had put away his props and was watching me.
17  Our eyes met briefly, then his looked down at my drawing, and it seemed to me that he knew what I was doing—perhaps better than I did.
18  That night, I completed both the legs before darkness closed in.

The crowd that had settled in to watch dispersed rapidly when I snapped my chalkbox shut, and soon I was alone with the tall black man in the tall black hat.
2  “You have an excellent eye,” he told me.
3  “What am I drawing?” I asked him, afraid that he would know—and afraid that he wouldn’t.
4  “You aren’t finished yet,” he answered with a smile. “I would not presume to give an opinion while the artist is still at work.”
5  I rattled the can that contained my day’s take. It was heavy.
6  “There’s enough here for a good dinner,” I told him. “Are you hungry?”
7  “Famished,” he said. “But I can contribute my share if we eat together.”
8  His name was Mr. Magic. He conceded that he had been born with a different name, in some faraway place, but said it was unlikely that an American could pronounce his given name.
9  He was fascinated by South Street and wanted to know all about the punks.
10  Over dinner at the Rattery, I told him about Stoplight and Angel, the bikers and their packets of powder, the disappearing bodies in the street, the Snake Man, the ECCE murder, and Slash Frazzle, and he listened intently.
11  “I am also interested in you,” he said. “What of you? You are very short, and you have what is called Down Syndrome, do you not?”
12  And so I told him what I never tell anyone. I told him about my mother, who was forty-five when I was born, about my father who worked in the shoe factory until the glue scrambled his brain. I told him about Lilith, who raised me.
13  I showed him the rope, the red velvet from my mother’s casket, the canvas of my father’s straitjacket, the white nylon which had belonged to the nurse who told me what happens to all mongoloids, without exception.
14  “And so you must live your life now,” Mr. Magic remarked without condescension or false tact. “It is good that you have come here to work. Perhaps we can work together.”
15  I was agreeable. It had been a long time since I had had someone to talk to. I offered to let him bunk at my place, and he accepted.
16  Several punks passed us on the way home, and not one of them laughed at the fact that I stood no taller than the top of Mr. Magic’s knee.

It took me two more days to finish the drawing I had started.
2  On the morning of the second day, when it became clear that I would need a large section of the street to complete it, about thirty punks formed a circle around my work area, tacitly protecting me from our common enemy.
3  For once, the bikers seemed uncertain and passive. They clung to their corners, pretending to ignore the spectacle.
4  Meanwhile the ‘thing’ grew, huge and terrible, its scarlet wings spread across the entire width of Headhouse Square, its talons dug into the bleeding concrete of my median.
5  My hands and eyes were sure, and I was amazed at the speed with which details of the drawing became clear.
6  But when I went to work on the head late the next afternoon, I was suddenly confused about how to proceed.
7  Until now I had been working under the influence of my dream, and I had never seen the head of the creature, only its claws, wings, and underbelly.
8  I took a break to think it over.
9  The drawing sprawled across a vast area, almost filling Headhouse from the New Market entrance to the concrete apron before the Cream King building and running as far south as the doorway to Gobb’s bar on South Street.
10  All around the perimeter were punks, decked out in their newest fashions, which included heavy utility belts, fatigue jackets with green plastic cards sewn all over them, black boots, pancake makeup and black-rimmed eyes, and even a scattering of animal masks.
11  I felt a surge of elation, suddenly aware that these children had gathered to share my folly.
12  I was still no closer to seeing the missing head, though, and so I paced back and forth, trying to rock a vision into my head.
13  It was then that I heard it, winding toward me through the Square—the faint but unmistakable voice of an electric guitar.

It seemed to be singing, but beyond my understanding, like some creature of the sea perhaps, and I thought of the foghorn that had awakened me to death on South Street.
2  I looked around for the source of the music, which rolled on and on, growing louder and more impassioned as it came.
3  I saw Mr. Magic standing inside the inner ring of spectators, but he was not looking at me.
4  Instead his eyes were fastened on the shifting current in the crowd, which parted to reveal Kassander walking slowly toward me with his guitar.

The punks fell back to let him by and he soon stood beside me, still playing, pouring huge streams of sound into the Square.
2  On his right arm he wore a reel of black electrical cord, which connected his instrument to the deserted hulk of the ECCE a hundred yards away.
3  Kassander never looked at me, but only at my drawing and at the clouds above the Square.
4  And he kept on playing the guitar.

I could smell the sweat pouring from his body behind the makeup and under his clothes.
2  Then I felt myself being hoisted off the ground. I looked down and saw that Ripp Starr and the Snake Man each had hold of one foot, which they planted with ease on their shoulders.
3  From my new elevation I could see that every punk was intent on the same spot, the patch of blankness in the middle of my drawing.
4  In that instant I felt the music enter me like a bolt of electricity.
5  My body seemed to feel the song, to absorb it into the blood and bone, making me its instrument.
6  My limbs writhed uncontrollably, every cell pulsing with magnificent chords.
7  Within moments the image of the head burst full-blown into my consciousness, seeming to fill the sky with its immensity.
8  “Let me down!” I bellowed. My bearers deposited me on the pavement.
9  The head seemed to draw itself, the eyes terrible and bloody bright, the face ancient, enigmatic, rapacious.
10  When I got to my feet, my work complete, a stupendous cheer went up, a blast of triumph blown through the horn of Headhouse.

Kassander put down the guitar.
2  The Square was still and silent.
3  No one moved toward me; I stood alone in the center of my nightmare, which the punks had dared to share with me.
4  I don’t know how long we stood there, an unmoving tableau of chalk and makeup and masks, but I recall that the first raindrop and the first bolt of lightning struck at the same time.
5  Oddly I felt no sense of loss as the sky ripped open like a rotted sail, allowing the rain to rush through in a gray wave.
6  The sky filled with lightning, a forest of electric trees that grew and fell in mere instants, as if time had slipped its reins and become a runaway.
7  Rain streamed down faces and masks like the silver roots of the lightning, and my drawing became a sea of red, bubbling under the rain like blood at a boil.

And then the stasis broke. It seemed a response of pure and simple joy, the way the punks began to play in the storm.
2  They bent to the pavement and scooped up cups of red, splashing each other like children, washing away both masks and makeup to reveal the faces of young lions who suddenly looked more like romping cubs.
3  Within minutes we were all dripping wet, soaked in the residue of my drawing, and the Square was full of laughing red-faced punks, joined by the moment of birth and death we had shared.
4  Then Mr. Magic was there, and I stuttered in my urgency to ask the question that had been burning inside me.
5  “What was it?” I demanded to know.
6  “It is the Raptor,” he told me. “It is here among us now.”

Did something happen while we were wasting time with this? Sorry. Let us know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Johnny Dodge & the 440s.

Johnny Dodge did have an imitator...

SCRIPTURE. Sorry, Steve. We're still waiting for your minions to tell us that the punk writers of South Street had nothing pertinent to say about Obama's demolition of America. Irrelevant and fuzzy, eh? Here's what may be the first ever punk story, even before Shammadamma, by the greatest star in the history of Punk City, the one and only Jersey boy, Johnny Dodge. Of course, it's impossible to see the story except through the filter of critics, namely the Thomas Naughton who's been so equivocally characterized by Lynn Wyler. But this is the only context in which we've been allowed to see this story, so we do have to accept the literary analysis offered by professors who cared to study the words:

Despite his role as the catalyst for the entire punk writing movement, there is little in the way of extant manuscripts to show that Johnny Dodge—i.e., Samuel Dealey—was ever much of a writer. He is celebrated in punk history, it would seem, more for his skill as a warrior and for his apparently constant loyalty to the various kings of Punk City. Much as it overstates the glamour and significance of the punk community, there is an obvious, perhaps even self-conscious, analogy between Johnny Dodge and the Lancelot of Arthurian myth. Like many others, Johnny Dodge is rumored to have been in love with the unwedded queen of Punk City, Alice Hate, and if St. Nuke may be compared, however risibly, to King Arthur, the first king’s roundtable of punk motorcycle knights could never have been established without the strong right arm of Johnny Dodge, who fought on St. Nuke’s behalf when the king was too crippled by wounds to fight for himself, who tried to throw his own body between St. Nuke and the assassin who slew him, who single-handedly avenged the king’s murder, and who ensured the continuity of Punk City by lending his support to Kobra Jones, St. Nuke’s successor. Interestingly, Johnny Dodge is perhaps the only punk to be associated with a place of origin, i.e., New Jersey, which makes him, like Lancelot, the outlander in what is otherwise a local story. Also like Lancelot, Johnny Dodge is reputed by legend to have died in the battle that ended his kingdom, which makes poor illiterate Sam Dealey the most prominent punk to have endured for the whole of Punk City’s history, such as it was. With respect to the early punk piece here included, it should be noted that the automotive theme is consistent with the legendary image of Johnny Dodge as a South Jersey motorhead. The “440,” incidentally, was a large V-8 engine produced by the Chrysler Corporation. An overpowered gas hog, it was already obsolete at the time this piece was written, and it is now as extinct as the punks of South Street.

Hit and Run

by Johnny Dodge & the 440s

I want to say one thing.

The 440s
 Lay some rubber, get away. 440s go, boomers stay.

I just want to say one thing.
4  Some night you’ll be out walking, maybe with your girl, and it’ll be dark like on those streets between Headhouse and the  Ritz where those cute little houses are that cost a hundred grand, and you’ll be all dressed up and thinking everything’s just fine—and then you’ll hear me.
5  You’ll hear me coming.

The 440s
Lay some rubber, get away. 440s go, boomers stay.

It’ll be a funny kind of noise, something you didn’t hear for ages.
8  Kind of a rumbling howl that’ll echo off the bricks and seem like it’s coming from around the corner or from nowhere, straight out of nowhere at all.
9  And that noise’ll be my 440, revving up.

The 440s
Lay some rubber, get away. Time to go, boomers stay.

And it won’t be like no  four banger Krautmobile, or some Swedish diesel living room on wheels.
12  It’ll be like power, man, mean and deep and all around, like what’s gone for good but good and mad and coming home.
13  And you’ll be standing there, all alone in the dark, not knowing why 440 cubes are firing right at you.
14  But why won’t matter. Not at all.

The 440s
Lay some rubber, make your play. 440s go, boomers stay.

And I only got one thing to say.
17  One night you’ll be out walking, and I’ll be on my way. And you can’t stop me.
18  Your Gucci loafers can’t stop me.
19  Your Jordache jeans can’t stop me.
20  Your  American Express Card can’t stop me.
21  Your Sony Betamax can’t stop me.
22  Your Club Med vacation can’t stop me.
23  Your Calvin Klein whore can’t stop me.
24  Can’t nothing stop me or my 440.

The 440s
Lay some rubber, say goodbye. 440s go, boomers die.

Yeah, but we like this story. So, Steve, tell us how this has nothing to do with the end of America envisioned by Obama. Bearing in mind that we all just love the Honda Insight commercials which suggest that life will be great when we're all exactly the same.

For the most fun, play the audio file WHILE you're watching this.

We're listening.

Friday, July 10, 2009

InstaPunk's Birthday Present to the Forum Faithful:

The Beginning (One Version Anyway)

A restored versiuon of the title portion of the scroll.

ALL WRITERS ARE DEMONS. Boz Baker was the new journalist mentioned by Cream King Trove researcher Lynn Wyler. He was a new journalist who prided himself on venturing into places he didn't belong to get a story no one else could get. But this is not one of the works about Punk City that turned up after his untimely death in his papers. It's merely attributed to him in another partial manuscript in the Cream King Trove itself. Which, given the punk writers' propensity for parody -- or what they called "writing through other voices" -- could be a total fraud. No one knows.

There are those who insist that it's a punk satire of the new journalists who claimed to understand cultural phenomena nothing in their superabundant educations had prepared them to penetrate. There are also those who see this as an authentic work in which Baker is satirizing himself -- that he is the Zack of the story, acknowledging the tide of 'spontaneous' drivel that followed in his wake. And there are those who regard this piece as real history, enlivened by the hint of self-recognition that the author was not so far different from the Zack who inspired the punks to do better than his own sorry example. No one knows.

But here's the fragment recorded on the damaged parchment scroll recovered under the Cream King Dairy Building in 1991.

From the writings of the author Boz, who visited Punk City more than once, and died as a result. This he wrote the first time, after a sentence as Alice Hate’s dog, which was a warning he ignored.

At length I heard the story, the punk story the way the punks remembered it.
2  It stayed with me like a song that won’t leave your head, but settles in for the long haul, its narcotic rhythm winding through your day to surface at a stoplight or invade your dreams so that you wake up with its pesky rhymes on your lips. I had , after all, lived a week with the punks, carted from place to place on a leash, given the dog’s eye view of a world that was as baffling to me as if I had been in fact a hostage taken from some other species.
3  Once safely back in Boston, I hurried to set it down as soon as I had the chance, not word for word the way I heard it, because my sense of it went beyond the words—to the feeling and smell and the taste of it, which I absorbed from being there—in hopes of capturing them alive and whole, not like so many butterflies nailed to a corkboard.

In the time before the writer punks, there were music punks, who played their pain on electric guitars. Theirs was a drugged out world, a sea of drowning souls who wore their leathers like dayglo life jackets, wanting to be noticed and rescued and restored to some sense of safety and comfort. Their rebellion was, as the punk writers proclaim in their set pieces on the subject, “skin s’pity full, and mosty for graves.”
2  The biggest band on South Street was a group called the Flaming A’holes, who had elided their name in hopes of securing a record contract that was supposed to lead to tours and limos and Hollywood ever after. The lead singer and songwriter of the A’holes was a pimpled delinquent named Buttface who set the tone for all of South Street.
3  It was Buttface who courted the polished chicks from condo-land and made it acceptable, even a status symbol, for punk musicians to take money from foolish, horny, well heeled women. Endowed with an unerring instinct for finding the walking wounded who actually craved abuse, Buttface made it fashionable for punk rockers to supplement their mohawks and torn tee shirts with Italian leathers, Japanese sports cars, and clinging females—provided the latter were skilled at concealing bruises under Lancôme makeup and Hermès scarves.

Even then, though, there were some punks of a different stripe, whose pain was inflamed by a growing anger, an irrational conviction that punk music was not the answer to any question, but a rallying cry that should lead to action, if there were only some action to take.
2  Among these were the faceless unknowns who would one day become Ripp Starr, Kassander, Liz Smack, Zero Daze, Cadillac Mope, Kobra Jones, Johnny Dodge, Slash Frazzle, and the King of Punk City.
3  In time they drifted together, became after hours regulars at a bar owned by a friend of the one who would be Kassander. It was not their intention to be dissidents. No, these were the disappointed ones, the ones who were slowly discovering that outlandish clothes and hairstyles did not change the world or eliminate your fears.
4  They mostly drank, bottom shelf bourbon and the kind of tequila that makes your throat recoil in horror on every gulp. When they got drunk enough, they made vague plans to become superstars. The ones who would become Kobra and Kassander started hit songs on damp napkins, dreaming of a new sound called punk funk that would send them rocketing past Buttface to ‘nucular’ celebrity.
5  But no one ever heard so much as a bar of punk funk, because Kobra couldn’t play a lick and Kassander had already hocked his guitar for tequila money.

Still, without real prospects or plans or ideas, they hung on, possibly because they had nowhere to go—and possibly because they had come to believe that South Street was the place where they were supposed to be.
2  And for whatever reason, they all felt that the saloon called Gobb's was special. It was one of those exceptionally deep Victorian era storefronts, with a twenty foot ceiling and a long paneled bar with a polished brass rail. The hardwood floors gleamed with a dozen coats of marine shellack, and the antique mirror behind the counter was like a window into a mysterious shadow world where one might be able to live forever if one knew the way in.
3  None of them could articulate it, but Gobb’s made them all feel different, maybe even important.
4  To some it was a ship, moored temporarily on South Street but scheduled to set sail at a moment’s notice for some unimaginable destination, floorboards creaking, bottles clinking, the lash and weight of the sea outside, and all the regulars safely on board.
5  To others it was an anteroom, filled with an unexplainable sense of expectancy, as if some door were concealed there, and you could pass through it if you were there when it chanced to open.
6  The punks’ account of themselves rarely detours into such flights of fancy, but their descriptions of Gobb’s in the earliest days have a deeply prophetic flavor, as if they had been marinated for months in the knowledge of what was to come.
7  For the punks believe that this small purposeless band of outsiders, the outcasts of an outcast world, were given a messenger, who as if directed by unseen forces, arrived at Gobb’s to point the way to a new life.

He is called Zack in the official punk history and depicted as an old wise man with a lantern, albeit a lantern of the kind manufactured by Smirnoff’s, filled with heavy, hundred-proof light.
2  He arrived on South Street one day in autumn and, without attracting much notice one way or the other, became a kind of fixture in several of the loudest punk nightclubs.
3  He is described, with perfect accuracy, as a tweedy bald eagle smelling strongly of pipe tobacco and alcohol, who sat in the back corner of every club with a bottle and an air of complete indifference to whatever was occurring on the dance floor or on the stage.
4  He drank steadily till last call, then had to be awakened to stagger out the door to a waiting taxi that he had, apparently, had the foresight to engage before setting out on his night’s festivities.
5  I have affirmed the accuracy of the description because I know who this man was, and I can readily understand how he might have reacted to the punk music scene on South Street.
6  I will not share his real name, which was not Zack and is not important, although I will say that he was, in his day, an immensely talented writer who never got over the savaging his first three novels took from the critics. And so, like many others, he drank, and drank, until he could only earn a living by whoring his talent to desperate magazine editors.
7  It is pathetically easy for me to picture him, drinking up his advance in one South Street dive after another, hearing the same million-decibel nonsense night after night, only half wondering how he was going to turn this meaningless crap into an insightful article for Esquire.
8  I can see him entering Gobb’s at last, legs wobbling inside their tweed bags, down to his last twenty dollars, with absolutely no funds reserved for anything as trivial as his hotel bill at the Four Seasons.
9  He drank in the corner, the history says, ‘without a woman or a word.’ That was his custom, and he must have been a figure of some intrigue at Gobb’s, so out of place that even the ‘outcasts of outcasts’ might have sensed his apartness and his distance from the world they knew.
10  And the outcasts were there that night, all of them closing in on last call while the Eddy Pig Band played out their string of noisy complaints about life.
11  Then something significant happened. He spoke. The lights were coming on, the big drinkers were shouting their last-second orders at the barmaid, the outcast punks were drifting to their usual table, and the messenger Zack spoke to the assembled patrons of Gobb’s.
12  “What a bunch of shit,” he said in a loud, slurred voice. “I’ll bet you call that shit truth. But you don’t know shit about truth. You wanna know the truth? Somebody buy me a f____ing drink, and I’ll tell you about truth.”

Yes, and by Boz, I could tell you a thing or two about the truth myself.
2  Boz is become a dog on a leash, in payment for wanting to do a true story about the punk writers of Philadelphia.
3  And dear old Zack is a punk hero, the stuff of legend, because he happened to run out of booze money in exactly the right dive at exactly the right moment.
4  Einstein can claim all he wants that God doesn’t play dice, but you’ll never prove it this way, when all the power and fury of Punk City can be traced to one sardonic boozehound’s graceless attempt to cadge another drink.
5  But they bought it, his act and his drink, and they crowded around him, initially no doubt in wonder at his brazen tactlessness, but then because he said some things they’d never heard before.
6  “What’s the truth, old man?” asked the punk who would become king of Punk City.
7  “Who the hell are you?” retorted Zack, his hand wrapped safely around a brand new bottle.
8  “A guy who wants to know.”
9  “The truth,” said Zack, “is that you’re nobodies with nowhere to go. You’re nothing. Doesn’t matter how many of you, you’re nothing. Nothing multiply by a million is nothing. That’s you. Satisfied?”
10  “Just because you don’t like our music—“ began the girl who would become Liz Smack, but Zack cut her short.
11  “That’s not music, sweetie. It’s nothing. And don’t think it’s just cause I’m old. I’m old, all right. But I know nothing when I hear it."
12  The punk who would become king pulled his chair closer to Zack's and wrapped his hand tightly around the drunkard’s frail wrist.
13  “Tell us what something is, old man.”
14  Zack peered at his questioner. Despite the booze, he must have seen that the question was sincere and that credence would be placed in the answer. He sagged a bit and sipped at his vodka.
15  “I don’t know, boy,” he said. “Think I’d be drinking here with you if I knew? I’m just an old fart, been around the block too many times.”
16  “No. You can’t get off that easy,” said the one who would be king of Punk City. “Talk to us. We don’t want to be nothing. You’re an old wreck, but you’re not nothing. Talk to us.”

And so Zack talked to the punks, making it up as he went, almost certainly, but also without pretending that he was Moses with the ten commandments tucked under his arm.
2  “All right,” he said. “I’ll babble for you. You won’t understand what I say, but I don’t mean any insult by talking over your heads. Answer some questions for me first, just so I know where you think you are. What’s this music thing all about?”
3  The outcasts explained that punk music was a statement, that it stood for living your life the way you wanted to, because none of the ways they wanted you to live your life made any sense at all.
4  “Who’s they?”
5  “Them. The ones in charge,” he was told. “The ones that has the power and makes up the rules for everybody, that wants everybody to live in a little piece of shit house in the suburbs and not do drugs and sex, but go to work and church and like that.”
6  Zack shook his head sadly. “That’s the problem right there, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “You think you’re rebelling. You feel like rebels. But you’re not rebels. You’re just losers. Like me. You see, rebels stand for something, something more than just f___ing and drinking when they feel like it. That’s not a rebel creed.”
7  “What’s a creed?”
8  “Something people believe in. Something they believe in enough to fight for.”
9  “You mean the war thing,” replied the one who would be Ripp Starr. “That’s what we’re against. We don’t believe in dying in somebody else’s piece of shit war. That’s the kind of shit history’s full of, which is why we don’t want to play in that game. That’s our creed.”
10  “That’s bullshit,” said Zack. “You don’t know anything about war or history or anything else. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
11  “We know enough about war to know that we don’t have to go get killed for some bullshit political excuse that doesn’t have nothing to do with us.”
12  Zack drank deeply. “Son,” he said kindly, “I told you you wouldn’t understand, and I don’t want to be insulting. You said you wanted some truth, and I’m trying to give it to you. It’s not much, but it’s the best I’ve got.”
13  “Let him talk,” someone said.
14  “Okay?” asked Zack, and receiving nods all around, continued.

My question back to you is this: What does have anything to do with you?
2  “The answer is—nothing. Nothing has anything to do with you. How could it? You don’t know anything.
3  “You don’t know anything about your country. You don’t know anything about the world. You don’t know anything about current events in the state and city where you reside. You don’t know anything about history. You don’t know anything about the cultural and philosophical foundations of the time you live in. Not only do you know nothing of poetry and literature and scripture—you don’t know your own native tongue well enough to put together a coherent thought. You don’t know anything about anything.
4  “You don’t even know the things you think you know. Absolutely nothing is anything like the way you think it is.
5  “You think your heads contain some kind of information about the things I’ve been talking about. But what’s in there isn’t information. It’s no more than a pile of blurry snapshots of random TV images.
6  “Such images have no names and no relation to one another, no underlying structure of any kind, which means you can’t do anything with them—except recognize  something that seems kind of familiar if someone else mentions it. But that sense of vague familiarity you experience is not knowledge. It’s nothing wearing camouflage.
7  “Haven’t you noticed that it’s hard to write good rebellious songs for your punk music? Why is that? It’s because you don’t know enough about what you’re mad at to think of anything to say about it.”

“I say we give this bum a hard ride back uptown,” said the punk who would become Slash Frazzle. “I’ve heard about all of this shit I want to.”
2  “No,” said the one would become Cadillac Mope. “You might not like it. I might not like it. But it’s the truth. He’s telling us the truth. It’s true. We don’t know shit.”
3  “Columbus discovered America in 1492,” said the one would become Liz Smack. “And President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.”
4  “Who was Columbus, my dear?” Zack inquired. Receiving a blush for his answer, he went on. “What else did Lincoln do?”
5  “He was born in a log cabin. He was president of the Civil War. He got shot in the head.”
6  “When? What year?”
7  There was a long pause. “I don’t know.”
8  “Nor do you know anything at all about who he was, what his beliefs were, or why he became so important an historical figure that someone decided it was necessary to force feed his name into your unformed mind. Now, does anyone want to talk about John Locke, or Plato, or Nietzche, or Lenin, or Kafka, or Lyndon Johnson or Woodrow Wilson or Jimmy Carter, or the Old Testament or the Constitution of the United States or the Industrial Revolution or anything at all that doesn’t have anything to do with drinking or f___ing or doing drugs?”

There was a long silence.
2  Zack drank vodka and waited.
3  The punks sat there, presumably thinking.
4  Then, finally, the one who would become Kassander spoke to the old man. “Are you saying there’s nothing wrong with the way things are? Like we should be quiet and behave and try to get jobs and like that?”
5  Zack laughed out loud. “Hell no! I’m not saying anything like that. I’m saying if you want to be rebels, if you want to make a statement, then do it right. Go do some work. Figure out what it is that’s pissing you off. Understand how it got that way, why it’s wrong, what to do about it. Then fight like hell for what you’ve learned to believe in. You want to shake up the world, you got to be prepared to work your ass off, which isn’t quite the same thing as jacking off with electric guitars.”
6  “But how do you start, especially if we don’t know nothing, like you keep saying?”

Zack smiled, the kind sweet smile of the ruined drunk.
2  “I suppose you could start anywhere, at a library or museum maybe, or by really reading the newspaper, but the thing is, that’s probably not going to happen.
3  “Here we are, it’s two o’clock in the morning, a bunch of kids talking to an old man, and that’s all there is to it, just talk.
4  “You and me, we’re a lot alike, too far to go, too many strikes against us. We blew it already, a long time ago, before we ever had any idea what was at stake.
5  “Tomorrow, I’ll be just a dim, drunken memory, an old man talking shit about maybe’s and might have been’s and could be’s that just won’t ever be.
6  “I’ll die in the drunk ward, coughing into a bloody towel with a tube in my arm, like as not, and you’ll die by degrees, the hard way, like a prizefighter that’s out cold on his feet and doesn’t know enough to go down.
7  “I feel sorry for you. I wish I could give you hope, which is what you need, but when you’re dead already you don’t get anything—unless you’ve got the kind of rage burning in you that nobody does anymore. The kind of rage that feeds on itself and consumes you, turns you into a warrior. But you wouldn’t know anything about that either.
8  “It takes belief, a belief like a religion, and your real enemies, the ones you don’t even have an inkling that they exist, your enemies have seen to it that you’ve got no f___ing way to believe in anything, no knowledge to build beliefs with, and not even a real self to transform into a warrior. You’re up shit creek, and that’s a fact.”

Zack stood up to go, very unsteadily.
2  The punk who would become the leader of the Spraycans put his hand on Zack’s coat.
3  Afraid he was being detained, Zack said, “No hard feelings, my friends. You’ve been kind to me. And I thank you for the drinks, but my cab is waiting.”
4  “What if you’re wrong about us?” asked the one who would become king. “What if we do have rage?”
5  With an effort, Zack focused on the eyes that were boring into his. Was there something in those eyes? Was there? “That would be different,” he answered at last. “If you had rage, and I say if because it’s an incredibly f___ing rare thing, that kind of rage, then it would be different.”
6  “How different?”
7  “If you have rage, then nothing can stop you from doing what you have to. Nothing but death.”
8  “Thank you, old man.”
9  Zack smiled. “I’ll buy you all a drink in a few years,” he said. “In... Avalon.” He laughed out loud, then tottered out to his waiting cab.
10  The punks walked out of Gobb’s into a changed world, somehow convinced that the door had opened, the mirror behind
The bar had given up its secrets, the ship had sailed, and they were on board.
11  Their mission was rage, and they knew so little of how little they knew that the way forward seemed clear.

This the story of the very beginning as I heard it from Alice, and while I cannot doubt it in several important regards, it seems to explain little, settle nothing.
2  Every conflagration is born from some spark, and I have reason to know that the flames of Punk City’s passions are tall as the redwoods, real as the collar and leash that bind me to the foot of Alice’s bed, and so I can’t be surprised that there is this tale, which gives us a sodden Prometheus bearing his gift of fire, and I am hard pressed not to believe it because all this had to start somehow, somewhere, and I have even met their tweedy Titan in the flesh, and yet... I am not convinced.
3  I try, but I cannot picture St. Nuke supine in the face of any man’s contempt. These punks are hard, hard as the rocks and sledges of hard time in hell, and I cannot conceive that they would let any man escape alive, drunk or sober, who had told them a truth like the truth of their Zack.
4  And when does something come from nothing, ever? We are asked to see the nothings that were there before the punks put on their masks and their manufactured tongue.
5  Like ghosts, they glide through the Gobb’s of legend, latent shadows waiting for light to give them dimension, the cipher who would be St. Nuke, the nullity who would wear the greatcoat of Johnny Dodge, the zero who would rise to power as Zero Daze. A parade of nothings bound for glory, marching to the music of a red-eyed, rum-soaked basket case whose spark went out for good in 1968.

Lashed to the bed within reach of the water bowl, Boz wags this whopper of a tale in his head as he lowers it to drink. The water is warm and flecked with grit, but it tastes... good.
2  Here in Alice’s department, Boz is reduced to nothing, a joke with a chain link punchline, so insignificant as to be invisible, his presence no more an invasion of female modesty than the chair on which Alice’s girls hang their dirty underwear.
3  While his tongue flaps at the water in the bowl, his eyes are allowed to drink in all the boobage and buttage and bushage they will: it matters nothing to the Fetal Circus.
4  Sue Yoo lounges bareass on her skinny mattress, legs splayed, long and lovely, her jaws grinding gum under a pierced nose that never points at Boz.
5  Sally Vomit is naked and hairless as an egg, sound asleep on soiled sheets, an incubating woman child with breasts like unripe fruit.
6  Not to mention Alice.
7  Alice Hate, she-god of the punks, whose body is the pagan incarnation of divine poetic madness, rhythmic dance of pathos, eros, thanatos, the beckoning end of every quest, no matter how dark or desperate.
8  She is change without end, a shifting perfection that is transformed anew with every shaft of light, every shadow, every breath.
9  Within this chamber, she wears no clothes at all. Her jewelry lies in a glittering mountain at her bedside, necklaces, diamonds, gold, bracelets, rings, and rubies, no more bright beside her than a pebble on the shore.
10  She wears no clothes, no jewelry, no makeup, no mask, and she is never less than punk pure and pure panther. I could swear her eyes glow in the dark, and no part of my soul would rise to call me a liar.
11  She is a witch, a sorceress, a punk high priestess, and I could write whole volumes about how she looks lying half asleep in bed with a vial of blue.
12  And what about Boz? How does he respond to this impossible smorgasbord of temptation? Does he bay at the moon? Does he hump the chair leg? Does he whine and strain at the leash to bury his nose in doggy heaven?
13  Alas, no. For all intents and purposes, in spite of Alice and her Fetal Circus and all their abundant and intoxicating charms, Boz has somehow ceased to be a man. He scratches, eats, sleeps, pants, and yips like a spayed animal, trapped inside the perfect humiliation of his humanity.
14  He is nothing, it would seem, a placid, water-lapping neutered brute, and yet he is not, can never be quite nothing.
15  There was, is, the Boz who was a writer, whose lights cannot be completely doused till death, whose experience still lives within the unwashed carcass of Alice’s pro tem pet.

The proof of this is thought, the thought of Boz, which circles the plaid mat once, and again, before settling in with a long sigh and a groan of realization.
2  This is all an artifice. Boz is no dog. Zack is no Prometheus. St. Nuke is no idiot.
3  No human being can be an utter nothing. The senses take in information, which resides inside a human brain, the raw material of thought. And what becomes of it then, no one can say with certainty.
4  We have, each of us, genes, an exhaustive blueprint of capabilities, potentials, in-born talents, and which of us can determine whether Einstein’s genius first caught fire in a patent office daydream or in the climbing double spiral of a lowly toenail cell?
5  Yes, even proto-punks have genes, and there may have been some kind of twisted genius seeded in the chromosomes of South Street’s nascent stars.
6  Before there was St. Nuke, there was a child, who had a mother, who may have read him bedtime stories, which might have lain inert and waiting, buried memories of heroes that never were.
7  Through the years this tinder may have waited, desiccating all the while, through dismal classroom monotones, through light years of cathode rays, through countless shards of parched and partial conversations overheard, through the dry falling leaves of daily headlines, through miles of unemployment lines and roads not taken and bitter dusty trails to nowhere...
8  Until the night that night has fallen prematurely, and the fiery genes of one sad boy reach out to clutch an old man’s memory of the sun. One such remembrance, held close to the baking bones of once upon a time, might light a fire, a blaze to waken stillborn brilliance, illuminate a half-baked map to someone’s kingdom come.
9  Not from nothing but from nearly nothing, then, the punks would learn to burn, using their own flat cancelled hopes for fuel.
10  First a torch, and then a dozen, and then a howling mob carrying their pine knots and their hatreds to the locked and impenetrable gates of the castle.

Whose castle though?
2  Which monster had they come to kill?
3  They did not know.
4  In her rendering of the mythic past of punk, Alice does not disguise the pain and emptiness of their dawning recognition. She wails it as an affirmation, this first glimpse of the abyss, called not knowing, which even proto-punks could not abridge.
5  They took to meeting at Gobb’s more often, the story says. They argued about the old man’s message again and again, sometimes violently and always with a passion that grew and would not subside.
6  Armed with Zack’s opinions, they listened attentively to punk music and declared that it was nothing.
7  They took an inventory of their own accomplishments, their own accumulated store of knowledge, and found that it all added up to nothing.
8  They ventured downtown to the Philadelphia Art Museum, where culture was nailed to the walls and acknowledged  to one another that they understood nothing of it, except for one statue in an out of the way building that reminded them of their mentor Zack.

It was a head and body that uncannily suggested a bird of prey, and although they failed to note that it was Rodin’s bust of Balzac, this one valid connection with the world of culture proved to be a turning point.
2  What if, they asked, they should feel the same kind of recognition and understanding of the rest of the art at the Zeum?
3  What if the books they couldn’t read in the library should make them feel other emotions, like the deep sense of beauty and mystery and menace that flowed from inside the statue?
4  What if the unreadable stuff in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Wall Street Journal should really mean something to them, make them glad or mad or sad?
5  They returned to the Rodin museum, bent on studying the mystery statue, learning its secrets. But a guard threw them out when one punk hand reached out to experience the feel of that noble head.
6  And in this moment, one blazing red bud of rage bloomed in the belly of the punk whose hand had trespassed in the forbidden world of art, and he felt the first infant pulse of the power that a warrior can command.

Which is how it all began, unless that's not how it all began.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Prevention Fallacy

They can't wait to prevent your living.

THE SNEAKIEST GAMBIT. A rare opportunity to see some statistics on a question I've wondered about for a long time. Thanks to Mark Steyn, not surprisingly, there's this citation from a Dartmouth physician:

Life expectancy in the European Union 78.7 years; life expectancy in the United States 78.06 years; life expectancy in Albania 77.6 years; life expectancy in Libya, 76.88 years; life expectancy in Bosnia & Herzegovina, 78.17 years. Once you get on top of childhood mortality and basic hygiene, everything else is peripheral – margin-of-error territory... Even within the United States, even within the Medicare system, there are regions that offer twice as much “health care” per patient – twice as many check-ups, pills, tests, operations – for no discernible variation in outcome.

uh, that's what I thought. Mark draws the obvious conclusion:

Indeed, the fate of the late Michael Jackson may yet prove an instructive lesson in the perils of too much medical attention. But that's his choice — under our present system. You want to get tested for something you're statistically unlikely to get? That's up to you. But it's harder to discern the state's interest. A system of universal "preventive" care will create a hugely expensive, inflexible regime geared not to the illnesses you actually get but to the bureaucratic processing of waiting rooms clogged with perfectly healthy people getting annual tests for diseases they'll never get — and none of it will impact on our health, only on our tax returns.

Not only on our tax returns. On our lives as well. The preventive medicine creed as practiced by government types isn't about health. It's about control. All you need to understand about the underlying philosophy of the universal healthcare crowd is the set of arguments surrounding motorcycle helmet laws. Once, it was your head. It no longer is. Now your helmet is an economic issue to your fellow citizens. If you might damage that head so that it costs others money to treat, they have the right to make you wear a helmet. It's their head now. You're just renting it from the state.

That's what the emphasis on preventive medicine is designed to do. Enable the owners of your body to document in meticulous bureaucratic detail all the ways you're not taking care of it, so that when it does become damaged, the owners can decide whether it's worth the expense of fixing it. After they've decided not to fix the rented bodies of enough malefactors, they'll get what they really want: control of everything you do with their body -- and your meek submission to all the monitoring and regulation of your formerly private life 'required' to protect their investment.

You like boycotts? Boycott the medical profession. After the age of one, they don't have a lot to offer you that can't be handled far more cheaply and effectively by aspirin, Rolaids, and Bengay. Some of you have genuine need for their services and that's fine. But most of you don't. Stay the hell away from them. No good can come of this obsession with running to the doctor with every little ache and pain.

Life hurts. Doctors can't do a damn thing about that. And don't you forget it.

Letter Bomb

Artifact of St. Nuke, hero of The Boomer Bible and the first king
 of Punk City. Also, the lead narratist of St. Nuke & the Epissiles.

IN THE TRACKS OF THE SHUTEYE TRAIN. By unpopular demand, we're back with another punk writer story, this time from the beginning of what is called the "Mature" phase of the movement (c. 1980), when enhanced software gave punk bands carte blanche to do just about anything they wanted with words. The introduction is from the book Post-Mortem on Punk by Thomas Naughton, referenced by Lynn Wyler in this piece. Which means it's not entirely to be trusted in its assessments. However, the story is itself an excellent exegesis on the formal structure of punk writing, as well as a good demonstration of the blurred line between performance and action (some would say crime) that characterized the punk writing esthetic.

The band known as The Epissiles was originally formed as the Minutemen at the start of the punk writing movement. When St. Nuke became lead narratist, he renamed the band and pushed it to stardom in Punk City, although none of its early work survives. The demands of kingship gradually forced St. Nuke to withdraw from the band, which continued under the leadership of Zero Daze. The Epissiles piece reproduced here is possibly the first completed without the participation of St. Nuke. It is also possibly the first—or so the text claims—to be written under Release 2.0 of the NeoMax writing software. There is not much else to distinguish the work. It does typify the anti-‘Boomer’ vein of punk fiction as it developed from its beginnings in Early Punk to the more elaborate styles of High Punk, although the word ‘development’ is probably a misnomer. The pieces of High Punk were longer and more rhetorical, but they still do not add up to works of art.

Letter Bomb

Ready guys? Let’s try this baby on for size, put the stylizer on overdrive, and see how great we sound.
2    One, two, three, four, GO!
3  Good day, dear readers. We are punk writers. We make stories but do not pretend to be literary.
4  Literature is dead. We are what comes after, the graffiti that defaces the tomb, the smears of filth that violate the sanctuary of suicide.
5  Does this offend you, dear reader? Perhaps you would be more comfortable with a more traditional kind of prose wrought by a finer artistic sensibility.
6  Permit us to suggest the fiction of young Andrew Travis, who writes the kind of stories you usually find in literary magazines, stories as exquisite as porcelain miniatures, in which the music of modern life is rendered pianissimo, largo, legato e sempre non tanto.
7  Andrew has recently had his first book published, a slender collection of stories described by The New York Times Book Review as ‘Exquisite, transparent prose... graceful and evocative scenes... moments of quiet brilliance connected by passages of sustained craftsmanship.”
8  If punk makes you squeamish, Six Stories may give your aesthetic palate just the placebo it needs.
9  Yes, Andrew seems to be a writer of promise and one we will be hearing more about, especially since he happens to be the protagonist of this story.
10  La di da. La di nuking da. That’s the very first output by anyone anywhere from PUNC Release 2.0, and now we can write like this anytime we want.
11  So run for cover and bolt the door: the Epissiles can do it all.

We begin in New York City, where the highrise worms have bored away the guts of the Big Apple.
2  All morning, flakes of decaying fruit flesh have been falling in the streets like brown snow. Pedestrians tramp through its rank slush, which clings to their shoes and stains the city’s carpets, filling elevators, hallways and waiting rooms with the sweet and sour smell of rot.
3  In one such elevator there is a woman who seems almost to notice the stench. Her nose is wrinkled with what appears to be distaste.
4  Perhaps she will look at her shoes, see that the expensive leather is rimed with a noteworthy brown substance.
5  But no—the elevator doors open at her floor, and without a downward glance she marches into the offices of her employer, a large, successful magazine that has catered for half a century to the country’s most affluent and educated connoisseurs of sophisticated prose.
6  Our elevator passenger is, in fact, the managing editor of this magazine, and as she tracks dead apple flesh into her private office, she is preoccupied with important thoughts about the content of a fiftieth anniversary issue that will be read by millions of people.
7  It is a delicate undertaking this anniversary issue. Manhattan Magazine has done more to shape the modern short story than any other publication, living or dead, that you can think of.
8  The objective of the anniversary issue must therefore be to achieve not boldness or innovation, but quintessence, a collection of stories, poems, and articles which embody the principles of form and taste that have come to be known as the Manhattan ‘Style.’

Feeling heavy, almost ponderous, under the weight of her responsibility, the managing editor reviews the list of possible contributors. She is convinced that the lead story, the one which will occupy the prized niche immediately following “Town Chat,” should be the work of a younger writer, one capable of demonstrating that Manhattan will go on for another generation, holding fiction to the same superlative standards which have dominated the literary horizon for half a century.
2  For perhaps the tenth time, she opens her copy of Six Stories. She likes the work of this Travis fellow. Yet she is concerned by one or two of the six stories. At times, in these admittedly lesser tales, things happen, there are definable events in the life of the protagonist, who is not even residing in a foreign country. One of the stories actually seems to have a structure and a plot. Cheever used to do that sort of thing, but he is dead now, and the ‘Style’ has evolved to an even higher standard under her leadership. Doesn’t Travis understand this? She feels herself tiptoeing to the edge of an emotion in the vicinity of dismay. What to do?

Inside a honeysuckle-covered cottage in Maine, Andrew Travis is beginning the day’s work. He can’t wait to plunge into the fifth paragraph of his current story, a compact and delicate gem inspired by Philip Glass’s Paperweight Symphony. The main character is an elderly woman succumbing—at glacial speed—to senility.
2  But before he can start puzzling over his next perfect sentence, he must change the ribbon in his typewriter. The antique Underwood is his most prized possession. To it he attributes much of his attainment as a writer. Others in his creative writing classes at Columbia opted recklessly for computerized word processors and laughed at his gleaming mechanical dinosaur. But which of them has received the laurel of a blurb in The New York Times Book Review? And which of them is on a first name basis with the editor of Manhattan magazine?
3  Ring. Ring. Ring. Better answer it, Andrew. That should be your call from Manhattan.
4  “Hello? Oh hi, Annabella. I’m just fine, thank you. To what do I owe the honor of this call?”

It is two hours later, but Andrew is still not pecking keys on the big Underwood.
2  He is too busy hugging himself with excitement. He can’t wait to tell Ronald what has happened. He has been asked to write the lead story for the Anniversary Issue. “Which anniversary issue?” he can almost hear Ronald asking him. “The Anniversary Issue.” “O-o-o-o-h!” And then there will be celebration, an intimate, thrilling dinner for two—the squab with tarragon and chervil sauce, or maybe the Capon a l’herbe... but that can wait for now. 
3  Perhaps he should even wait before telling Ronald about the assignment. There was just that one teeny-tiny hint of reservation in Annabella’s voice. Something about “not overdoing the intimations of plot.” What did she mean by that?
4  Suddenly fretful, he rereads the story he is working on. He can’t find any intimations of plot. Does that mean he’s in the clear? Or is it rather that the intimations are present in his story, in his oeuvre, for all to see, while some gap or fissure in his talent makes the fault invisible to him? Horrors. Well, he will stamp it out. Ruthlessly. Andrew Travis will have none of that in his anniversary story.
5  He executes a fevered pencil edit. He deletes, he softens, he renders even more opaque... then tosses the sheets of paper to the floor. He will start over. There will be a new story. A brief slice of perfection.
6  Time to get started, Andrew.

What happens now, dear readers? Do we leave Andrew to mull and ruminate and tap at his typing machine, holding at bay all intimations of plot and structure? Do we attempt the impossible feat of making the interior world of this fey little fictioner interesting? Do we aspire, after all, to be literary?
2  Nah. Who gives a flying penwiper about the little creep? It’s the Epissiles who matter on this page. And we’re here for blood and guts, cause this ain’t no Manhattan magazine—it’s Punkfictionland. And maybe we’re not allowed to bend Annabella over her desk and give it to her from behind, but we can sure as Kain give it to Andrew instead, from the one direction he doesn’t expect, the depths of his dead little brain.

Look at him. He’s been writing for days. The floor of his once neat little cottage is covered with refuse—the false starts that keep getting worse.
2  You want to see? Actually, they don’t seem so bad. Like this one:


    Rotting body at the morgue. All that’s left of a guy named George. Did you want to meet George? I can handle that. This is George’s hand. Shake it. Cold, ain’t it? Not much grip. Funny how you can’t tell much about him on the slab.
    He’s a body on a slab at the morgue. Clothes are in a locker, wallet’s in a brown envelope with a watch and keys and all that stuff, and George is here in his birthday suit under a sheet, all kind of purple and fish-eyed.
    You know how fishes’ eyes look when they’re dead. White and scummy kind of. Like George’s.
    So what’s up? Is George going to paradise? Don’t think so. Not today.
What’s the name of that saint? The one at the burly gates? Hard to imagine George meeting a saint looking like this. Fact is, he’s getting so he smells. No paradise. Something else.
    How about the too-young-to-die angle? After all, he can’t be more than about thirty-five. He must be too young to die.
How can it end like this, so sudden and, well, disgusting like? If there was any justice, it’d’ve been somebody else.
Somebody’s got to do something about this.
    Did you say something?
    Good idea. The brown envelope is in the drawer. Here’s the wallet. That’s pretty fancy leather.
    Okay. I’m embarrassed. Name’s not George—it’s Alfred. Alfred Cunningham. Here’s his work ID. Corporation guy. And his business card! He’s—are you listening?—Assistant Vice President, Mainframes, NeoMax Computer Corporation.
    Phew! I’m impressed.
    Here’s a picture of his wife. Not bad. Little light in the chest and heavy in the hips, but not bad.
    And two kids. A boy and a girl, maybe twelve and fourteen. They look like trashholes to me.
    And credit cards. American Express—Gold Card! Visa, Master Charge, Delta Frequent Flyer, Brooks Brothers, Exxon, Bloomingdales, Delta Crown Room... Wow! All that credit and look at him.
Wonder why he’s here. You’d think somebody would claim him... the wife, the trashholes, some vice president, somebody. They must of forgot.
    Well, Alfred’s got to get home. It’s nearly dinner time. Every second of delay, he’s missing his life.
    He’s heavy. They’re not kidding about dead weight...

3  What’s the problem? Too lowbrow, you think? Well, here’s another one:

Bedtime Story

    O come all ye faithless, joyless and triumphant.
Bring your handbags. We’re going on a trip.
Where? To the heart of the matter, where the beat of modern life originates.
    But enough of this chit chat. The elevator is waiting.
    Up, up, up.
    High speed travel to a highrise bedroom, in which a scene of passionate intensity is underway.
    Soft carpeting underfoot, soft moans under sheets.
    This must be Evelyn and Dave, consummating their brief acquaintance with a tender exchange of bodily fluids.
    If you will now consult your prose kits, you will find some background data on Evelyn and Dave.
    Evelyn makes $32,000 a year working for an advertising agency and goes to bed on a first date less than 46.2 percent of the time.
    Dave, on the other hand, makes $48,000 a year working for a management consulting firm and goes to bed on a first date more than 63.8 percent of the time.
    Tonight does not count, however, since Evelyn and Dave just met each other about three hours ago and are not in bed on a date but on an impulse.
    They are romantics, both of them, and therefore susceptible to the warmth of Friday night cocktails.
    Something about the way the stars twinkled through the sunroof of Dave’s $21,500 Japanese sports car melted Evelyn’s resolve not to let herself get talked into another one-night stand with another smooth talking sonofabitch, which she suspects Dave of being, although he has been uniformly sweet and solicitous throughout their courtship to date.

4  Is there something we’re missing? That seemed like a pretty good start to us—snappy and fast-paced. Too explicit maybe from the sex angle? No? Then what? And what’s the matter with this one?

Willing Suspension

    You’re going to believe this story if I have to come to your house and hogtie you to the couch and tear your fingernails out one by one by one by one... until you’d swear on a stack of Bibles that there really is a one-legged circus clown named Randy Joe who decided to move to Maine and write horror stories for a living.
    No, listen. LISTEN! This is going to be a great story. You see, he used to be a Navy SEAL, until...HEY! I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU HOW IT WAS GOING TO BE. DO I HAVE TO COME OVER THERE WITH MY NEEDLE-NOSE PLIERS AND MAKE YOU BELIEVE IT? DO I? That’s better.
    So Randy Joe lost his leg in the navy and then he

5  What do you suppose has gotten into Andrew? It looks like he’s lost his way a bit on this project. It’s a shame. And with the deadline getting so close... do you think he’d like a little help from a professional writer band? You do? Well, we’re delighted to help. Anything for the Anniversary Issue.

2  That’s us coming through the ceiling. Sorry about the mess.
3  Now we’re in Andrew’s living room, standing next to his poor old Underwood typewriter.
4  Andrew’s in the corner making little mewling noises and sucking his thumb. It’s possible he finds us somewhat intimidating to look at. Or is it just that he doesn’t approve of our writing instruments—the candy apple red stereotypewriter, the gold flake parallaxophone, the pink polka dotted synthesizer, the gunmetal macrophone, the ten-foot length of lime green garden hose, the oversized copper needle valve, the hickory handled icepick, and the pig iron sledgehammer. Well, he’ll get used to them.
5  Time for lesson number one, Andrew. It looks to us as if what you’re trying to write without much success is punk fiction, which is sure to be a hit with Annabella and all the highfalutin readers of Manhattan magazine. We applaud your daring.
6  But you can’t write a punk piece on an Underwood. Sorry.

2  That’s us writing an appropriate ending for the Underwood with our pig iron sledge.
3  Now, as soon as Andrew stops sobbing and wetting himself, we’ll move on to the matter of how you go about starting a good punk fiction piece.
4  There, that’s right, Andrew. Just take slow, deep breaths, and your aplomb will return in a trice.
5  The beginning of your piece is called the Howdy. It sets the stage, so to speak, and tells the audience who’s in charge, and to whom they will owe the pleasure of their fiction experience. We prefer to do ours on the macrophone. Like so:

    Time has run out on you, dear boomer. You’ve been succored into the blindest of dark alleys.
    There is no mercy here, no friendly hand to guide you, no reassuring voice to still your dread.
    Here you are only prey, and here there is no safety in numbers.
Straight razors wait at every corner to cut your throat. Holes in the pavement plunge to the abyss.
    The garbage cans are full of murdered babies, and the cats that gnaw on their heads have the rotten breath of art and radioactive eyes that suck up light and give you cancer in the dark.
    There is no turning back. The entrance has been sealed by the heap of dishonored corpses you trampled coming in.
    The only way out is forward, but at the end of the alley a wall blocks the exit. It is a high, long, smooth, hard wall disfigured by graffiti.
    In short, dear boomer, you are trapped. Trapped and soon to be hoist by punk petard.
    What can you, what in the name of all you might once conceivably have held sacred, is there for you to do?
    Read the writing on the wall, one last epissile from us to you.

6  You see, Andrew? You don’t ask for the suspension of disbelief. You just suspend it. Notice how we no longer seem to be in your living room, but in a long dark alley instead? Do you feel that sense of being trapped, dear Andrew? Good. Then the Howdy is complete.
7  Please stop sniveling, Andrew. We’re only here to help.

Next comes the launch of the story proper. If you want, you can introduce characters. That’s what the stereotypewriter is for. But it’s not absolutely necessary to have the characters enter right away. Everyone will know who they are before you even mention them.
2  Can you guess who the main characters are going to be in this story, Andrew? We bet you can. So that means we have some room to begin the action more obliquely. Mayhap with a nifty solo on the parallaxophone. Comme ci. That’s French, isn’t it, Andrew?

    City lights. The terrorist stands at the center, watching.
    Highways bind the city in place, chains of light tying knots to hold the rhythms in, bend them back inside, repeat the captive pattern.
    Clocks and neon signs and skyscraping lanterns blinking their slow coded translations of continuum, the string of nights that links all lives together.
    And at the center, the terrorist. In love with light, he carries his avowal across the rooftops, his sneakered feet hurrying toward the rendezvous.
    The face of a terrorist may be like any other face. Eyed, eared, nosed, and mouthed, it hungers for sensation and relays the headlines of current events to the brain, which forms its committees of response.
    The face is unimportant, even the face of a terrorist The brain is all. Inside its corridors and anterooms, news is discussed in tones of alarm. The war plans, coiled and waiting, lie locked in the vault below. In the star chamber the conferees are at odds: the situation is grave, voices are raised, and the only consensus is of catastrophe.
    Driven by catastrophe, the terrorist moves out across the city, mulling destinations, declarations, devastations. He has been everywhere already and a map of the city has grown across the back wall of his mind, behind the lenses of his two-way eyes.
    On the map and in the city he has been everywhere. But not always as a terrorist.
    Once, first, as an observer only, he went out to hear the heartcries, city whispers, people’s lives.

3  Movement, Andrew, that’s the key. Get it going, keep it going, promise death and keep the promise. Have you figured out how we’re going to keep our promise, Andrew?
4  That’s right! With more action!

    He heard the crying, and the moaning, and the praying, and the screaming,
    Until his ears grew full of empty noise,
    And his heart turned black with anger.
    Thus was the terrorist born,
    An embryo formed in the outer world of desperate prisoners’ cries,
    Then squeezed full-grown through sound canals,
    Into the ready room of mind.
    He speaks: “There is no voice of light in all the din, and the power lords are telling lies, with lights for sale that beam the dark to every church and home.
    It’s time to quench the light that lies,
    And punish the thieving power lords.”

5  We’re getting excited, Andrew. We’re in the city, and we’re closing in. Your story’s going to be great.
6  But now we change the gears again, and get ready for the Splat.

The Splat? Well, that’s where we keep our promise to the reader. The dear reader.
2  Thus:

    Once upon a time there was a power lord named Annabella,
Who held in her hands a broken light that scattered lines of darkness everywhere.
    She was proud of the light and the dark it shed, for she thought the darkness was light.
    That’s why the Epissiles paid her a visit,
    In her office in midtown Manhattan.

3  Why are you squirming like that, Andrew? Hold still. This will only hurt for a second.

    "Who are you?" cried Annabella. "Why are you here, and what do you want?"
    "We’re here to kill you," the Epissiles said, "for crimes against the light."
    "What the hell are you talking about?" Annabella was irate. No one talks to managing editors like that.
    "This," said the Epissiles and pulled from a bag the head of a promising young writer.
    "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!" screamed Annabella.
    "Wait," said the Epissiles. "We want to show you what’s inside this head you prized so much."
    And as Annabella stood glazed in shock, the Epissiles attached their ten foot length of lime green garden hose to the oversized copper needle valve they’d jammed inside Andrew’s icepick-penetrated skull, and then they sprayed one last Epissile, in bright red blood, on the wall of Manhattan style:

From the Punks to their Unlit Pals:

    Time has run out on you, dear authors. You’ve written yourselves into the blindest of dark alleys.
    There is no mercy here, no friendly hand to guide you, no reassuring voice to still your dread.
    Here you are only random idiosyncratics, and here there is no meaning or salvation.
    The children of your unbelief are dying to catch you alone.     They needed you to dream some dreams, but you painted walls instead. When they catch you, and they will, they’ll give you cancer in the dark.
    Literature is dead. That’s why your garbage reeks of murdered babies, and why the stench of art is even worse, and why your lives are worthless wastes of the ink and paper you have spoiled.
    There is no turning back. The entrance has been sealed by you.
    The only way out is forward, but you threw away your map, your compass, and all the stars that show the way.
    You’re extinct and don’t know it. Your writing’s a joke, and the future will laugh you to hell.
    One more thing: KA-B-O-O-O-O-M!
    And SPLAT goes Annabella.

4  Is that what you had in mind for the anniversary issue, Andrew?
5  Andrew?
6  Andrew?
7  Happy Anniversary.


YouTube Wednesday:

Once Upon a Time...

She's right. We hold a grudge for a long, loooong time.
Even though we're mostly taller than Charles Bronson

. Since we're in the mode of honoring our commenters -- the best in the blogosphere -- I couldn't resist this. Maggie said:

Whenever I come to this blog I get the incredible urge to watch "Mothman Prophecies" or "Once Upon A Time In The West" ... SOMETIMES "White Chicks" ... but not usually. MAYBE "Richie Rich" ... nahhh, my mistake. Just go with the first two to be sure.

Have to admit it's an honor to be associated with Once Upon a Time in the West. Read all the user comments at because we're only going to reproduce one:

Fonda's favorite, and mine too

There are few movies that can combine great directing, acting, music, cinematography, and writing into one movie, but this one does. There are no weak points. Every scene is a piece of art. I know of no other film that affects the senses as this one. Henry Fonda said this was his favorite film and role. It's easy to see why. He created 1 of the great "bad guy" roles in history. In a side note, Leone wanted to put brown contacts in Fonda's eyes ("who ever saw a villain with blue eyes", Leone said), but Fonda wouldn't have it, and the effect is magic in the famous Leone close-ups. Bronson, Cardinale, and Robards are equally powerful, all have great lines and the camera loves them. Speaking of cameras, the visuals are stunning. There is nothing fancy about this movie. Raw power is what you see and feel. Simply the best western if not film ever made.

We hadn't actually seen the Mothman Prophecies, but a look at the trailer convinced us that it's pretty much like a normal day at the office for Instapunk.

Okay, So we're frequently confused. Sooorry.

The White Chicks thing was harder to figure until we came across this appreciation at

This movie makes fun of everyone-- black, white, rich, poor, dorks, cool people... no one is safe.

Got it.

And, yeah, it looks exactly like this around here every day. Is that a problem?

Don't get the Richie Rich thing, though. I'm turning 57 in two days -- skipping 56 for religious reasons -- and I haven't looked like Macauley Culkin for, well, half a century. I don't look like Charles Bronson, either. But I'm taller. And more vindictive.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An InstaPunk Public Service Utility

NOBODY CAN YELL CONTINUOUSLY. I've always been fascinated by the boiling frog phenomenon that seems to describe the reaction of otherwise normal people when they're caught in the midst of a time of cataclysmic political retrogression. While The Terror was rounding up counterrevolutionaries in France, while Stalin was rounding up counterrevolutionaries in Russia, while Hitler was rounding up Jews in the Reich.... Ordinary folks must have known at some level that the bonds of civilization were dissolving, but they still had to go to work everyday, and matters of shocking moment somehow became the stuff of petty gossip -- and dare I say 'punditry' -- rather than a shrieking call to action. When the unthinkable becomes routine, what becomes of the person whose whole soul is screaming in outrage? My guess is that the constant sight of what his neighbors and fellow countrymen simply will not see either gradually inures him to all varieties of disaster OR he becomes convinced that he himself has lost his mind.

That's how I've come to regard the Obama administration. The unthinkable is now routine. Every new day brings us a new outrage against the constitution, the separation of powers, national security, the free enterprise system, and the 200-plus years of individual liberty and personal responsibility that made this the greatest, freest, and most prosperous nation on earth. Even the people who are nominally on our side are sitting placidly in the simmering media pot on the stove, acting and talking as if major crimes against our heritage and values were mere political maneuvers to be parsed like chess gambits or poker hands.

Yes, you're being slowly boiled to death.

It's not true that all this is politics as usual. The hard thing to remember. Our country is being hijacked and dismantled. If you know that in your heart of hearts, you have NOT lost your mind. Things CAN go way south in a hell of a hurry, irretrievably so. But no one can be hysterically overwrought all the time. It's too exhausting. What's important is that no matter how everyone else is coping, you retain some access to the underlying reality, so that when all around you are acting deaf, dumb, and blind to the unfolding ruination, you have somewhere to go.

That's what this page is. When that Crisis Moment hits, just look up the word Emergency in the InstaPunk search function and press the damn button up top. What you find will remind you of the stark reality everyone but you insists on forgetting today.

Persevere, my friends. You are not alone. Even when it feels like you are.


Screaming. Screaming. Screaming.

HER OBSESSION. The punk piece that began it all. They wrote like bands, on computers, with custom input devices that fed into a central processor which made a narrative of it all. In the case of the Shuteye Train, it was said that they were merely documenting crimes already committed -- a kind of computer-compiled confession. Nobody knows what really happened. Just that South Street in Philadelphia suddenly became a place to be feared in 1980 or thereabouts. The moment the worm turned. Even the Pagans stopped going there. Ancient history with no continuing relevance? Sure. Did they exist? We're kind of sort of betting they did. What is fiction, after all, but writing that doesn't claim to be history, only truth.

Hear we come, the Shuteye Train, ranting and writing and all for you.
2  Shammadamma.

We knew a guy.
2  He was like you, a regular type guy, and we knew him since like the time he first got his head together and started doing his own thing.
3  Back then he was in college in the days when coke was like this sugary ripoff made by this giant corporate fascist oppressor.
4  He thought his father was a pig. So was his mother. In fact she threw this like fit when Steve stayed over Christmas vacation in his own room with his girlfriend Marjorie.
5  His name was Steve.
6  He started college as a political science major but in sophomore year he switched to black studies, he was into civil rites and the Revolution and had these ideals and everything.
7  Shammadamma. We’re the Shuteye Train, coming at you.

Steve learned a lot in black studies.
2  Like he learned history was all lies and the US was like this really corrupt evil totalitarian state with these policies of genocide in Southeast Asia and the inner cities.
3  Steve really freaked when he like found out what was going down, so his roommate got he and Marjorie into the party and they all worked night and day for the Revolution.
4    Shammadamma.

One night Steve dropped some acid and Marjorie and him were talking about the Revolution until Steve got off and Marjorie was saying like how everything had to be destroyed, the government and everything, before social justice could, you know, happen.
2  And Steve started having these really heavy thoughts about what all Marjorie was saying just as he started to get off.
3  There was this Doors album on and he started getting like really tuned in to the heaviness of the Revolution and the heaviness of the music all at the same time and pretty soon it was like he could really see the music coming right out of the speakers and the music like was the Revolution just starting to happen and it was beautiful.
4  When he concentrated Steve could stretch his arms right across the room and feel the music wrap around his fingers and crawl all over his body, like the Revolution was pulling him in and making him a part of it and all.
5  It was like really blowing his mind and then it pulled him right out of the room and down into the street and into this latenight store where it like told him to get some cans of spraypaint.
6  Marjorie went with him and she couldn’t hear the music but she was getting this like contact high and she could see the way the Doors were, you know, swirling all around Steve, making him knock things off the shelf, so she got into it herself and pushed over this giant cardboard TV announcer who was advertising some kind of detergent on the shelf next to him.
7  The store manager was this real pig and he calls the cops, so the Doors music like pulled them out of the store and told Steve to spraypaint like all the college walls that didn’t have ivy on them.
8  They spraypainted all the slogans they could think of and all the ones the Doors told Steve to paint and later Steve’s old man wouldn’t go bail and he had to write his term paper on ‘Modern Slavery’ in jail, which was really far out and got an A-minus.
9  Shammadamma, we’re the Shuteye Train, punk writer band from the land of Kain.

So Steve and Marjorie went to Woodstock nation and it was really beautiful, you know?
2  They borrowed this old van and drove to Woodstock and got stuck in a field but it didn’t matter, people gave them dope and they drank wine and got off on the music, it was like really incredible because there was this love all around and Steve made it with this chick from Skidmore and Marjorie thought the whole thing was beautiful and she took off all her clothes and went wading and didn’t get embarrassed at all like she usually was about how she was a little overweight, and she even made it later with this enormous ugly fat guy.
3  But he had a beautiful soul and was into Country Joe and the Fish like you wouldn’t believe.
4  Steve didn’t even mind, he had dropped some really wild mescaline and it was like he was this fat guy and he could even feel the tattoo of an eagle this guy had on his arm which flapped its wings to the music of Country Joe.
5  It rained but they didn’t care and later they couldn’t get the van unstuck but they didn’t care about that either, so they hitched a ride back to Boston, only they wound up not going to Boston right off but staying for a while with these really beautiful people who had this farm in New Hampshire.
6  Even the ducks got stoned. Shammadamma.

But then there was like Altamont and Kent State and Steve got into graduate school with his deferment and Marjorie got knocked up.
2  Steve’s old man had already cut him off except for tuition, so Marjorie had to split for Philadelphia and have the kid at her sister’s house.
3  She named it Peaceflower.
4  And then Steve and her like started to grow apart because Marjorie was kind of, you know, standing still, and couldn’t see how the Revolution had bummed out, and how if you wanted to reform the system you had to do it from like inside, with your caring and ideals and everything.
5  There was this really bad scene the time Marjorie came up from Philadelphia to visit, and like her sister was getting ready to throw her out in the street if she didn’t get a job, and Steve couldn’t make her see like how his father had finally decided to pay Steve’s way through law school, which Steve had just gotten into, only he wouldn’t if Steve turned up with this kid, which how could he be sure was, you know, really his?
6  They were in this nice restaurant in Boston with white tablecloths and all, and the waiter had like sneered when Marjorie ordered strawberry wine, and she wouldn’t eat the ratatouille because she got so uptight.
7  She really freaked when Steve let slip about the kid and, you know, whose it was and all, and she started to cry and said how she really loved Steve in the deepest possible way and there was only ever that fat guy at Woodstock, which was different and wasn’t her idea anyway.
8  But how could Steve be, you know, sure, and anyway there was law school and he was only going so he could reform the system from within like they’d talked about, and couldn’t she see how it was, but Marjorie only cried into her ratatouille and left the next day.
9  Shammadamma, the Shuteye Train, burning through the boomer brain.

Steve’s mom and dad came to his law school graduation.
2  He introduced them to Sara. She was president of the Women’s Law Alliance and Steve’s current female companion.
3  They all went out to dinner and Sara and Steve’s folks didn’t hit it off very well.
4  Sara asked Steve’s dad how many women had been in his class at medical school and got into a huff when Steve’s dad said not many, they’d had to chase nurses instead.
5  Then Sara asked Steve’s mom how she could stand not having been allowed to accomplish anything with her life.
6  Shammadamma.
7  Steve’s mom said you can talk to me that way when you’ve raised three sons and made a good home for your family like I have.
8  Sara sniffed and ate a cracker, and later when he was alone with his parents Steve explained how hard it was for women who wanted careers in a chauvinist society and how you had to understand if they seemed a little aggressive sometimes.
9  They forgave Sara and him the next day when he stood there in his robes and got his law degree, and told him how proud they were that he had made the law review and gotten such a good job in Philadelphia.
10  Shammadamma, the Shuteye Train, making tracks and planning pain.

Steve worked real hard for the firm, long days and nights of endless pressure and toil.
2  He wondered for a long time how he stood it and what good was an expensive car and an apartment in Society Hill if you never got to enjoy them, but after he broke up with Sara, who was, after all, far too militant and humorless to be a good companion for Steve, he found out that Philadelphia was an entertaining city.
3  He read up on astrology and took up racketball and learned to disco, and the women of Philadelphia loved him.
4  But he played around only in moderation and kept his nose pretty firmly to the grindstone, and it was no surprise when he got invited to join an exclusive golf club that Elizabeth’s father was a big wheel in.
5  On the sixteenth green one Sunday not long after that, he met some of the senior partners of the firm and a few months later he was promoted to associate partner, which made him laugh a little to himself because he felt like some kind of impostor, because he was really like the same guy he had always been, only maybe more laid back and not quite so idealistic, and wouldn’t it be funny if like everyone else was really an impostor too, like walking around disguised in three-piece suits and expensive golf clubs?
6  Shammadamma.

One day soon after Steve had finished his first big case, Elizabeth said maybe it was time they got married, shammadamma, and Steve had this big decision to make.
2  He thought and thought, and thought finally that maybe a father-in-law and a wife might be the thing to do, the next step to take.
3  So they set a date in June and Elizabeth moved out of the apartment for awhile to keep the older friends and relatives from getting upset, and Steve played golf with Elizabeth’s father, and Elizabeth and her mother shopped like mad, and engraved invitations went out in the mail and brought back hundreds of wedding presents and then hundreds of wedding guests, who filled the ivy-covered church so that Elizabeth and Steve could get properly married and live happily ever after.

So they stood at the altar and the priest got ready to say the words and behind them in the church all their friends were smiling and looking forward to the reception, and Steve thought how everything was going to work out just right, and life was really okay, you know?
2  And the organist finished the processional and then the doors of the church swung open with a tremendous crash.
3  Naturally Steve turned around to look, because who on earth could be coming in so late?

Shammadamma, the Shuteye Train.
2    We write with guns.

And some of the women screamed, and Steve couldn’t believe what was happening, like who were these people and what did they want?
2  Shammadamma, pullatrigga. Shammadamma, shootabooma.

And Steve tried to, you know, get away when he saw what was coming down, tried to run for his life, but it was way too late and where was there for him to go anyway?

We knew a guy, a regular type guy, but he died on his wedding day.
2    Dammashamma.

That last line is kind of an inversion. What they really meant was 'Shammadamma.'

Just so you Millennial Kids know what we're talking about here.

Taylor Lowers the Boom

They kill you with their venom. (Up to the minute science.) Just not right away.

IT WAS JUST A BUTTON. JEEZ.. We're inordinately proud of our commenters here. (Yes, Penny, you'll be here someday too. Give us a graphic idea to work with...) Other sites worry about screening out disgusting language and threats. We worry only about getting outshone by our readers. Which is happening a lot lately. Today, it's Taylor, who apparently didn't like our 'Emergency Button.' Here's what he had to say.

The boiled frog comparison is good as far as it goes, but there's a difference from our current predicament: The frog gets boiled slowly because the frog doesn't comprehend what's happening.

For us on the other hand, at some level many if not most people in this country know exactly what is being done to them. They don't do anything about it because they just can't comprehend how this state of affairs came to pass, and they aren't sure what if anything they can do.

The societal mesmerization that's going on as Hope-a-Dope and the donks do to this country what that Egyptian Airlines co-pilot did a few years ago -- purposefully point the plane's nose straight down into the drink and accelerate -- comes from this human characteristic of shock and disbelief ("The pilot's not supposed to do that, is he?") overcoming the survival instinct.

When confronted by something seemingly too incredible to be "real," the human mind tends to either lock up or to look for escape via rationalizations.

Denial: "Brain lock" is why two-thirds to three quarters of American soldiers and marines who experienced Japanese "banzai" charges or Chinese "human wave" attacks never fired their weapons. They just stared disbelievingly at the mass of humanity rushing at them. These were men who had been trained to fight, and who knew when they went to the front line that an encounter with the enemy was at least possible if not probable; yet they still froze when the time came.

What does that say for the American People today, the vast majority of whom have undergone no mental preparation for what's coming?

Rationalization: A "This isn't happening" reaction occurs when, for example, an airport security screener on 9/11 encounters an Arab foreigner with no bags to check, a one-way ticket and whose face looks like pathological hatred incarnate: everything about the guy screams "hijacker," but the screener's sense of disbelief allows his feel-good politically correct indoctrination to take over.

Bottom line, Hope-a-Dope and the donks are like a Komodo Dragon: if it bites you, you don't die right away. Rather, it lets you run around pumping the venom through your system while it follows and waits for the effects to kick in. When you collapse onto the ground, it moves in to polish you off.

Similarly, we haven't yet felt the full effects of the poison that the donks have injected into this country since last November, so it's still easy to fall into a sense of disbelief, denial and false hope.

By the time we begin to feel the symptoms, it'll be too late.

Too late to save the Republic. The venom is numbing us even as I write this, but most people are either too mesmerized or too ensconced in denial to fight it.

What I am more concerned with is what will rise from the ashes.

uh, me too. What he said.

[I hate to spoil Taylor's malignant mood, but 30-some years ago I met a Korean who was a reporter at the Boston Herald Tribune. He'd been an intelligence officer for the South Korean army in that war. He described interrogation tactics he'd personally conducted -- without the least regret -- having to do with water and the bitterly cold Korean winters... things about water turning to ice, human noses, and not breathing, and watching men die and such... Forget that. He was a cold cold man. But he told me that what frightened the Koreans about the United States, truly and utterly terrified them, north and south alike, was the marine determination to leave no man behind. "We could not understand that," he told me over a game of pool in otherwise civilized surroundings. "It did not make sense to us. It filled us with fear. We could not defeat that." He didn't defeat it. He became an American citizen. And I kicked his ass at 8-ball..]

UPDATE. So here comes Billy Oblivion, another veteran commenter. Weighing in on the same subject, responding to Taylor:

I have never learned to throw the first punch.

Perhaps the more you know the more you get scared.


New Model Army, "Believe It"

I've spent a good bit of the last 25 years involved in the study of violence. I'm not very good at it compared to the professionals--the Special Ops types, MMA fighters etc. but I think I have at least an intellectual understanding.

Which is the problem.

To a large degree violence--at least effective violence--is almost the antithesis of violence (from one perspective, from another a different argument is made).

To be intellectual is to pause in thought, to consider actions and their consequences.

You're sitting in a bar having a quiet drink. Jack and Coke, Jack on the rocks, or just Jack in a glass. A pretty girl sits down next to you. It's movement, and perfume. You glance over. Her companion notices and takes offense. (Cliche' yes, but I'm taking this somewhere). He starts down the road to fisticuffs; at what point do you stop responding like a civilized man? At what point do you grab that fucking long neck the guy next to you just finished and brain the meathead with it?

You don't. You wait for him to move first, because you hung up the leather and the Doc Martens a decade ago and you've got a job to get to Monday morning and a mortage or at least a car payment and a wife and if you show up with stitches and a black eye and explain that you've got to go to court for negligent homicide you're going to miss a few car payments and it'll get repo'd and there goes that credit rating you spent the better part of a decade repairing after that expensive private college you paid for mostly out of your own pocket with grants and loans and a tour in the Marine Corps.

So smile and apologize for looking at his lady, and you hope that this mollifies him and you finish your drink and you move on.

There are two types of fights. Duels, and Ambushes.

Duels are two dandies, or two drunks slugging it out for honor. Both know it's coming, and both know when. No surprises, no positional advantage, no maneuver warfare. This is pure strength and stamina and endurance and pain tolerance. The harder, faster, stronger guy wins, unless the other guy gets lucky.

No one with any sense gets in a duel. No one. Ever. Unless it really is about something that you'd rather die than break the rules over.

Because cheating is for sports and card games. There is no cheating in a real fight (i.e., outside the ring), there is only winning and dying. And court, so don't cheat too much.

Amubushes. Most fights are ambushes and you ALWAYS want to be the ambushers. You set the claymores, you position your machine guns and your supporting artillery.

Even if it's just a buddy with a pool cue.

But the problem still is pulling the trigger. Intellectuals think; we think of ripples spreading out from the rock we're about to hit this guy in the back of the head with.

A meth head doesn't think, she swings. Wildly, with crazy strength and hepatitis and possibly AIDs and those wicked fucking fingernails that haven't been cut in a dog's age, but are torn and ragged.

You knew it was coming, but you never saw the place where the Reasonable Man the Prosecution was going to call as a witness would have struck first, so you're behind the power curve as she's clawing your f'ing eyes out.

So you sit there in your recliner with a glass of Makers Mark in hand and contemplate that fine looking woman in the harbor of the million story city. A bit green with age, things ain't like they were when she started her vigil.

And you fear for the country that she is welcoming people to. You fear in your gut, you fear in your head because you can see those ripples and you've read history and you've read psychology and sociology and etc.

And you try to explain to people that we need to stop this we need to stop spending our children's and grandchildren's money.

We need to stop supporting bad farming practices. We need to stop supporting bad breeding practices. Bad schooling, bad politics.

We need to stand up and be responsible, we need to pay our own way, we need to help the less fortunate, but not by buying them a concrete block shack at a thousand dollars a brick.

But they call you a fear monger as they complain about the snail darter and global warming and drink their shade grown coffee and talk about how capitalism needs the firm hand of government over the invisible hand of Smith.

And just *when* do you pull that trigger? Just when do you start the ambush?

Are YOU willing to give up your house, and your car, and your credit rating?

And how do you unscrew a pregnant lady anyway?

Rome wasn't burned in a day, but Pompeii was.

Entropy means lots of things. What it mostly tells us is that if you don't keep adding energy to a system it will decay.

The only people adding energy to our system are the people who think the system should be able to give back more than you put in.

And of course, the only people who are willing to muster serious opposition are those like Limbaugh, Hannity and Gingrinch.. And Palin, and Reagan, who are outliers. At least Reagan was. Palin, we'll see.

But the problem is what to do.

Duels are stupid, but ambushes, well you'd BETTER hit so damn hard and so damn fast and so damn accurate that you don't lose.

Last November 80 Marines in Afghanistan got ambushed by about 250 Taliban. Odds were over 3 to 1. On the Taliban's home turf. The Ts were well supplied--this wasn't a hit and run, they were prepared and going for a propaganda victory.

In Marine terms this was a "fair fight". Barely.

Once they extracted their peeps from the kill zone, the marines, as they are wont to do, aggressed into the ambush and proceeded to kill 1/5th of their opposition WITHOUT A SINGLE MARINE FATALITY.

One Marine--the Designated Hitter for the unit--fired his rifle IIRC 22 times. He got 22 hits.

So even ambushes--when you're well prepared and have what appear to be overwhelming odds--don't always work. Especially when the other side has some pipe hitting mother fuckers.

Which is to say that you have to be willing to hit hard, and hit first, but you gotta watch out for the ripples, but if you're watching the ripples you know too much.

How do you get the killer instinct and the intellectual understanding without becoming a sociopath?

Which may sort of explain our leaders and our predicament.

All right. I get it. You don't have to hit the button. You can ventilate here. InstaPunk is interested in what you have to say.

UPDATE 2. This one from Geojitsu, who I'm reliably informed is a marine of 'seasoned' age:

IP’s “button” tactic isn’t fooling me. It’s simply his way of looking for a few good men–and I think he found a pair in Taylor and Billy Oblivion.

To Taylor, two quibbles about your excellent post. First, you assert that as the result of brain lock, “two-thirds to three quarters of American soldiers and marines who experienced Japanese banzai charges or Chinese human wave attacks never fired their weapons.” There are a number of ways to attack that position, but I’ll go with six: Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Peleliu, Saipan, and Tarawa. None of these hell holes would have been taken if 75% of the Marines in the rifle platoons had frozen under fire. No way. I refer you to what I believe is the finest battle memoir ever written. “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” by E. B. Sledge.

Second, you say “most people in this country know exactly what is being done to them.” I say [about] half know what is being done to them. And that would be the people who voted AGAINST putting fascist thugs into the White House and Congress.

The problem is not cowardice, it’s ignorance. Decades of collectivist thought has reached critical mass, and we are now reaping the whirlwind.

And finally, to Billy’s question “How do you get the killer instinct and the intellectual understanding without becoming a sociopath?” I'd say BRASS, the acronym every Marine recruit learns before ever hitting the rifle range. “Breath-Relax-Aim-Slack-Squeeze.”

Thank you, gentlemen. Keep'em coming.

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