Category Archives: Books
Today at 2 p.m. we have so many good writers! And we’re even bringing on features you’ve need seen with us before–including the highly young but highly acclaimed poet and writer Emily Hunt!
Emily Hunt is a writer, editor, and translator living in Los Angeles. Emily’s work can be found in Artillery Magazine, YAY LA, Robb Report, Los Angeles Review of Books, DoLA, San Francisco Bay Guardian, World Literary Today, and others. She was a selected participant in the Ashbury Home School poetry conference held by the former poet laureate in Hudson, New York. She is currently at work on her first collection of short fiction, Lake Wallenpaupack. She spends her free time cooking vegan food, drinking, and having awkward-to-tragic encounters with her neighbors. She cries at any and every Robert DeNiro film and she doesn’t think your bacon jokes are cute.
- Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations, and loud love!)
- Matt Sedillo (Grand Slam champion and socialist scholar)
- Emily Hunt (ARiaP newbie who may just outshine us all!)
- Laura Avila (young spoken word secret weapon!)
- Stephen Kalinich (Beach Boys lyricist and peace activist)
- F Douglas Brown (prized teacher/poet and DJ of words)
- Legs McNeil (Punk Magazine co-founder and VICE consigliere)
- Gillian McCain (Please Kill Me poet and voice of reason)
… and don’t forget hosts DM Collins and Art Currim, who will be organizing the entire afternoon along with great helpers from ZZyZx, soon to be announced!
August 16: A Rrose in a Prose, ZZyZx WriterZ, L.A. Zine Fest, Poetry Palooza @ Echo Park Rising: Just Good Enough
On August 16, A Rrose in a Prose is making things even bigger and better, in collaboration with some of the smartest people in town! Maybe it’s TOO good for this month’s theme, “Just Good Enough?” Look how many double-plus good people are plans are converging on our neck of the literary nape:
- Stories Books and Cafe will be smack dab in the middle of all the Echo Park Rising action on that weekend, so A Rrose in a Prose is going to be a featured event of Echo Park Rising!
- We’re partnering with ZZyZx WriterZ this time out, as part of their “Poetrypalooza” fest! Poetrypalooza has been coming to every great venue in town one by one this month, with the express purpose of kicking poetic ass and chewing bubblegum, and they’re all out of rowdy, ruddy tears. They’ll be doing a lot of stuff at the end of our event that don’t normally do, including an open mic! So if you’re not reading as a featured performer at A Rrose in a Prose this time, expect lots of opportunities to share and create art. Think workshops, open mics, and other forms of collaborative art, all slated to happen right after our features conclude.
- We’re also getting some love from L.A. Zine Fest, who will have a TON of zines available to read and buy. Who knows, maybe some Zine Fest zenzations will be on hand to help you create your own?
- Oh, did we mention that Stories Books and Cafe also has ICED DRINKS?!? COLD thingies to make you COLD if it is not so COLD! Icey cold things, and lots of them!
- We also have a very special secret musical treat for all of you, slated to play at 5 p.m.!
Our list of featured authors and poets is as talented as it is joyous, somehow even during the “angry” material. You’ll leave brimming with new feelings and ideas after seeing this crew:
- Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations, and loud love!)
- Matt Sedillo (Grand Slam champion and socialist scholar)
- Emily Hunt (ARiaP newbie who may just outshine us all!)
- Laura Avila (young spoken word secret weapon!)
- Stephen Kalinich (Beach Boys lyricist and peace activist)
- F Douglas Brown (prized teacher/poet and DJ of words)
… and don’t forget hosts DM Collins and Art Currim, who will be organizing the entire afternoon along with great helpers from ZZyZx Writerz, soon to be announced!
Plus there’ll be a haunting, courageous floor show near the end, where DM will reveal that he was Cecil the Lion all along.
Are you still reading? Good! Then you are ONE OF US! See you on the 16th at 2 p.m. These partnerships are a one time thing, so miss it on August 16 and miss it forever!
Until we do it again.
I first became aware of Mary Gaitskill in the mid-late 90s (I believe my professor, T.C. Boyle, made it assigned reading), and I fell in love with her fiction immediately; in particular, I loved the story “Secretary” from Bad Behavior. It’s a grim a-morality play which shows us, almost as if overhead, from a place of horror, the degradation of a little lost girl whose creepy lawyer boss sees in her someone he can manipulate, degrade, and engage in a form of “consensual” dominance/submission that her depression and self-loathing perhaps give her no other choice but to endure.
The following week, when I made a typing mistake, he didn’t spank me. Instead, he told me to bend over his desk, look at the typing mistake and repeat “I am stupid” for several minutes.
It’s a far cry from the movie Secretary, the adaptation of the story that came out in 2002 starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, which is a helluva lot sunnier. In it, Gyllenhaal plays the little lost girl, and Spader as her boss somehow uses S&M to make her blossom as a person.
As a perv, I do like that Secretary was a great PR piece for my people. It helped to normalize kink for the squares, even going so far as to endorse it as a potentially healthy avenue for sexual release, one that most of us in at least subtle ways already participate in through our daily lives (I see Mad Men as also being very kink-positive about dominance games, too, though I think many critics miss that point).
And I am soundly in the James Whale’s Frankenstein camp, (no pun intended), and hold similar opinions about movie adaptations of books as I do about cover versions of great songs–you’ll never be able to capture the same magic in a new format, so please, do change things from the book! Give us an excuse to love those characters all over again in new contexts and with even new tones and lessons than the original piece may have intended. This is why I don’t mind Stanley Kubrick not including Anthony Burgess’ last chapter in his adaptation of A Clockwork Orange: Burgess ended his novel with a lesson on the power of maturity and old age to cure the savagery of youth, but while that’s an inspiring idea, doesn’t the ever-maddening Alex of Kubrick’s version ring equally plausible?
But though I love movies that rework fiction, something seemed a little false, a little too naive, about Secretary. It seemed to be missing some important point. And I don’t think I realized what that nugget of truth was until reading Charlie Latan’s essay about 50 Shades of Grey in Flaunt.
No one seems to be talking about Secretary when reviewing the recent film version of 50 Shades of Grey (just kidding, the smart people are), though clearly Secretary was an influence not only on the film, but likely also to the book that it’s based on. There are so many similarities that Buzzfeed made a list, and Hollywood Reporter tried to top that with a trailer mashup. I haven’t seen the film, but according to Latan, 50 Shades of Grey stops just short of actually giving its characters the believable back stories, emotions, or chemistry of Secretary, but at its base is the same idea: a young, impressionable girl meets a richer, more established boss, and soon an inappropriate S&M relationship blooms in which the controller/”sadist” is the rich successful dude, and the submissive/”masochist” is the poor little lost girl.
And therein lies the rub.
If you have ever been in a good ol’ jolly S&M experience, or full-on master/slave relationship, the fun part is that it’s all play, and that its core, no one is emotionally abusive or truly forcing themselves on another. Whether you engage in S&M with a life partner, a third-party, or even pay for it at a dungeon, at the end of the day everyone is meeting on more or less equal footing.
You can spank your wife all you want in the bedroom, but only because she wants it too (or enthusiastically wants you to do something to her she “doesn’t want” which is still enthusiastic consent); and afterwards, you still have to take out the trash and be a good husband.
And yeah, sometimes there seems to be a gender component, e.g. I as a male seem to get “roped” into being the one who does most of the tying up and spanking in my relationships. But even that is not me truly dominating–I might actually prefer to be the one on the receiving end of this stuff, but I play the role my partner wants me to, at least half of the time. Maybe we’re acting out gender roles in the bedroom almost as a way to exorcise them fully from real life, or maybe I’m just better at tying knots because I was an Eagle Scout. But whatever the case, it’s always me and another person who I care about and who cares about me and who is truly free to leave whenever she/he wants.
(AN ASIDE: Yes, this isn’t always so cheerful. I was even once in a relationship where my partner wanted me to punch her, choke her, say horrible shit to her, and “rape” her as part of sexual intimacy. These are not my preferences, and at times, her predilection was the farthest thing from a turn on I have ever experienced (I actually cried over it once). And yet, for psychological reasons driven by cruelties committed upon her in her past, this dark sex play seemed to really help her to work this shit out in the bedroom. She needed it, and it was not her fault that she needed it. And so on occasion, I would oblige. But this was not my being abusive–this was me trying to help my girlfriend cope, and to get off sexually. The rape was never really rape, because she enthusiastically consented to it, and the “abuse” never went past what she could take, or what I could take. And it started and ended in that space of play, and did not bleed into our “real” lives, or my treatment of her when it came time to figure out what Thai food restaurant to go to or whose friend’s party we’d attend. We were equals. I had no true power over her except our affection, and even that was shared.)
Secretary might have been about a shared affection, but its main characters were not equals: one was a successful boss, one an emotionally battered secretary. Though the bazillionaire dom in 50 Shades of Grey may be almost a Tony Stark cartoon compared to Spader’s lawyer, there is a reason that sexual harassment laws exist. And it’s no different in a law firm than with a high-powered CEO: the relationship between employer and employee is never equal.
Writ large, the relationship between our upper class and those who are financially struggling, those in the dwindling, ever more desperate middle class, is not equal. This is why I struggle with my views on prostitution: on the one hand, I think a person should be able to do whatever they want with their sexuality, including selling it, or offering money to someone who will help them get more experience with it. Yet I worry that women who are not “forced” into prostitution as literal slaves are often doing so because there is a dire economic need that is not their fault. It is their last resort, not their enthusiastic choice.
And as sugary as a fairy tale princess story might seem, are they much different? All damsels are helpless to stop the forces that shape their lives, be they witches, evil step-sisters, or… the heroic princes themselves, whose love is mandatory if the princess is to survive. Sound like Pretty Woman much? This is not the consent of equals. And any story that cranks up a boss/employee power relationship into one of love and consent is masking, rather than revealing, the dark nature of economic sadism that our society’s 0.1% power players commit upon us on an ever-increasing basis, a sadism that is making the middle class vanish. Charlie Latan gets it just right:
Anastasia Steele is the perfect stand in for such a vanishing class … As anyone working a salaried jobs knows, options are scarce. Bend over, and forego your identity to the cruel calculations and staggering organizations of an interested corporation. They’ll whip you, and buy you a nice lunch, fly you across the country for a meeting. Sounds strangely familiar to Ana’s tutelage with Grey. In the process, one develops a social identity that is left behind if one leaves the arrangement (sexual or professional). Essentially, if you take a hike, you are like the fictional Ana, you cease to move the narrative forward.
While I applaud Secretary for being a fun film that attempts to speak well of kink, by placing its relationship in the context of employer and employee, it misses this more important point, one that Gaitskill’s original “Secretary” doesn’t. If in Orwell’s 1984, the future is “a boot stamping on a human face—for ever,” our present is one in which our bosses make us lick their boots, and then trick us into thinking a few dirty coins make this a good thing. We shouldn’t be using James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhall to make this relationship of power inequality look, even in a minor way, like that’s something that can be reworked into a positive. No wonder Gaitskill called the film adaptation of her work “the Pretty Woman version, heavy on the charm (and a little too nice).”
-D. M Collins
P.S. You may have noticed that I didn’t bother mentioning the names of the directors of 50 Shades of Grey or Secretary, nor the author of 50 Shades of Grey. I probably should have, but A) personalizing this might dilute my thesis into ad hominem attacks, and B) it was hard enough spelling “Gyllenhall” half a dozen times, and I want to quit naming people while I’m ahead.
It was a busy month for me, not just with writing, but with a lot of life stuff. I’m just now getting around to posting about our most recent Rrose, which is sheer negligence on my part, because these were some of the best writers we’ve had yet.
It was particularly special to have David Markey, an acquaintance of mine I’ve known for a couple years and who’s made some of my favorite documentaries of all time, including The Reinactors from a few years back. Here he is, reading a chapter from his and Jordan Schwartz’s new book, We Got Power!, a collection of essays, photos, and xeroxed flyers from the days in the very early 80s when these two young kids were putting out the definitive punk fanzine that celebrated L.A.’s burgeoning hardcore scene and the golden greats of Quincy and Three’s Company with equal enthusiasm.
My favorite part here is when he just goes into a huge long list of all the bands that played at the time, name after name after name, making his memoir veer temporarily into a realm that, for me, evoked one of those “I’m just going to name a bunch of cool things I like, all in a row” braggadocios favored by MIKE the PoeT. That said, you can see in the clip how effective it was in getting the audience to perk up and listen. Mere lists, especially long ones, can sometimes have more overwhelming magic than thoughtfully arranged poetry. Perhaps that makes Dave a “lexicon devil?”
A friend mistakenly told me that the deadline for submitting a proposal to 33 1/3 books had passed before it truly was. By the time I figured out that I still had time to submit, I had about four days to do everything.
Worse still, during the first two days, as I crammed through every bit of good source material I could find to help me write my introductory chapter, I realized that my initial concept, Judas Priest’s British Steel, wouldn’t fly–author Neil Daniels had juuuuust written one in 2011 for a similar book series, meaning there would be no need for a new one. 33 1/3 would not be friendly towards publishing a copycat book no matter how good I thought my retelling of its events might be.
Rather than “scream for vengeance,” I thought frantically about some kind of proposal I could pull off in 48 hours. And then it struck me–what could be more pivotal in the world of weird esoteric rock, the kind beloved of 33 1/3 fans, than The Faust Tapes, the first album released on Richard Branson’s fledgling Virgin Records in the early seventies, a full album priced at the value of a mere single which marked a turning point (for good or ill) in the careers of German weirdos Faust as well? It doesn’t hurt that I had interviewed Faust last year and had some choice, original quotes that most music nerds might not think to ask of their prospective choices.
Well, apparently the 33 1/3 folk didn’t give a shit about my idea. Today I received a depressingly boilerplate reply from Publishing Director David Barker over at Bloomsbury, saying my proposal “hasn’t made it to the second round.” Maybe they balked at my execution–due to my friend’s mistake, and my own stupid refusal to go with my gut id instinct as I would normally do and and check things out for myself immediately online just for the chance to say “nah-huhh,” my whole proposal looks super rushed.
And yet, and yet … goddam it, is the below really such a shambles? Should I re-run this next year, or move on to a new idea, or rewrite this? Or maybe this is too off-topic for a first chapter in a book about The Faust Tapes? I wrote this and a bunch of other materials literally in less than 48 hours, so I won’t get my feelings hurt if you think this sucks … please, give me the feedback that 33 1/3 was too busy to provide.
AN INTRODUCTION: JAIL AND THE ANGRY VIRGIN
Even considering the strangeness of early 70s Germany, Faust was always the odd man out in the German progressive rock scene. Perhaps that has something to do with the outlandishness of the stories told about them: the nudism, the cultism, the police, the guns in the face, the construction equipment on stage, the smashing of parking gates with cars, or the subsequent nights in jail—added all up, their legend lent them a bratty, petulant public persona, with an immaturity quotient that exceeded all the other screamers and electronic knob-twiddlers of their oeuvre. And just like the band, that gleeful id never quite went away, somehow surviving the ravages of age largely intact into the 21st century. Even now, if somehow you’re able to corner a member of Faust at one the farmhouses and hotels where they’ve been spending their old age, you won’t need to coax him into recounting his youthful hijinks with a proud wink and a nudge.
Yet it was the music that always set Faust apart, a consciously eclectic style prefabricated with more deliberate intent than even the robotic drum machine beats of Kraftwerk, yet which hit the record shelves with more anarchic glee than a shocked music-buying public had ever expected to receive from Teutonic origins. Not even Faust’s own countrymen could abide them, which is why they were one of the first of the “krautrock” bands to head west, towards the sunnier shores (figuratively) of the UK.
With Kraftwerk being the possible exception, there’s a myth about krautrock bands among the casual rock enthusiast, which is that they all sound the same. Even fans who know better often attempt to dispel that myth with the opposite myth, that somehow bands like Can, NEU!, Cluster, and Guru Guru are not even connected, and that there was no scene at all from which such seminal bands sprung. And it is true that each band seemed to originate from a different town, be it Cologne or Düsseldorf or West Berlin.
But a look through the recording schedule at Conny Plank studios proves this second myth to be just as false, as do the shared band members/collaborations/Eno associations that trickled through the krautrock world consistently from the start of the movement until its dissipation in the late 70s. Krautrock was a fake term but a real musician’s clubhouse, and only a few bands bucked the trend of working with Plank and the extended diaspora of his professional friends. The most famous of these was Faust.
“We didn’t have any contact whatsoever with other German bands from this time,” drummer Werner “Zappi” Diermaier recounts adamantly from the present day. “We met Brian Eno once, but that’s the end of the story.” And at least stylistically, Faust thrived in isolation, first in the small town of Wümme, and then after their subsequent expatriotism to England, where the bright eyed optimism of Virgin Records was there to take care of them. If only they hadn’t complained so much about the lack of a German cook.
In the end, it was a room service tab that finished off the band.
It was 1975, and Faust, long after moving to England, and having more recently concluded an oddball tour that saw the band hemorrhaging original members, decided to reshuffle the tarot deck of their misfortune by going back to the fatherland: Munich, and Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland studios. There, without any tacit thumbs up from their label, Virgin Records, they’d started laying down session recordings they intended eventually to package as their fifth album—their fourth hadn’t gone over so well, and now their combo had been whittled down to just bassist Jean-Hervé Péron, guitarist Rudolph Sosna, and organist Hans Joachim Irmler.
Broke, but technically still under contract with Virgin, the trio and their compatriots in Munich spent the majority of their nights and most of their days at a nearby hotel that also owned the studio—and that meant they could tell the staff to put virtually everything “on Virgin’s tab.” Emulating the rock stars they occasionally hobnobbed with (they’d famously partied with the Rolling Stones, who also recorded in Munich) the band spent a good portion of their time eating in, ordering bottles of wine, and indulging in the kind of extravagant hospitality that they’d seen their more successful rock and roll party pals afford on a consistent basis.
But it was too large an IOU for a second-tier German prog rock band to float for long. When the hotel management put its foot down, roughly demanding immediate compensation for the studio time, its beds, and its room service tab, the band discovered that their expenditures had come out to 30,000 Deutschmarche-by comparison, that’s about $12,000 in mid-seventies dollars, or $60,000 today. Faust swiftly called long distance to London and to the Virgin Records office.
But Virgin Records had grown sick of it, and wasn’t about to pay for the overseas extravagances of a bunch of ingrates whose best-selling album had only sold as a gimmick, and whose most recent album hadn’t sold at all. Virgin wouldn’t even pay for the new Munich recordings the band claimed to be doing. There would be no fifth album, at least not with Virgin.
This was not something they’d expected from Virgin. The decision to abandon Faust to their fate was an admission of failure that went all the way to the top. Just two years before, Faust had been a flagship band for the fledgling label. “They were our very, very first signing,”[i] Richard Branson recalls today. But despite an ambition that reached literally to the stars, the young blonde-locked visionary at the helm of Virgin had not been able to fuel the fire that might have propelled rocketship Faust into popularity the same way he did with esoteric albums such as Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Since Faust had found a home in England and with Virgin, they had succeeded only at two things: recording chaotic, visceral music interspersed with humble contemplation, and partying with an excess that was less self-destructive than it was cost-ineffective. Sadly, only the latter had involved large quantities of money, and that had flowed in the wrong direction.
“We can’t blame Richard Branson for dropping us,” admits Jean-Hervé Péron, Faust’s bassist, who still plays with Zappi in an iteration of Faust to this day. “I remember him being a very pleasant, very nice person. We took advantage of their kindness, I think. We were always having orgies and throwing parties, and we always left the bill with Virgin.”
From Virgin’s perspective, all that partying, with lack of concern for the bottom line, had gone too far, beyond even the significantly widened boundaries that 70s labels allowed for. And Virgin’s boundaries (and, according to band members, Virgin’s secretaries) were the “loosest.” Branson and Virgin may have had some meddling “suggestions” for Faust regarding their material, but by the standards of most record labels, they’d supported Faust from start to finish, even after the last supporters in Faust’s inner circle had called it a day.
Virgin even outlasted Uwe Nettelbeck, who quit long before Munich. The manager and unsung first member of the band (unsung except for within the band, the press, and in historical documents like this one), Nettelbeck was a former radical leftist who had manufactured Faust at the behest of Polydor Germany, Monkees style: he’d hustled members from two different bands into a studio built from an old schoolhouse outside Hamburg and merged them into one entity, which went on to do two albums for Polydor. Again in 1973, when the deal with Polydor had gone sour, Nettelbeck had shown incredibly shrewd business acumen for a communist sympathizer: he was the impetus behind the Virgin deal that allowed for Branson to transition the band smoothly from Polydor to his own label with minimal costs on both sides.
But now Faust were on their third strike, and Nettelbeck had abandoned them to Branson. And with Nettelbeck went engineer Kurt Graupner, shortly followed by founding band member Arnulf Meifert. The shrinking band had been playing England with borrowed help from members of Gong and Slapp Happy, but now in Germany, even Zappi had left, and they had no one to turn to.
So perhaps they felt cornered, or maybe the tinge of revolution still hung in the air. After all, Faust had at one point harbored members of the infamous Baader-Meinhof gang in their schoolhouse years before, and they’d eluded the police then. In a fit of criminal inspiration, after grabbing their gear and recordings from Musicland studios, Faust piled into cars and literally smashed their way out of the hotel parking lot.
“We had to leave like thieves!” claims Péron. “I remember driving away, smashing through a post that blocked our way. Joachim and Rudolf got caught and jailed, and their parents had to bail them out—we are still in debt with them!”[ii]
It was a humiliating finale, both a bang and a whimper. How had these stars in the Virgin pantheon sunk so low as to need a bailout from mom?
Only two years before, Faust had pulled a similar trick, leaving Polydor with practically stolen goods in the virtual dead of night as they absconded for new shores. But in 1973 it had worked. Their piracy allowed them to snatched victory from the jaws of defeat successfully, and they’d arrived in England as avant-garde kings, and even helped launch one of the wealthiest personal fortunes in history. The album that got Virgin Records in the press, the one that became “the social phenomenon of 1973”[iii] as Julian Cope famously said, was The Faust Tapes.
For many bands, their earliest work is the most memorable, or there’s a latter-day masterpiece that uses all the lessons they’ve learned and puts it into one great opus, but few bands hit one out of the park on their third try, right in the middle of their greatest era.
But The Faust Tapes were not normal. Like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, there was the sense that this was a put-on, or a dare. Like an unfinished work by Kafka, or a lost work by Petronius, there was a sense that this work was a reference to something bigger outside itself, something that was forever lost. And of course, there was the fact that it was a marketing gimmick, sold cheaply, at the price of a mere single, in order to boost the name of Faust to an unsuspecting public. But then again, that had been the plan for Faust all along, ever since Nettelbeck had assembled them in the late 60s to take advantage of an upcoming revolution. Which revolution he’d intended is still up anyone’s guess.
I just finished reading Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood. While it was cool to read about Frank Zappa’s log cabin and Joni Mitchell living with Stephen Stills, I have to admit that in my heart, I still prefer balls-out rockers to any of these hippie fucks. What the fuck can Stephen Stills tell me that the Music Machine can’t blow out of the water? You can FEEL this music. In your groin.
As for Laurel Canyon, it was a decent read, though there was a whole chapter and a half about the Troubadour that had very very very little to do with the book’s thesis statement. For the record, I love a good chunk of the musicians who lived in Laurel Canyon back in the day. The ones who live there now suck ass, though.
My friend DJ Algonquin just clued me into this amazing site, wherein are listed hundreds of manifestos, many of them accessible via various links. Of course, me, I’ve got a lot of art manifestos in book form at home, but not so many political or religious ones. This site has everything, from Rayonism to Luigi Russolo to Valerie Solanas to Pat Buchanan’s Core Values manifesto.
There’s so much to delve into here, but today I’m having a lot of fun with Tristan Tzara’s how i became charming, likeable and delightful:
I sleep very late. I commit suicide at 65%. My life is very cheap, it’s only 30% of life for me. My life has 30% of life. It lacks arms, strings and a few buttons. 5% is devoted to a state of semi-lucid stupor accompanied by anaemic crackling. This 5% is called DADA. So life is cheap. Death is a bit more expensive. But life is charming and death is equally charming.
I’m a fan of Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter, in which he chronicles his prosecution of Charles Manson for the Tate/LaBianca murders in the early seventies. Though historical perspective and local L.A. hearsay tend to show how much Bugliosi and the police misunderstood about the case (MDA deal, anyone?), his account is still the Bible for all rebellious pre-teens who want to find out more about America’s favorite bogeyman.
Today, though, Bugliosi’s going after another mass murderer, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths–George W. Bush. In his new book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, he suggests not only that Bush is a murderer, but that he should receive the same punishment for his crimes that he relished as Texas’s governor: capital punishment.
If Bush, in fact, intentionally misled this nation into war, what is the proper punishment for him? Since many Americans routinely want criminal defendants to be executed for murdering only one person, if we weren’t speaking of the president of the United States as the defendant here, to discuss anything less than the death penalty for someone responsible for over 100,000 deaths would on its face seem ludicrous.
I’m kind of fascinated by this story not because I think Bugliosi has any power to make this happen, but because he’s saying what I think a lot of us are thinking–Bush is an evil president, who has lied straight-faced to the American people, boldly coddled his friends and pardoned his accomplices, knowingly condemned innocents to torture and death, and threatened all nay-sayers with the stigma of being considered appeasers or traitors. Bush does deserve to be tried, and though I don’t believe in the death penalty for anyone, I think I’d definitely put him in line for the chair ahead of, say, a mentally retarded woman in Texas.
Thomas Pynchon loves him some Porky Pig. And this is why I have yet another reason to love YouTube.
If you’re like me, you have a giant mental backlog of things you want to remember to look up on YouTube. Now, most people, at least according to Patton Oswalt on Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil the other night, use YouTube as a kind of America’s Funniest Home Videos Gone Wild, where people watch each other’s crappy clips of farting pandas and dudes getting socked in the nuts, as though we’re all little Caligulas demanding our slaves to fetch us more and more tawdry spectacles. For me, though, YouTube is a library for the obscurest of obscure, a flashlight upon the most dimly held television and movie memories, a “gotcha!” quote catcher for politicians and celebrities, and an independent arbiter to help resolve disputes about what celebrity said which thing when where.
But my greatest “eureka!” moments come when I’m waiting in an elevator or something, and I’ll recall something I’d once desperately wanted to see footage of but had no way of acquiring until YouTube came about. It could be a performance of a comedian I’d only read books of, or something from the early early days of cinema, or footage of a personal hero from decades ago–and now, with the power invested in me by YouTube, I can finally see the Porky Pig cartoon where he fights an anarchist, as mentioned in The Crying of Lot 49:
“It was all mixed in with a Porky Pig cartoon.” He waved at the tube. “It comes into your dreams, you know. Filthy machine. Did you ever see the one about Porky Pig and the anarchist?”
She had, as a matter of fact, but she said no. “The anarchist is dressed all in black. In the dark you can only see his eyes. It dates from the 1930’s. Porky Pig is a little boy. The children told me that he has a nephew now, Cicero. Do you remember, during the war, when Porky worked in a defense plant? He and Bugs Bunny. That was a good one too.”
“Dressed all in black,” Oedipa prompted him.
Well, like so many of Pynchon’s source materials, this one is bona-fide real, and now that I’ve built it up way more than it needs, here it is!
I couldn’t sleep last night, so I cracked open my Dave Eggers-edited The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 and plunged into the story where I’d left my bookmark three weeks ago. The story ended up being about an older woman and her motherly relationship with the child of some of her friends, a third-person account of a coming of age story, and it was touching and very sad and lonely-feeling, and didn’t help my insomnia at all.
I hit the sack, felt more and more awake, got up, and started in on an old short story I’d been working on a while back. But I felt my creative juices congealing, so picked up the short story I’d just read and started re-reading it. And only then did I see that the author who had moved me so was Miranda July.
Okay, so I was aware of her before, but this was seriously the best thing in the anthology I’ve read so far—and that includes the expose of the Burmese band Iron Cross and a report about Darfur (though that’s kind of an apples-and-bazookas comparison—would you rather read a short story or hear a dying child scream?).
It’s my intention to go out and buy her recent short story collection as soon as possible. Here’s a clip of her reading from it last year. Not only is her reading good, but for some reason, you also get to hear Becky Stark cracking wise!