Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
October 14, 2010 - October 7, 2010

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No, It Doesn't Matter...

...BUT IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE A REMINDER. Yes, I know Sotomayor's a lock. Yes, I know she's just filling Souter's already unregenerate liberal seat. Yes, I know her appointment changes nothing. Yes, I know it's solely an exercise in tantrum-throwing to pay any attention.

I know all that. The only reason I am paying attention is for the few stark reminders of how bad things are this latest circus offers.

1. The MSM's liberal bias is inescapable and undeniable. Find me one major news outlet (no, Newsmax, and the Washington Times don't count) that didn't portray Sotomayor's repeated "I rely on the law, and only the law" claims as unassailably genuine, Democratic softballl questions and kid-gloving her as anything but appropriate geniality, or any opposition to her appointment as spiteful, futile poo-flinging from the now 100% irrelevant Republicans. Find me one.

My hometown paper costs a dollar now. I buy a copy every day to read at lunch. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

2. E.J. Dionne Is a Knob. Seriously. I pantsed this guy last year. I thought I knew just how depraved a sophist he is, but even I choked on my own puke at the title of his latest piece, "It's Sotomayor's critics who are the radicals."


3. I Guess There's Just The Two. I guess there's just the two. Should have said "a couple stark reminders" instead of "a few." Too bad there's no way to go back and edit text once it's been typed. As a kid, I thought we would have that by 2009. Along with flying cars and jetpacks, and seven-course meals in pill form, and cities on the moon. And a reliably sane Supreme Court. Ah, the folly of youth.

NASA still laboring
to refute moon "hoax"

Those who believe the moon landing was faked point to several "flaws" in
 this original footage. First, Buzz Aldrin doesn't look "quite right." Second,
there's no sign of actual Apollo logos and stuff. Third, what's that crawler
 thingy all about that says "Argentina"? And finally, yeah, there is a pretty
convincing takeoff, but where's the actual landing on the moon? What's up?

TIME OUT FROM THE DESOTO DEBACLE. Most of you know we take our science pretty seriously here at InstaPunk, so we feel obligated to break into the fascinating ongoing display of prevarication by Sonia DeSoto on the floor of the Senate to alert you to what may be a climactic moment in the long-lived controversy about the Apollo moon landings. First, there's this bit of explanation from the New York Times:

Forty years after men first touched the lifeless dirt of the Moon — and they did. Really. Honest. — polling consistently suggests that some 6 percent of Americans believe the landings were faked and could not have happened. The series of landings, one of the greatest gambles of the human race, was an elaborate hoax developed to raise national pride, many among them insist.

They examine photos from the missions for signs of studio fakery, and claim to be able to tell that the American flag was waving in what was supposed to be the vacuum of space. They overstate the health risks of traveling through the radiation belts that girdle our planet; they understate the technological prowess of the American space program; and they cry murder behind every death in the program, linking them to an overall conspiracy.

And while there is no credible evidence to support such views, and the sheer unlikelihood of being able to pull off such an immense plot and keep it secret for four decades staggers the imagination, the deniers continue to amass accusations to this day. They are bolstered by films like a documentary shown on Fox television in 2001 and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon” by Bart Sibrel, a filmmaker in Nashville.

Of course, those who believe in the hoax theory point out that the New York Times believes the World Trade Center was brought down by commercial airliners under the control of Islamic terrorists (sheesh), and they refuse even to cover such well established conspiracies as the conquest of earth by shapeshifting lizard people (scroll down). In fact, the Times goes out of its way to say nasty, venomous things about the few people who are wise to such crimes against humanity:

Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law who has written extensively on conspiracy theories, said he sees similarities between people who argue that the Moon landings never happened and those who insist that the 9/11 attacks were planned by the government and that President Obama’s birth certificate is fake: at the core, he said, is a polarization so profound that people end up with an unshakable belief that those in power “simply can’t be trusted.”

The emergence of the Internet as a communications medium, he noted, makes it possible for once-scattered believers to find one another. “It allows the theory to continue to exist, to continue to be available — it’s not just some old dusty books on the half-price shelf.”

Adam Savage, the co-star of the television show “MythBusters,” spent an episode last year taking apart Moon hoax theories bit by bit, entertainingly and convincingly. The theorists, he noted, never give up. “They’ll say you have to keep an open mind,” he said, “but they reject every single piece of evidence that doesn’t adhere to their thesis.”

Lizards, all of them. Starting with that evil extraterrestrial moron-genius George W. Bush, who....

Well, back on topic. This moon landing thing does happen to be wrong and ridiculous, as the Times notes only fifteen or twenty times in passing. And thankfully, NASA has bellied up to the table for once and exerted itself to find the actual, honest-to-goodness real footage of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing that had been suspiciously "lost" for, lo, these many years.

It looks like NASA has found the missing moon-landing videotapes.

A carefully worded media advisory note issued Monday promised that "greatly improved video imagery from the July 1969 live broadcast of the Apollo 11 moonwalk" would be made public Thursday.

Rumors have been flying around the Internet for weeks that NASA, after years of searching, had discovered the original recordings of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's lunar excursion — which the space agency once feared had been accidentally destroyed.

The story, as summarized by Britain's Sunday Express newspaper in late June, was that the tapes had been found in a storage facility in the basement of a building on a university campus in Perth, ArgentinaAustralia.

Refute this, you moonbats:

Like a stick in the eye, isn't it? Or a bullet.

Any more questions?

The Worst F&F Ever.

FOOL ME TWICE.... This is doubly embarrassing. Embarrassing personally because I have to admit I am still watching this perpetual train wreck of a morning show. Also embarrassing in the much broader sense that the Fox News Channel, supposedly the sole island of sanity in the Obama worship that has made all mass media nauseating for the past year or so, is not just amateurishly silly at times, but glaringly, ludicrously, horrifyingly incompetent.

But I cannot keep silent. I get up early. Usually before 6 am. I watch F&F because if the Phillies are losing or not playing, THERE'S NOTHING ELSE ON THAT ISN'T AN OBAMA COMMERCIAL. Today was no exception. But when I settled down with my first cup of microwaved coffee from yesterday's pot (boiled pencils, anyone?) to begin the morning with the usual rerun of Bill O'Reilly's self-aggrandizing crop of Factor emails, the Fox & Friends were already on the air. Gretchen Carlson was yammering about a plane crash in Iran for which all the known facts were neatly captured (for once) in the headline and caption of the 20 seconds of footage available of a hole in the ground near Tehran. All right. Too bad. For everyone who really cares about the death of 168 strangers from a country that hates our guts regardless of which side they're on in the current political fracas.

Not trying to sound callous here. Don't know those folks or anyone who does. And there was no information about the event itself or its cause or specific circumstances, and the ad-libbing Carlson and Doocy were attempting was singularly off-putting. Doocy kept repeating that this would be blamed on us because of the sanctions and their denial of "spare parts" to Iran. Come again? One of the few facts they did have was that it was a Russian airliner, and the Russians have never observed the sanctions of the U.S. or the U.N. If the Russians can't get spare parts for their incredibly disaster-prone airliners to the Iranians (even if that would have helped), it's hardly our concern, and any Iranian government attempt to blame us is just the punchline for jokes it's too early to devise the setups for at 5:55 am.

Blessedly, Gretchen seemed about to move on when a graphic popped on screen about the DeSoto hearings, but she speedily backtracked to the plane crash story -- apparently, the producers wanted her to repeat all her misinformation and airhead speculations one or two (or three) more times before letting her, and us, off the hook. So she blundered on while the technicians continued to rerun their same twenty seconds of video over and over and over again. And one more time, just to be sure.

Which was all only a warmup for the absolutely unbelievable outrage of the morning -- the false report that the House of Representatives had passed a healthcare bill. I knew this was not true. I had read the night before that the bill had been introduced and that Nancy Pelosi had bravely, rashly declared that it would be passed before the August recess. But it was early, and I was still numb with sleep, and I watched incredulously as Doocy, Carlson, and "The Judge" (substituting for the Kilmead clown I cannot, alas, blame any of this on) railed against congress for passing yet another 1,000 page bill no one had read. Mind you, they had no vote count, no footage of Dem leaders crowing about their accomplishment, nothing whatever to verify the completely false item of information it didn't occur to any of them to question. In fact, the footage they were running of the stacks of pages the bill comprised was from the senate, not the house, and most likely of the stimulus bill, not the healthcare abomination the senate is conspicuously not bringing to the floor...

I expected, confidently, that they would come back from commercial to concede their mistake. No. They didn't. In fact, they repeated it almost an hour later, shortly before I switched off the set to go to work.

It's barely worth mentioning the additional flourishes on their worst day ever that transpired subsequently. But I will. Because they're so typical, in one case, and so elementally Fox News, in another.

There was, in the first instance, the Gretchen Carlson interview with two sluggish academics from the University of North Southwest Alabama who had conducted some preliminary study about the most important political controversy in the known universe, the disposition of American auto dealers, of which Gretchen's family is -- as she repeatedly reminds us -- a disgracefully dispossessed victim. F&F loves to schedule short interviews with articulate experts who barely get to utter a topic sentence before being dispatched in the name of time constraints and looooong interviews with ordinary folks who saved a puppy or sued a school district and have absolutely no memory of the event once the cameras are turned on. This interview turned out to be a combination of both -- loooong interview, theoretically competent interview subjects, and no ability whatsoever to get to the point. Gretchen tried with all her might to get them to say what she wanted them to say, that the decision about which dealers would be deep-sixed was a political calculation based on the geography of Obama support, but her pitiful guests weren't even able to describe the study, let alone characterize any results. Not just classic F&F, but archetypal F&F.

We moved from there into the street, where a pseudo-diner franchise had miraculously built a whole diner counter in honor of their 45th (45th?! The Cubic Zirconium Jamboree?) anniversary. Of course it featured the barstools traditional diners always have, and Doocy speedily camped his bony ass on one of them while Gretchen began to take on the deer-in-the-headlights look of her previous guests. She's dumb about some things -- well, a lot of things -- but not about camera angles as they relate to a woman in a skirt trying to sit modestly opposite lenses aimed directly at crotch-level. She edged herself onto one of the stools and immediately swung to her left, hoping to avoid the (at least implied) beaver shot, but that's exactly where the secretly stern Mr. Doocy intervened. He was talking and Gretchen's wiggling was a distraction, so he clamped a hand on her seatback and swung her directly into optimum beaver shot range. And, no, there was nothing truly scandalous to be seen, because Carlson's thighs were clamped so tightly together that it was clear to one and all the triangle of shadow at the juncture of her hem and thighs was only shadow, but her suit was blue and her face was green and the triangle of shadow was inescapable. As I said, elemental Fox: if it spreads, it leads.

It was shortly after this that we returned to the studio and Doocy repeated the fiction that the house of representatives had passed a trillion-dollar healthcare bill. Click.

MEMO TO ROGER AILES: We all deserve better. Isn't it bad enough that the goofy dimwit interns you trust to type captions and other chyron input can't spell worth a damn, so that every day we see major stories rendered ridiculous by Howdy Doody alphabetics like "clandestun" and "budgetery"? Isn't it enough that you force us to sit still for a grinning chimp of a host who cannot read any name -- be it of person or place -- without mangling it repeatedly and evincing evident self-satisfaction about his dyslexic illiteracy? Isn't it enough that all the real news on your first broadcast of the day is swiped from wire services and rarely even mentioned in what is passed off as news during the show itself? Isn't it enough that your two principal female hosts remain perpetually convinced that the program is actually about them and their ability to make every story a mere teleprompter lead-in to their personal anecdotes about breastfeeding, beauty pageants, food obsessions, and their tedious family lives? Or are we now really ALSO expected to put up with the fact that they are more unprepared and unprofessional than they are opinionated and self-absorbed?

We need a news outlet that is what Fox News claims to be: "fair and balanced," fine. But also f___ing "news."


Should I put that in all-caps?

No. But I will repeat it.


P.S. On top of all that, a big THANK YOU to Fox Sports for covering up the Pres's miserable first pitch, which was a twofer: 1) a sissy airball that 2) dropped like a Texas League blooper onto the dirt a foot in front of home plate. If Albert Pujols weren't one of the greatest players of his generation, no way he could have scooped it up the way he did. But you didn't seen this if you were watching the All-Star game on the media conglomerate Obama hates more than any other. Fox Sports chose a camera angle so artful we didn't get to see where his NBA-caliber pitch actually went. Fiddle Faddle. Here was a presidential pitch.


Why You Have Never
Heard of Punk Writing

Professor Thomas Naughton, brother of the first scholar who deigned to
dissect punk writing. They're both dead now, but the silence continues.

ALICE IS SLEEPING. So you've had a chance to read some of their stuff, but people who actually count did too. They weren't impressed. Here's the introduction to the only scholarly treatment they ever received. And, yes, it's completely unreadable, as Lynn Wyler said. But if you could struggle through it, or read at it, or use it as a reference, it does contain some information nobody else ever bothered to collect, all biases aside. There are footnotes in the original, a lot of them, but we figured you wouldn't care. Sorry. If that's presumptuous, we can make them available upon request.

Needless to say, perhaps, if Dr. Naughton sees no merit in a body of manuscripts, the buyers at Borders and Barnes & Noble make it clear to publishers that there's no point in publishing. It's the way things are done in the world of the liberal intelligentsia. You know. The New Yorker talks, bullshit walks.

A Post-Mortem on
Punk Writing


In the case of most literary movements, straightforward research and relatively elementary textual analysis suffice to provide the scholar with a basis for interpretation of the corpus of work in question. The sine qua non for such a basis consists of assumptive parameters by which the scholar can gauge the relative importance or unimportance of the contradictions, incongruities, and unknowns that inevitably arise during any detailed investigation into the origins and intentions of a particular literary tradition. But in approaching the lives and works of punk writers, one is almost immediately faced with such an unprecedented profusion of obtrusive and potentially primal elements of all kinds—seminal, definitional, conformational, and transformational—that the task of distinguishing significant from merely incidental influences requires an extraordinarily meticulous and objective methodology.

It is for this reason that a much more than cursory knowledge of punk’s formative milieu must serve as a prerequisite to the study of punk works. Any reader not mindful of the myriad circumstances attendant on the emergence of this phenomenon runs a double risk: first, of misreading its confused but all too literal fragments of self-history as profound but difficult literary inventions; and second, of inferring from this quite spurious aura of profundity a wholly erroneous schema of punk intent, in which ineptitude is interpreted as technique, confession as metaphor, and brutality as philosophy.

And for those who would approach the subject despite these risks, there is yet another obstacle to surmount, one of such magnitude that any scholar who encounters it could almost be pardoned for concluding that punk’s manifold mysteries are beyond hope of resolution. The nature of this formidable stumbling block was ably described by Clausen in one of the first (and only) essays written on the punk writer phenomenon:

The punks do not publish their works. They may perform them on stage, paint them on the walls of public buildings, or force them on pedestrians at knifepoint, but it is anathema to their code to submit them to publishing houses for dissemination to the world at large. Nor are they in the least disposed to discuss themselves or their work, insisting that whatever reasons they have for writing, the desire to communicate is not one of them.

These are primary anomalies, and the demise of the punk writing movement has altered the situation only for the worse. The writings that were difficult for Clausen to acquire in 1982 are still not widely available, and present evidence indicates that a high percentage of them may have been lost altogether in the fifteen years since the movement’s end. Moreover, the rigid code of silence observed by most of punk’s principals and followers when punk writing was in its ascendancy has not been abandoned but has rather been fiercely retained, almost as if it had become a kind of sacred relic to those who mourn punk’s passing.

In the face of such daunting obstacles, the question inevitably arises: Are the potential benefits of scholarly inquiry into the punk movement worth the labors that will undoubtedly be involved in penetrating its mysteries? Assuredly, any scholar who did not pose this question would be derelict in his/her duty to both his/her profession and his/her peers, notwithstanding the generous latitude society at large has traditionally granted the academic community in the matter of deciding which subjects are worthy of investigation and which are not. Simple pragmatism demands that members of the academic community concur, willingly or regretfully, with the opinion expressed by Lieberman in his celebrated Treatise on Modern Criticism that “There is more of wistfulness than wisdom in the credo Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.”

Thus, we confront the task of determining whether or not there is prima facie evidence that punk writing does not merit serious study. And some would argue—indeed, some have already argued—that such evidence abounds. It must be admitted at the outset, for example, that punk writing is, almost without exception, bad writing. No less tolerant and distinguished a critic than Jameson wrote the following indictment:

Even at its putative best, punk prose is repetitive, strident, deliberately offensive in tone and technique, and quite devoid of that most vital prerequisite of literature, the writer’s interest in—and sympathy for—his or her characters. At its worst, punk prose is beneath contempt, consisting of little more than illiterate and incoherent diatribes full of mixed metaphors, fragmented constructs of plot and thought, and irrational unregenerate hostility.

What can there be in all this to attract serious scholarly interest? This is a vital question and one that must be addressed at some length, but having posed it in its proper place, I must at once beg leave to defer discussion of it until such time as the groundwork has been laid for a satisfactory answer, whose referent elements would necessarily at present include facts and conclusions not yet available—for confirmation or disputation—to my readers. Precipitate consideration of such issues could have no reasonable prospect of allaying an only too prudent skepticism. I therefore propose, with apologies to the ordinally minded among you, to lay the foundation for an informed decision by describing some of the punk writing movement’s background and history. Much of the information that follows was obtained from secondary sources, but this is an unfortunate necessity whose potential ill effects I have attempted to minimize by using only that material for which at least circumstantial supporting evidence could be obtained. In those few instances here included for which no such supporting evidence could be found, I have provided the identity of my source so that others can verify or disprove their testimony independently. All speculations in the following summary have been, I believe, expressly identified as such.

Herewith, I offer a brief overview of the punk writing movement, beginning with what is known of its origins.

The Beginning

In the fall of 1978 an unemployed auto mechanic named Samuel Dealey moved from the small town in southern New Jersey where he had been born to the South Street section of Philadelphia. A week later he wrote a letter to his sister describing his new home and his reasons for moving there:

...there’s plenty of kids & nobody to mes with you’s, if I want to gets boozed up I do, theres plenty places for that. Nobody saying hey you, do this, do that where was you yestiday. Its all free here I can dress how I like and I got a place with some other guys who know some of the realy cool bands here, a guy called Eddy Pig is learning me the gitar, so dont worry I’ll be making some good bread soon...

Dealey’s characterization of the South Street atmosphere was not an exaggeration, but a fairly accurate description of what had lately become a Mecca for culturally and economically dispossessed young people. The “realy cool bands,” moreover, were such a presence in the area that in May 1979, residents in neighboring Society Hill twice petitioned the Philadelphia Police Department to enforce the local noise ordinances more strictly, citing “repeated late night disturbances by punk rock bands whose exceptionally loud music and riotous behavior have become an intolerable nuisance to everyone in the vicinity.”

Despite these pleas, however, the police were apparently unable to impose order on the burgeoning population of South Street rebels. According to some contemporary accounts, the police were actually afraid of the punks, and by the fall of 1979, a de facto state of anarchy gave young people the freedom to do whatever they wished as long as they remained within the confines of a ten-block strip known as Punk City. Dealey, meanwhile, had joined a band called ‘The V-8s’ and, having changed his name to Johnny Dodge, was struggling to attain some kind of renown in the punk hierarchy. “I’m going to be somebody,” he wrote his sister. “I’m more punk than anybody here ever thought of.”

As confident as Dealey may have been about his prospects for punk stardom, the slightly defensive tone of the latter statement suggests that he was already finding it difficult to attract attention in what was essentially a leaderless, standardless culture. Too, he may have been discovering that the music itself was too lacking in substance to provide him with a platform for his ego. From its inception, punk music in the U.S. had been suffering from a debilitating identity crisis, as music scholar Roy Keller observed in a 1981 essay on the subject:

(It was) an offshoot of traditional rock and roll that if clear about the sartorial requirements it imposed on its adherents was hopelessly unclear about either its purpose or direction. Unable to agree on so simple a matter as whether punk music represented a reaction against, or a fulfillment of, the cultural imperatives of rock and roll, punk musicians took refuge in mere outrage, competing with one another on and off stage for top honors in boorishness and hostility.

It was at this juncture that a wholly unexpected element intruded on the heretofore closed world of Punk City. What direction Dealey might have taken had he never met Percy Gale, we can only surmise; what is certain is that in November 1979, Dealey formed a brief alliance with Gale that resulted in a cross-pollination between punk and computer technology, which in turn gave birth to the entire punk writing movement.

To comprehend the significance of the event, we must extend our scope of interest twenty miles northwest, to a region near the Pennsylvania Turnpike nicknamed Semi-Conductor Strip, where numerous high technology firms were competing for survival in the volatile market for computer hardware and software.. It was here that a brilliant electronics engineer named Percy Gale had been employed for three years by Neodata Corporation, a firm that produced word processing systems for the corporate market.

Gale’s career was progressing well, by all accounts, and he had recently been promoted to vice president in charge of new product development when Neodata’s founder, a young enfant terrible named Tod Mercado, launched a lengthy campaign to acquire Monomax Corporation, then the fourth largest computer company in the world. The takeover fight was one of the bloodiest on record and when the dust had settled in late 1979, Mercado assumed nominal control of a consolidated NeoMax Corporation which was so deeply in debt and so divided in its top ranks that Wall Street analysts doubted its ability to make prudent business decisions. Accusations and law suits were rife, and dethroned Monomax executives insisted in print that Mercado had completed the acquisition through the use of illegal tactics and unsavory sources of funding.

Soon after finalization of the acquisition, Gale resigned from the new corporation and moved to South Street, allegedly to escape the stress of corporate life. It is impossible to prove that Gale had any purpose other than curing a case of burnout. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Gale was, in fact, a close personal friend of Tod Mercado, and in light of subsequent events, it seems possible that he resigned from NeoMax either to escape questioning about his knowledge of acquisition-related events or, more intriguingly, to pursue some secret project he had dreamt up with his wunderkind boss.

I hasten to add that there is no documentation of any such project.  There is, however, a mass of hearsay evidence that there existed some connection between Mercado and the punk writers of South Street. Almost all contemporary accounts confirm this directly or by implication, which represents an interesting exception to the norm among chroniclers of Punk City, who seem to differ sharply on many of the most basic ‘facts’ they report on. But whether Percy Gale’s presence on South Street was the by-product or the source of Mercado’s punk connection, we may never learn to a certainty. For example, the very same accounts which verify Mercado’s communications with punk writers tend to characterize Gale in starkly different ways. Under the sobriquet ‘The Sandman,’ he is in various accounts lionized as a major figure, depicted as a gifted though narrow technological guru, and dismissed as a minor supporting player, a kind of informed onlooker. The perspective on Gale adopted by any given chronicler of punk history seems to hinge on the very same issues that confront the scholar, which is to say that one’s view of Gale’s role and importance is determined by the particular assumptions one makes about what punk writing was and what it may have meant, if anything.

All we can say with confidence is that for whatever reason, Gale left a well paying corporate position, as well as an opulent suburban townhouse in King of Prussia, to move into a decaying urban neighborhood, where he participated in founding the phenomenon known as punk writing.

Boz Baker’s highly personal—and somewhat questionable—memoir, The Razor-Slashing Hate-Screaming De-Zeezing Ka-Killing, Doctor-Dreaming Kountdown, contains a passing mention of the first meeting between Dealey and Gale, but the only authentic record I have been able to locate is a reference in another of Dealey’s letters to his sister, in which he writes:

...Met a computer guy at Gobb’s said he could fix some hi teck effects for the band. Sounded like too much bread to me but he says unless I wanted to learn the gitar for real (I never claimed I was no Hendricks did I) I should give it a try, don’t worry about the bread til we get to it. Said I’d see him around mabe we’d talk later. Mabe he’s crazy but mabe not too, who knows.

Dealey must have overcome his doubts about Gale because he began collaborating with him almost immediately and soon departed from the V-8s to form his own band, Johnny Dodge & the 440s, which gave its first performance on November 27, 1979, at a South Street bar called the Slaughtered Pig. Contrary to the legend that grew up around this event, Dealey and his new group performed a routine set of punk rock songs, many of them borrowed from the defunct Eddy Pig Band, and confined its Gale-inspired experimentation to just one ‘number’ near the beginning of the show. In a piece called “Bloody Chiclets,” the band laid down its guitars and surprised the audience by typing its lyrics into several decrepit computer keyboards that were centrally wired to a cathode ray tube. As the words appeared on the CRT, they were also displayed on a small motion picture screen by means of a standard television projection device. Sound was still the predominant medium of communication, however; as the words flashed on the screen, Dealey screamed them into the microphone, and the other band members also used microphones to amplify the sound of typing to a menacing pitch. The lyrics themselves barely qualify as the first example of punk writing by including the term ‘boomer,’  the punks’ all-purpose descriptor for anyone older than a teenager and younger than their parents.

Still, it would be an egregious error to understate the impact this primitive novelty act was to have on Punk City. Overnight, a dozen or more new ‘punk writer’ bands were formed, and although most of them consisted of would-be punk musicians who had never learned to play three-chord rock and roll, there were also several who were attracted by the opportunity to call themselves ‘writers’ and who saw unlimited possibilities in what had become known as Johnny’s Mean Machine.

Thus was the phenomenon born. For close to five years, Punk City was dominated by hordes of punk writer bands, a small army of technical support personnel, and numerous camp followers and groupies. The punk writing movement, as it has come to be called by its few fans, generated hundreds of fictional works, from short stories to book-length pieces, in a wide variety of media, including computer printouts, live performances (called ‘livegrinds’) and graffiti, which swarmed over the outside of every building in Punk City and, according to eyewitnesses, over most of the interior walls as well. And despite the extraordinary number of contradictions to be seen in the accounts of actual events, all sources confirm that the punk writing movement developed and maintained its own unique culture, which means that we can understand punk writing as a whole only by examining its major contributing factors: the capacities and imperatives of punk writing technology, the nature of membership in punk writer bands, the social structure and environment of Punk City, the underlying principles of punk fiction, the pervasive impact of the mass effort to write the work known as The Boomer Bible, and the pervasive and ultimately fatal influence of the Cult of the Ka.

We shall deal with each of these topics briefly but separately below in hopes of providing readers with a basic context within which to assess the individual works that constitute the focus of this book.

Punk Writing Technology

As we have already seen, the presence of Percy Gale in Punk City was an important catalyst for the discovery that computers could be used to create fiction, however primitive. From this humble beginning, computer technology was to play an increasingly powerful role in the development of the punk writing culture. Indeed, it can be stated quite positively that without the technology provided by NeoMax Corporation, there would never have been a punk writing movement at all.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, NeoMax enjoyed an undisputed lead in the technology of computer-assisted writing. Even today, few other companies can equal the software-based capabilities developed by NeoMax to correct and collate text input from multiple sources into a single document. It was this ‘mass input’ capability which drew the early bands, possibly through Percy Gale, to the hardware and software components that were then available from NeoMax. Although these had been designed to help corporate staffers contribute literate content to large and important business documents, the punks speedily discovered that NeoMax text correction utilities were extensive, sufficient even to the task of making sense out of barely literate input.

There remains a mystery about how the punks financed the enormous infusion of computer technology to South Street, but the gang-oriented society that predominated in Punk City suggests one obvious answer to this problem. For, as we shall see shortly, the punk writer bands engaged in violent combat to capture their chosen ‘turf’ from the South Philly and Camden gangs which had infiltrated the area during the punk music fad, and with their new territorial sovereignty it is not unreasonable to suppose that they also acquired the right to the lucrative drug traffic normally conducted by street gangs.

But however it was financed, computer equipment and software were imported to Punk City in prodigious quantities. NeoMax files reveal that dozens of orders were placed by punk writer bands every week, starting in December 1979, and that they were usually paid for in cash. According to the conventions of the culture, each band needed its own system or ‘rig,’ which through time became a highly customized configuration consisting of basic NeoMax components augmented with homegrown software and specialized input devices created by technical mavens like Percy Gale.

The NeoMax system that normally formed the nucleus of a band’s writing’s system comprised a power central processor equipped with multiple software packages incorporating one of the earliest known implementations of artificial intelligence (AI). The NeoMax Distributed Writing System included programs for entering text from multiple intelligent input devices, correcting text for grammatical and syntactic errors, collating text contributed by multiple sources into a single non-redundant document, and performing additional stylistic revisions to the unified file. Such functions could be performed very rapidly when processors were configured with massive amounts of memory and hard disk storage. NeoMax input devices were similar to personal computers; each input station had its own keyboard, video display tube, and magnetic storage, so that individual band members could preview their own input before transmitting it to the Stylizer for correction and collation.

Thus a basic NeoMax Distributed Writing System could have enabled the most poorly educated of the punks to produce a reasonably literate written document. The sense of authorship that came with this purely technological exercise must have been overwhelming to those who were experiencing it for the first time.

The subsequent development of specialized input devices set the seal on the punks’ fascination with their new technology. With stunning rapidity, punk writing systems were outfitted with exotic software and numerous jury-rigged devices that vastly extended their ability to compose works of fiction. And it must be admitted that a high percentage of these were genuine innovations, many of which are still not widely available from computer companies. If, as seems likely, these innovations were developed by Percy Gale and others of his ilk, it may well be that the punk era should be regarded as a golden age—a technological golden age sired by unacknowledged computer geniuses whose greatness can only be guessed at through the concealing static of the punk movement.

NeoMax ‘Stylizer’ software was originally developed for use, as we have said, in corporate organizations. Its stylistic capabilities were therefore intended to produce a uniform no-nonsense prose that failed to satisfy the punks’ appetite for the sensational and bizarre. Thus, it was probably inevitable that considerable energy went into the task of developing new Stylizer applications that could edit NeoMax ‘corporate’ output into the melodramatic and excessively rhythmic styles favored by the punks. Very little of this custom software has survived, however, and the best evidence of the technological innovations developed for use with NeoMax systems is the plethora of specialized input devices that soon replaced the generic devices sold by NeoMax.

One of the most exceptional of these custom input devices was the macrophone (or ‘mace’), which employed chip hardware programmed with voice recognition capability. This made it possible for the system to translate oral input into electronic text that could be edited and collated with keyed text. The extraordinary power of this machine has led numerous computer experts to believe that, by whatever means, the punks of South Street must have had access to the NeoMax research and development laboratory, which was the nearest credible source for technological innovation of such a high order. It is in this context that that there remains so much residual interest in the nature and extent of the relationship between Percy Gale and Tod Mercado, Chief Executive Officer of NeoMax.

Another breakthrough design was the parallaxophone (or ‘ax’), which used AI technology to initiate computer generated inquiries against databases stored on magnetic disks. This made it possible for an operator who possessed some knowledge of what a stored database contained to enter a single key word and receive in return a sizable list of additional information that could be subsequently edited and collated by an upstream Stylizer. In short, the parallaxophone allowed punks to break one of the most basic of all writing rules: they could write about subjects they knew nothing about as long as they had the right database loaded on hard disk. The need for many databases that could augment the punks’ deficient knowledge on myriad topics spawned a secondary profession in Punk City, that of the paid ‘Dbaser,’ who was willing to create customized parallaxophone databases in return for a fee.

The Stereotypewriter (or ‘gun’) was a third key development for the punk writing movement. Actually consisting of a subset of parallaxophone technology, the stereotypewriter featured ROM (Read-Only memory) cartridges containing generic ‘character’ databases which could be used to invent fictional characters and give them distinguishing attributes, including names. This device was aptly named: in operation, the lists of character attributes summoned by special keys on the machine’s keyboard did not create individual characters of the sort considered indispensable for readable fiction; instead they produced utter clichés, categories of superficial socio-economic attributes which virtually ensured that all punk characters created thereby would indeed be stereotypes.

A similar principle gave rise to the device known as the plot synthesizer (or ‘splatbox’). Making use of the notion that all plots can be regarded as variants of no more than a handful of masterplots, the plot synthesizer allowed its operator (or ‘killer’) to build a map of key events in a story which could then be used as a template by the collation software resident on the Stylizer. This entire function was driven by function keys and menu options that allowed ‘killers’ to program plot twists, complications, and subplots without ever having to learn the basic dynamics of fiction.

Punk City also generated primitive prototype technologies in the areas of image and sound. System peripherals that came to be known as ‘glimboxes’ and ‘voxboxes’ allowed punks to store images and sounds and cue them for output at pre-designated points in text documents. These technologies did not materially contribute to the punk stories (at least during the Early Punk era) but helped satisfy the requirement for theatrics in live performances. Glimboxes and voxboxes also provided another means of making a living for punks who were unable to secure positions with bands; for fairly modest payment, such hangers-on would do the menial work of collecting photos and sound recordings for incorporation into punk performances.

While numerous other variations on these basic devices were developed throughout the history of the punk movement, it was these innovations which built the foundation of punk writing and established the structure of punk writer bands. Individual punks specialized in the technical skills required to operate a stereotypewriter or parallaxophone and acquired renown based on the respect accorded them for their expertise. And after the first few months of the Early Punk Era, every band had to have its own ‘axman,’ its own ‘gunner,’ ‘killer,’ and ‘styman.’ The ‘mace’ was normally used by the leader of the group (‘Lead Narratist’), who frequently operated either the plot synthesizer or Stylizer as well.

Thus, the structure of punk writer bands was in large part determined by the technical requirements of operating powerful computer-based writing systems. But the behaviors and customs of these bands were to become a significant cultural factor in the course of the movement, quite independently from the technology. Indeed, they led to a cult of personality that persists to this day in the minds of the people who encountered them.

The Punk Writer Bands

Those who remember the punks of Great Britain or the music punks of the U.S. might believe they can visualize the punk writer bands of South Street. In all probability, they would be shocked and terrified if they were to meet one in person. For though the bands did affect all the essential punk habiliments—outlandish haircuts, abundant use of hair dyes, makeup, and suitably bizarre stage costumes, as well as such de rigeur accessories as safety pins, black lipstick, chains, and razor blades—these represented only the starting point for a dress code that entailed some additional requirements.

Every band member was also a technician, required to be adept at a variety of hardware and software-related chores. For this reason, his/her everyday costume included a heavy utility belt, containing screwdrivers of various kinds, and numerous patch pockets on sleeves, legs, and torso, in which he/she could carry small tools, test devices, and items of computer equipment. Additionally, most band members wore ‘armreels,’ purportedly for the purpose of having constant access to adequate lengths of the very expensive coaxial cable needed to connect input devices to the Stylizer.

The actual conformation of the armreel, however, suggests that its true purpose was multi-functional, to say the least. To the uninitiated observer, the armreel would appear to be a shield, a small one to be sure, but strategically positioned on the forearm or elbow at the correct angle to fend off blows. Moreover, there is ample evidence that the device was used in just this capacity, as well as for more offensive purposes. It is reported, for example, that Slash Frazzle of the band Hate Mail was a master at choking his opponents with a length of coaxial cable drawn swiftly from the armreel and wrapped deftly around the neck of the victim. This more martial aspect of armreels is also confirmed by the band custom of painting them with their ‘colors’ (‘colors’ being the time-honored gang medium of identification with the group).

There is even less ambiguity about the purpose of the most unique articles of punk writer attire, the chipjack (also ‘torkjack’) and the torkmask. The chipjack usually consisted of a long, dark-colored duster or topcoat made of tough canvas on which were sewn multiple circuit boards. Not only did these boards make for a spectacular and colorful appearance evocative of the wearer’s profession, but they also provided good, if not complete, protection against piercing weapons such as knives and long screwdrivers (‘scrivers’). The torkmask was often adapted from the plastic headgear worn by hockey goalies, but many bands developed their own designs that served to provide all band members with a (hopefully) frightening threat display and a common identity that could easily be recognized in gang fights or band duels (‘torks’).

The final critical items of punk apparel were gloves, boots, and helmets, although the more prominent bands sometimes combined the torkmask and helmet into custom pieces of headgear symbolic of band identity. The gloves were usually adapted from cold-weather motorcycle gauntlets, selected for the heavy padding on the back of the hand. To these, the punks sewed additional circuit boards, which, in a fight, could rip and tear like brass knuckles. The fingers, however, had to be truncated at the second knuckle, to afford their wearer the freedom to feel input keys with his/her fingertips.

The overall picture that emerges from this clothing list is of the band as a high tech work group cum military squad. And this seems to be the way the bands regarded themselves. Like the motorcycle gangs whose behavior they emulated in so many respects, each band had its own colors and insigne, and all members were expected to retaliate if one were injured or provoked by another band. Yet they were expected to function smoothly in combat alongside other bands during both offensive and defensive missions outside Punk City. For this reason, band members trained together in military exercises in which they became adept as a species of military cavalry, and they also lived together, sharing quarters called ‘departments,’ which were located in the basements and lofts of South Street’s decaying commercial buildings. They therefore formed a single economic unit, almost like a family, in which the Lead Narratist served as decision maker and battle sergeant. He/she made work assignments, including the finding of part-time work when money was scarce, and served as the band’s designated champion during the ritual ‘debates’ that played a central role in the conduct of community affairs and mass writing projects.

Given their role as warrior-artists, the bands and especially their leaders became ‘stars,’ attracting their own retinues and groupies and serving as the inspiration for legends about their deeds and misdeeds. The annals of punk City are full of the tales that grew around such stars as St. Nuke, Johnny Dodge, Ripp Starr, Slash Frazzle, and Kobra Jones. Oddly for a culture with such a self-conscious macho orientation, star status was accorded to a few women as well, most notably Alice Hate, Liz Smack, and Piss Pink.

 Only a select few of the bands stayed together for any length of time. Internal wrangles, defections to other bands, and combat deaths shattered bands on a regular basis. Despite the nearly universal punk dream of becoming part of a legendary, long-running band, most spent their months or years in Punk City joining one band after another, painting the newest colors on their armreels and hoping to survive for another week.

And survival was never assured. This is key to understanding the nature of punk culture. For the combat attire worn by the punks was not an affectation but a necessity. Rarely in modern times has there been a community which confronted such a continuous external threat and engaged so often in organized combat. In this context, it should not be surprising that superstition also came to be a major element of the Punk City culture.

Violence and Superstition

When the punk writing movement first got underway, the punk musicians had yielded much of the real authority over South Street to gangs, who ruled the street corners and protected turf lines based on the division of drug trafficking territories. But gang control became unacceptable as punk music groups gave way to punk writer bands. The punks needed freedom of movement in order to transport their equipment from place to place and, it may be speculated, to secure a source of income for the financing of further equipment acquisitions. As a result, the earliest months of the Early Punk period became a bloodbath, as punk bands squared off against street gangs to fight for territorial rights in the infamous ‘Winter War.’

This may have been the period when punks discovered the Ouija board and the Tarot deck, props that that have been used by occultists to fleece the unwary in every walk of life. Exactly who introduced them to South Street and how they spread so rapidly cannot yet be determined from available sources (although there are some likely candidates, as we shall see), but it seems that within a matter of weeks, almost every punk owned a fortunetelling device of his/her own and used it to divine the outcome of fights, the advisability of joining or departing from a band, and even in some cases the outcome of a story (or ‘piece’) in progress. Once introduced, the tarot deck in particular became increasingly important in punk decision-making of all kinds. While we may regard this as a debilitating dependency, it does not seem to have damaged their fighting spirit, which was by all accounts truly formidable.

The ferocity of these early punk writer bands can be estimated in some measure by the speed with which they drove out the gangs. By April 1980, the invaders from Camden and Philly’s inner cities were in full retreat and fighting them had become the punk equivalent of sport. Indeed, the denizens of Punk City soon became the aggressors themselves and, for as yet undefined reasons, deliberately provoked occasional wars against the gangs who lived in nearby Camden, even though they had ceased to be a threat to the security of South Street.

Despite their demonstrated ability to unite in the face of armed opposition, the punk writer bands found it virtually impossible to live peaceably together in the same community. In this respect, they were perhaps hoist by their own petard. Their military prowess had been achieved by creating what was, in effect, a well organized gang of gangs, but each of the little gang units called bands maintained its sharpness and preparedness by finding any and every excuse to fight on a regular basis. Thus, after a brief victory celebration at the conclusion of the Winter War, the punk writer bands turned quickly to fighting one another, quarreling and battling—sometimes to the death—over petty differences of opinion, including such ‘literary issues’ as the quality of a band’s latest composition and even Tarot interpretations, which caused such animus that rival band factions began to create their own versions of the cards and acquired a quasi-religious fervor about the divinatory meanings they conjured from their handiwork.

By June 1980, daily street combat had become such a constant that a nucleus of powerful band leaders became alarmed about the possibility that the police would finally intervene. As punks armed themselves more heavily with long scrivers (sharpened screwdrivers up to two feet long) and even army surplus machetes, intramural combat began to result in dead bodies, which had to be disposed of clandestinely in the marshes of southern New Jersey. This was a matter that almost no one spoke of openly, although the term ‘Jersified’ became a punk synonym for death.

The leaders knew they had to act, but they had very little room in which to maneuver. Combat could not be removed from Punk City. Violence was an intrinsic part of the punk social code that was no longer separable from the perceived mandates of punk fiction. It was commonly believed that punk ‘pieces’ had to be born in blood if they were to retain the merciless savagery that characterized all of punk fiction. Having established a collective (if subconscious) consensus that violence was the creative wellspring of their ‘art,’ the punk writers had to devise a means of preventing the violent implosion of their community without surrendering the barbaric belief system that had made them a community  in the first place.

A solution was found, one that would perpetuate the punk writing movement for several more years, at a terrible cost. It worked because it had a strong champion  to accept the burden of leading the transition and because it was born out of the realm in which the punks had the most invested—their growing sense of themselves as writers.

Punk Fiction

There was one band that stood above all others in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of punks. The Shuteye Train was one of the first bands to emerge from anonymity, and it was the first to be recognized as an official public menace. The real names of its members were not known by either the authorities or the punks, but the Philadelphia Police Department engaged for years in an ongoing manhunt for the four punks who called themselves Loco Dantes, Pig Millions, Reedy Weeks, and Joe Kay. Implicated in the brutal and senseless murder of a young attorney whose bullet-riddled body was found nailed to the side of a building on South Street, the Shuteye train went into hiding in March 1980 and was rarely seen in public afterwards. Only a handful of punk writers living on South Street at the end of the Early Punk era could have recognized members of the Shuteye Train on sight, and yet this is the band that has been given credit for inventing the punk writing style and producing its most important individual works.

In a variety of early stories (all but one short fragment lost as of this date), the Shuteye Train hammered out a vicious style of storytelling that deliberately smashed every accepted rule of fiction writing. The Shuteye Train verbally assaulted its readers, refused to write dialogue, refused to create any characters but stereotypes, shamelessly manipulated plot elements, systematically inserted themselves into their own story lines, and invariably brutalized their principal characters for unnamed violations of Shuteye Train standards. South Street punks were convinced that the Shuteye Train, having written a story, would proceed to act it out in real life, as if intent on forcing life to imitate their ‘art.’

With this band as the dominant punk writer role model, Punk City became a vortex of hatred and fear as punks dedicated themselves to achieving an adrenalin high equal to the challenge of ‘writing up to the Shuteye Train.’ This is evident in the stories included in this volume, which are representative of the larger body of works contained in the Cream King Trove.

But the exceptional viciousness of the Shuteye Train’s fictional ideal carried the seeds of the movement’s destruction. Not every band could be the Shuteye Train, and the leaders of Punk City were shrewd enough to understand that the movement could not survive for long on a mass adrenalin overdose and the savagery necessary to sustain it. Only one of the punks on South Street, however, had the vision to understand how the passion for writing could be employed for the purpose of yanking Punk City off its collision course with the Shuteye Train. The punk was a charismatic leader who called himself St. Nuke. His vision was of a mass writing project he named The Boomer Bible.

The Boomer Bible

For months, the writers of South Street had been performing literary executions of the affluent professionals whom they seemed to regard as responsible for everything they disapproved of in the society at large. They maintained the single-minded fury they poured into their fiction by engaging in combat with one another. St. Nuke appears to have realized that the real object of punk fury was their own ignorance. Aided by the advice of a street performer named Mr. Magic, St. Nuke arrived at the conclusion that the future development of punk writing (if there was to be any) depended on the punks’ ability to understand how and why the boomers were to blame for everything that seemed so wrong. This obviously meant that an educational process of sorts had to occur, since by their own admission, the punks simply knew too little to diagnose underlying causes of cultural phenomena.

St. Nuke therefore devised a writing project that would require the participation of every punk on South Street. The objective was to write down in one volume what the ‘Boomers’ believed about everything. Naive and hopelessly unrealistic as it was, this project was to become the shared obsession of the entire population of Punk City for close to a year. In effect, St. Nuke drafted all his punk writer colleagues into his own band and became the Lead Narratist of a 2,000-person punk writing orchestra. He provided the inspiration and the direction. He laid down the rules, which eventually became the basis for whatever law existed in Punk City (later named in his honor the NukeLaw). He designed and supervised the research process to generate the content that had been missing from punk fiction since its inception. He drove the daily writing effort—advising, instructing, bullying, and punishing, as necessary—with ruthless determination. Yet he was careful to accomplish his intentions without destroying the essential ingredients of the Punk City culture. He did not dispense with individual bands, but parceled out assignments to all of them and then praised them for the collated draft in which, perhaps, no single band  could have recognized its own input. He did not terminate all dueling, but rather channeled it into the writing process, so that there was at least once a week a ‘BB Debate’ in the courtyard of the failed New Market Mall which adjoined Headhouse Square.

Here, surrounded by a couple of thousand armed killers, St. Nuke turned Punk City’s bloodlust to his own purposes. He allowed open debates about the names of books, the identity of the Boomer Bible’s ‘messiah,’ and the very grave matter of which ‘books’ had to be excluded from the whole. And he allowed the debates to be settled by combat between designated champions of individual bands— who usually drew blood and sometimes suffered mortal wounds before the disputed point was resolved.

At the end of it all, St. Nuke presented Punk City with a book that all could claim to have written. The ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ was signed by the participating bands on April 19, 1981. The punk who had led the effort was rewarded not with their love, but with their respect, their admiration, and their trust. He was made King of Punk City by acclamation at the next scheduled Debate. St. Nuke accepted the office, but he had no illusions about what he had done and how he had done it. He wrote—in an otherwise unenlightening work titled Konfessions—a frank description of his methods, addressed with consummate irony to ‘Harry,’ the hated Boomer messiah the punks had created in their Bible:

Punk City is a colony of ants. But not so easy to kill. I have pulled them underground. Not to save them but to use them. This I could only tell you.

I know most of their names, the insides of their infant minds, and yet I spend them like handfuls of pennies.

Nevertheless, in uniting Punk City for the composition of The Boomer Bible, St. Nuke unquestionably saved the punk writing movement from self-destruction and made the period that would be known as High Punk possible. The sheer technical challenge of collating the input of several thousand semi-literate ‘writers’ into one piece of prose (however flawed) resulted in brilliant new software and hardware innovations that increased system capabilities by an order of magnitude.

Indeed, it has been argued that the next release of NeoMax’s Distributed Writing System software incorporated dozens of features and capabilities that were originated by the punks of South Street. In the absence of tangible evidence concerning the link between punk technicians and NeoMax system developers, though, this claim can neither be affirmed nor refuted.

More to the point for the punks, it would appear that the technological breakthroughs associated with the writing of The Boomer Bible contributed mightily to the establishment of Punk City’s next great quest—the one that would hold the community together for the remainder of its bizarre and violent history. The curious figure known as Mr. Magic would also play a role in identifying this quest, as would St. Nuke, Loco Dantes of the Shuteye Train, and a  mysterious drug called ‘Blue.’

Doctor Dream and the Cult of the Ka

As early as the initial planning of The Boomer Bible, an inner circle of punks (called ‘the demortals’) had come to believe in a mythology focusing on events in some parallel or mirror world ruled by a winged entity called the Raptor Ka. There is very strong circumstantial evidence to support the hypothesis that Mr. Magic was heavily involved in the dissemination of this mythology, which made extensive use—coincidentally or conveniently—of the Tarot deck.

Both St. Nuke and Loco Dantes became strong advocates of the ka mythology, which made its way into the concluding section of The Boomer Bible and began appearing in the published pieces attributed to the Shuteye Train. In approximately the same timeframe a new, somehow definitive Tarot deck, The Karot, was adopted as the most sacred of the five sets of divinatory cards used in Punk City.

All subsequent kings of Punk City—Kobra Jones, Cadillac Mope, and Gypsy Jackknife—claimed experiences with the ka world in their writings, usually after imbibing a dose of ‘Blue,’ and wrote accounts of quasi-metaphysical journeys that are not clearly labeled as either fiction or autobiography. Such accounts may well have been a ritual requirement of kings, akin to the ceremonial opening of the mouth engaged in by the pharaohs of Egypt. They cannot therefore be considered historical, but only as relics of an opaque belief system.

These are the only facts that can be discovered in the innumerable writings of the punks about their process of conversion. Sadly for scholars, when mythology invades history, history is the loser. Legends about various punks and their encounters with the ka world abound, but it is impossible to link them with dates or any other concrete milestones of Punk City chronology. One can but repeat the stories and continue to remind the reader that they cannot be proven to be anything more. They can be analyzed in the context of what is known about other parts of punk culture, but as it comes to represent the dominant force in punk culture, the pretense that such analysis can be in any sense objectively meaningful diminishes and finally disappears.

It was said and believed, for example, that the Shuteye Train represented Punk City’s closest link to the world of the ka, and that this band which never appeared in Punk City would nevertheless serve as the means for entry into our world of the ‘Son of the Raptor,’ a human-ka hybrid who would bear the name Doctor Dream and carry out a mission not unlike that foretold for Jesus Christ in Revelations. The mission of the punks in this ka drama was to create, through the force of their shared passion, the doorway through which Doctor Dream could enter our world. The location of this doorway, the punks believed, lay inside their own shared computer system, along the boundary between physical and conceptual reality represented by the ones and zeroes of computer bits which are transformed to ideas by the power of human thought and emotion.

Thus, the punks came to conceive of their purpose as the invocation of Doctor Dream, which they could bring about by concentrating enough energy in the writing they fed into the central computer that had been built for the Boomer Bible writing effort. At the appropriate time, catalyzed by the fury and passion and understanding of the punks, Doctor Dream would emerge into our world from the computer by way of a story authored by the Shuteye Train.

Now, as mentioned above, one can attempt to analyze such beliefs in the context of known events. One can point out, for example, that the Shuteye Train was an established part of the punk belief system well before any mention of ‘the Raptor Ka’ appears in punk writings. One can draw attention to the fact that widespread acceptance of the notion of a vengeful ka messiah seems to follow hard on the heels of the community’s fictional encounter with an Antichrist-inspired messiah who must be defeated. One can speculate that this kind of fictional encounter may have led to encounters with the original book of Revelations and that its dramatic appeal was so great that... well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as the saying goes.

One could go on from there to theorize that a mythology which ascribed spiritual power to the inanimate device that had prevented their dissolution as a community might have offered a universal appeal.

One could resort for explanation to common sense wisdom about the nature of human beings. The punks wanted to believe they were important. They wanted to go on believing they were important even after they completed the improbable and not-to-be-duplicated feat of writing a Bible. One could suggest that they were the perfect seedbed for a cult belief system of this sort.

 But there is a grave difficulty with such analysis. When the cult belief system becomes the all-consuming center of the culture that spawns it, to explain that belief system away is also to explain away the entire culture. If its very center is a lie and a mistake then everything built around it is also a lie and a mistake—devoid in any absolute sense of value and truth.

That is the problem we face with the punks. As they retreat from the objective reality we live in and cease to maintain connections with that reality, they fade before us into the mist of ancient maps marked ‘here there be dragons.’ We know there are no dragons there, or here, and the rest of the map is not to be relied on for illumination.

The Case for Investigating the Punk Writing Movement

And now, at last, we return to the question that was deferred at the beginning of this discussion. What is there in punk writing to that can or should attract serious literary interest? And more specifically, why do we need to examine the compilation of admittedly bad writing that has been put together in this volume?

The answer to these questions is threefold. The first and simplest reason for such compilation is that punk writing exists, in quantity, and its very unattractiveness constitutes the kind of unifying element that signifies a literary movement. It would therefore be an act of carelessness for scholars to dismiss punk writing without having first consulted the material in question and amassed defensible arguments for such a dismissal. Otherwise, we leave the door open for groundless but conceivable lionization of punk writers by opportunistic critics. It isn’t difficult to imagine the outraged assertion that punk writing has been excluded from consideration for the canon because of mere prejudice and that such an act of exclusion, by its very existence, requires us to validate our judgment with published argumentation. Far better to examine the material now, in an atmosphere of open-minded objectivity, than to run a gauntlet later. Too, the material here compiled is far shorter than The Boomer Bible, yet more diverse in form and style and, at the same time, untainted by the ignorant praise of ill educated newspaper critics. The real scholarship can start—and just possibly end—right here.

Another raison d’etre for this volume is that punk writing may be regarded as the first occurrence of an intrusion into the literary world by high technology. In this case, we may easily adjudge the intrusion innocuous, since it has resulted in a product of small merit, but we would do wrong to ignore it altogether. For it may well happen that at some future time, technology of the kind used to create punk fiction will give rise to work which, but for its mechanistic origin, could be considered art. What critical tools shall we then have at our disposal for the task of separating man from machine, imagination from mathematical induction, art from fakery at the speed of light?

It may be suggested by some that this is a straw issue. After all, have not painters and sculptors availed themselves for years of the fruits of technology without having to surrender their claim to artistry? And do I mean to imply that the sculptor’s welding torch or the painter’s gasoline-powered compressor interposes an element of fraud between creator and creation?  Not at all is my hasty and unequivocal reply. But I do contend that there is something very substantially different about language and the nature of writing that should persuade us to view the writer’s use of technological aids with care and concern. For unlike a painter or a sculptor, a writer is not creating a physical product, but a mental one. The importance of this distinction becomes obvious if we consider that while a painting cannot be reproduced and still convey the totality of the artist’s intent, a book can remain intact in virtually any physical incarnation so long as the writer’s words are not changed. In short, words and paint differ fundamentally as artistic tools, and the constraints imposed upon their uses by artistic integrity are similarly and unalterably different. One more analogy should effectively demonstrate the nature of the constraints we must be concerned with here.

If a painter or sculptor were to permit some hand other than his/her own to direct the use of his/her tools, then the legitimacy of the end product would be open to question. And this is the question we must ask with regard to punk writing. Whose hand directed the choice and placement of words? By their own repeated admissions, punk writers are illiterate. To what extent are we to attribute to them alone the sentiments and styles of their prose? Are they handicapped artists hobbling forward on prosthetic limbs? Or are they merely the unwitting catalysts of a soulless binary exercise? Careful analysis of this issue may provide invaluable practice to the critic who undertakes it, especially in view of the increasing abstraction of modern prose. By what criteria, for example, could an untutored critic distinguish the works of such present day giants as Barth, Barthelme, and Gass from computer simulations of their styles? The relationships between their writings and the known physical world are so tangential, allusive, and elusive that a sufficiently sophisticated computer could be programmed to produce stylized gibberish closely resembling their work. If we are to prevent the success of such duplicities, and their possible catastrophic impact on serious literature, we must begin developing our critical skills in this field at once. Punk writing may serve as an elementary exercise in the nascent science of fraud detection in literature.

There is a third and final reason for examining punk writing. Until now, we have spoken little about the actual content of punk fiction. It may be that little will need to be said when an educated reader confronts the works collected in this book. However, it cannot be denied that punk writers purport to understand the philosophical and literary foundations of the current era. In their total hostility to the writings produced by that era, they imply that they have developed an alternate foundation for their own writing that is superior to the collective achievements of the greatest minds of our century. Why is this noteworthy, let alone a cause for concern? Because as we have seen in the lives of the punk writers themselves, rumor can become myth can become gospel without any intercession by logic or intelligence. It would be sad indeed if rumors of a punk movement, never fully documented or investigated, were to overturn in the minds of our children the best philosophy and art produced by the twentieth century.

At present, it may seem unthinkable that the outstanding intellectual achievements of our century should be equated with nihilism, as the punks have sought to do. But without some kind of objective response to punk writings, we face the possibility that future generations will seize upon punk writings as an excuse to repudiate their cultural heritage. Instead of honoring the twentieth century intelligentsia’s opposition to nuclear war, its concern with rectifying the social injustices of centuries past, and its confrontation of the grave implications of this century’s psychological and anthropological discoveries, they may choose to adopt the thoughtless and ignorant perspective of the punks, which would have it that we are moral and spiritual bankrupts who have contributed nothing to the world but self-pitying rationalizations for our ever-increasing bondage to materialism.

And this is not a completely remote possibility. Given current levels of illiteracy in the population at large, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the academic, philosophical, and literary works which have sustained our society for so long will fall into disrepute as the number of people who can understand them declines. And if the most perfect expressions of our troubled species should become completely inaccessible to the people who must be informed by them, then how shall society itself proceed? It may indeed revert to the primitive and barbaric conditions that characterized Punk City in the early 1980s.

Thus, it behooves us to confront punk’s philosophical pretensions now, to dissect its half-truths, and to expose its fabrications and unwarranted assumptions. There is no better means of defusing its long-term potential for harm.

-    Thomas Naughton, PhD.
Princeton, New Jersey
Fall 1997

Hard to read? Absolutely. But it's a whole generation behind the unreadability of today's literary scholars. Think about that.

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.

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