October 2, 2010 - September 25, 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.
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"
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?
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
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
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
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
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),
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
Lizards, all of them. Starting with that evil extraterrestrial
W. Bush, who....
Well, back on topic. This moon landing thingdoes 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
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:
a stick in the eye, isn't it? Or a bullet.
Any more questions?
The Worst F&F Ever.
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
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
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
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.
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
Fiddle Faddle. Here was a presidential pitch.
Why You Have Never
Heard of Punk Writing
Thomas Naughton, brother of the first scholar who deigned to dissect punk writing. They're both
dead now, but the silence continues.
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
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
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
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
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.
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’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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
The Punk Writer
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
they both met with Harry Reid or some other Dem handler.
SILLINESS. I have nothing but sympathy for the legal experts over
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
aren't going to do anything. They were more upset about Harriet
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
Maybe implants and lipo are a
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
2 From my bed at night I began to hear the
rumble of Harleys as inner city gangs rolled in to promote the drug
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
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
4 I strove for the spectacular, hoping that
bigger audiences might bring back two of the regulars I hadn’t seen for
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
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
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
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
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
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
2 The papers stirred their pots of speculation and presumed to
explain it all, though they never offered reasons and never solved the
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
8 The ECCE closed its doors and did not reopen.
9 No theater could offer an illusion to compete with such a
The punks I knew declared the incident a setup, and I wanted to believe
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
7 “Famished,” he said. “But I can contribute my share if we eat
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, July 10, 2009
InstaPunk's Birthday Present to the
The Beginning (One
A restored versiuon of the title
portion of the scroll.
. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Which is how it all began, unless that's not how it all began.
. 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
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
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
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
inflexible regime geared not to the illnesses you actually get but to
the bureaucratic processing of waiting rooms clogged with
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
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.
. 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
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.
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.
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
5 Does this offend you, dear reader? Perhaps you would be more
comfortable with a more traditional kind of prose wrought by a finer
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
2 You want to see? Actually, they don’t seem so bad. Like this
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
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?
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
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,
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
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
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:
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
And SPLAT goes Annabella.
4 Is that what you had in mind for the anniversary issue, Andrew?
7 Happy Anniversary.
Once Upon a Time...
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
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
Have to admit it's an honor to be associated with Once Upon a Time in the West. Read
all the user
comments at IMDB.com because we're only going to reproduce one:
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.
So we're frequently confused. Sooorry.
The White Chicks thing was
harder to figure until we came across this
appreciation at IMDB.com:
This movie makes fun of everyone--
black, white, rich, poor, dorks, cool people... no one is safe.
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