Lucifer's Valet

a HEGELIAN JOKE

Posted in Culture Vulturing, Poeticks by lucifersvalet on 17 November 2011

So I heard the story of how Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange, like he’d been told he had cancer and a year to live, and he wanted to leave his family something for them to get by, so he wrote these four novels, one of which was Clockwork. That was heroic.

So then I heard that it was lie, that he’d never had any cancer, and it was all just some story. He was just another fucking liar. That was bullshit.

Then I was thinking, yeah, it was a lie, but that’s what he did. He was a writer. He told stories. Some of them went in books, some of them went in interviews. These things happen.

a LOST WORLD

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 16 August 2011

World as in world of practices, ways of life. Who tap dances for a living anymore? Who can do that trick w/the drum, the one where Buddy Rich bounce passes a stick to Eleanor Powell?

One appeal of vaudeville, or rather, one appealing thing about the idea of vaudeville, is that it is so obviously work. (Which can appeal to those who like stories about work.) It’s right there in the theatricality of it. There’s no sprezzatura: these folks are obviously working their asses off. & have been for years. (What did Gladwell say? You don’t get good at something till you do it 10,00o times?) W/every turn, twist, and tumble, the dancer says, “I’m working hard for you, hard-working people of the USA!” (& this work-as-show reaches its apotheosis, does it not? in Jack Benny’s radio show, whose story was all & only about putting on Jack Benny’s radio show.)

& why shouldn’t these things be lost? Tap dancing: how arbitrary! how absurd! These people are so good at something that was so context-specific, an intricate flower that grew only in one small valley in the great range of history.  (Rich’s virtuoso technique operated in a more durable genre, but still there’s something unnervingly contingent about a drum kit.)

On the other hand, the appeal of women in bathing suits has no end in sight. & who doesn’t like a sleazy Bert Lahr? Also if I’m not mistaken Tommy Dorsey has the screen presence of an inert ape.

FUN HOME

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 29 August 2010

Let me repeat the one thought I have about comics (I said it already here): drawings and words work together in comics the same way music and lyrics work together in songs.  But I think I have something to add to what I said previously. Obviously the effect of comics & songs depends on how both things work together. I would claim (oh, would you now?) that in both cases the words are less important than the other half. I don’t have a good argument for this claim. For one thing, I know there are exceptions.  But this lack leads me to a further thought: when we come to talk about these things, we expose an asymmetry, and an antithetical one at that: the weaker partner, in terms of effect, turns out to be the one we can talk about. It’s easy to talk about the words, harder to talk about the music or the drawings. Hence you get music reviews that have only vague, indirect things to say about the music, but clear, pointed things to say about the lyrics.

Time to insert my one philosophical joke (which captures all of Later Wittgenstein in a nutshell): one night a cop is walking the beat & comes upon a drunk on his hands & knees under a streetlight. The cop asks him what he’s doing. The drunk points across the street & says, “I lost my keys over there.” Astouned, the cop asks, “But why are you looking over here?” The drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home would be an exception to my idea. At least in terms of effects. Yes, her drawing is as always very expressive. Whenever the local free weekly wherever I was living at the time ran Dykes to Watch Out For, I enjoyed reading it. Her drawings are genial. (That’d be an example of someone who can only describe something in vague, indirect terms.) But she’s also great at drawing both characters & things:

And Fun Home has a great story. (For a synopsis, you can go here. (Blogging should be quick!) The characters are quirky and compelling, especially the central figure, her father. I found the story moving. Actually it got me thinking a lot about my own daughters (who are now eight & eleven) & my own emotional detachment from them, my own quirky aesthetic demands. (“You will keep watching this Iggy Pop clip on YouTube till you appreciate his genius!) I’m not as detached nor am I as demanding as Bechdel’s father. My girls may end up lacking that kernel of intense pain that leads to great art. I can live with that.

BUT I LIKE SOME OF THOSE SONGS!

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 2 December 2009

Dept. of De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum.

In fact, some of them have been favorite songs. & “I’ll Fly Away”? Isn’t badmouthing that blasphemy?

On further thought, what makes them “worst” songs is not that they are unspeakably dull but that they’re catchy, for some irritatingly catchy. Me, I’m a sucker for catchy. In fact it’s taken me a long time to like non-catchy music. The first time I heard it I thought Pod was dull, dull, dreadfully dull. The only song I liked was the Beatles cover.

In fact, the songs have to have some catch for them, or you wouldn’t want to listen to a medley of them, even as a mock. So there!

& what about Oates & Garfunkel themselves? I like them too! & they’re kind of catchy & cute. It’s easy to imagine them making some worst-ever list.

Or is there some further level of irony I’m missing here? Because I miss those things. The other day I was complaining to a friend about an A Team rerun I’d seen & he said, “I pity the fool who can’t tell it’s tongue in cheek!”

I thought that was funny.

ATAVISMS

Posted in Culture Vulturing by lucifersvalet on 24 November 2009

Dept. of This Morning on KBRD.

KBRD is one of the local treasures, a low power, unaffiliated, not-for-profit station out of Olympia. They do everything from hot jazz of the 20’s to easy listening of the 70’s. Stuff you’ll not hear anywhere else. Terrestrial radio may be dying, but they also have a strong internet presence (in fact, through the air they only go during daylight hours, but on the wire you can get them 24/7).

This morning they’ve got Charlie Palloy doing “42nd Street.” I thought I knew that song pretty well, from the oft clipped Busby Berkeley production of the number, but a couplet surprised me. In describing those beautiful Manhattanites, the song says,

They’re side by side,

They’re glorified.

“Glorified” sounds like from a different register, like from an evangelical hymn or something. Something like this?

I’m a sucker for goofy, I’m a sucker for the 80’s, I’m insufficiently wary of the cultural borrowings, but I still dig the KLF.