The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

STATE OF THE UNION: I didn’t watch the State of the Union speech, although I suppose I should have—it’s part of my civic obligation as an American citizen, after all, just like jury duty or betting on the Lotto and so doing my part to educate the uneducable little wretches that daily infest school buildings from one end of this our Great Republic to the other—but if I want to watch someone spout non sequiturs I’ll watch Chico Marx; he’s funnier than the former junior senator from Illinois and his non sequiturs don’t cost as much. The real reason I didn’t watch the State of the Union, however, is that Miss Nancy is no longer the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mr. Boehner may be a very emotional guy with tear ducts that could sink the Titanic in twenty minutes and the Andrea Doria in half an hour, but he’s not going to jump to his feet every ten seconds the way Miss Nancy did. Watching Miss Nancy doing her imitation of a Jack LaLanne in the Box was always the highlight of the State of the Union speech, because when she leapt up to applaud the former senator’s vapid blatherings, and she would leap up at the drop of a semicolon, all the other Democrats in the chamber had to get to their feet as well, and watching some of those guys trying to get to their feet was morbidly fascinating, in much the same way as waiting for cars to crash at the Daytona 500 is morbidly fascinating.

And no Democratic member of the House could refuse to get up or even hand in a letter from their mother saying they couldn’t stand up because the family doctor said so; no, indeed, Miss Nancy stood watching the members with her chemically enhanced Gorgon glare for any sign of weakness, compromise, second thoughts or, horrors of horrors, moderation and bipartisanship. There would be none of that in Miss Nancy’s House, no sirreee, not if some old-timer wanted to keep his committee chairmanship and thus his personal fiefdom over some small portion of the federal bureaucracy. So the Democratic bulls got up every time Miss Nancy did, whether they wanted to or not, and the viewer at home sat and watched and maybe even took bets on whether or not some of these guys would keel over from all the unexpected exercise or, pushed to the edge at last, join the Republicans in order to stay in their seats.

Of course, had these Democrats crossed the aisle and joined the Republicans they would still have seats to stay in, and now that they are gone and Miss Nancy isn’t Speaker anymore she can use all her newly acquired spare time to step in and take over the late Jack LaLanne’s role as America’s dean of exercise gurus. I’d bet someone as enthusiastic as she is could sell a lot of Jack LaLanne’s juicers on the cable channels; maybe she can even get everyone in this our Great Republic a juicer as part of the former junior senator’s health care reform, that and a DVD giving the recipient instructions on the proper way to do a jumping jack. I know that I wouldn’t mind getting a free juicer at taxpayer’s expense, except that I am one of those taxpayers and I don’t want a juicer and I really don’t want to do jumping jacks. I’m not really a big juice person; juice usually doesn’t have caffeine in it and I more or less insist on there being caffeine in what I drink. And bubbles; I like carbonation a lot too.

Labels: , , , ,


Saturday, January 08, 2011

LESTER YOUNG AND THE MUSICAL METAPHYSICS OF BURGLARY: I find that as I get older that there are a great number of things that I don’t understand, which I understand is a consequence of getting older in the first place, and that no one will explain these things I don’t understand to me, which I understand is just plain rude. There are, for example, any number of good reasons why a burglar might choose to bring a tenor saxophone with him as he sets off into the night to go a-burgling, but I must confess that I can’t really say what those reasons might be, not ever having been a burglar or a tenor saxophonist myself. It might be that our musical miscreant feels a greater need to express himself than a lifetime of breaking and entering can afford, a reason many of us can identify with, I’m sure. Who among us has not wished at times that our lives had taken a different route, that instead of succumbing to the siren call of a steady paycheck and benefits we had gone off and joined the French Foreign Legion or written the Great American Novel or shipped out to the South Seas in order to paint Tahitian girls with little or no clothing on? There’s many a time that I wished I’d listened to my dear sweet mother and not gone into the civil service; she warned me against the idea on more than one occasion, something she is all too willing to remind me and anyone else she can get to listen; but I felt that loan-sharking was just not for me, however much my mother said that the job suited me like none other she could think of. But we live in this our Great Republic, yes we do, and this our Great Republic is the land of endless opportunities, a place where a man can reinvent himself if he so chooses, and so here in America a burglar can choose to play the tenor saxophone if that is what will make him happy, although playing the tenor saxophone while he is burgling appears to me to be a very quick way to end a promising career in crime. But what do I know?

Perhaps music, which, as the poet tells us, hath charms to soothe the savage beast, works equally well on policemen, a theory not tested, as far as I know, in the physical or the metaphysical realm since Orpheus got past Cerberus and into Hades to find his beloved Eurydice, and our would-be sax man may hope that his best rendition of Body and Soul in the style of Lester Young or that playing Ben Webster’s best bits from Take the A Train will slow the cops down sufficiently for our burglar and his accomplices to get on the A train and make good their escape. The method is clearly not foolproof; it did not work for Orpheus, but that mishap was the fault of doubt playing on his mind, not the fault of his musicianship, and the pursuing policemen may be fans of Dexter Gordon or Coleman Hawkins, or worse, may prefer Dizzy Gillespie or Miles Davis to anyone who plays the tenor saxophone. Such are the uncertainties of a tenor sax-playing burglar’s life.

Or perhaps our burglar has larger game on his mind. If the Pied Piper of Hamelin could empty of a town of its rats and then of its children, then presumably a tenor saxophone-playing burglar could empty a zoo of its hippopotamuses, although why he should want to do this is yet another mystery to me. Turning a large and extremely irascible riverine mammal with a propensity for spraying its dung about promiscuously loose on the unsuspecting population of a large American urban center is not a good thing, either for the population, who will be understandably upset at the prospect of having a hippo spray dung all over their clean shoes, or for the burglar, who can hardly hide the fact that he is leading a parade of hippos out of the city to the tune of When the Saints go marching in from the police, a professionally cynical group of people not apt to believe that the trailing line of aquatic beasts are jazz lovers or the Second Line of dancers at a New Orleans-style funeral; real life does not resemble Disney’s Fantasia in any way that I am aware of. Hippopotamus rustling may not be a crime where you live, but I am certain that it is a crime somewhere, and I feel fairly sure that it is a crime in this particular large American urban center, simply because most large American urban centers have many silly laws about many silly things, but, unfortunately, saying large American urban center instead of big city is not one of them, despite the best efforts of Messrs. Strunk and White to omit needless words from American prose style.

Here in our happy little burg, for example, which is not at all a big city and has no laws against rustling hippopotamuses, the solons who rule over us, a group of pols as honest as the day is long in December, decree with great solemnity that no one may keep pigs anywhere within the city limits, and so no one does, but there is no law forbidding the keeping of crazy people, and so we are awash in crazy people, who wander the streets day and night looking for money to buy coffee and bring said coffee into the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my living, even though there are signs everywhere saying that they cannot do this, and they proceed to spill this contraband coffee onto our recently cleaned carpet, which is why we have signs saying no open beverages here in the first place. I do not know why the municipal government finds pigs so offensive and crazy people not so offensive, or why stealing a car is a crime here but rustling a hippopotamus is not, but the one thing I am reasonably certain of is that absolutely no one will explain the rationale to me, something I’ve noticed over the years and that I still think is just plain rude.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A CHRONOLOGICAL CONUNDRUM: So here’s the thing: Auckland, New Zealand is, as far as I know, the first large city to celebrate the New Year, and Honolulu, Hawaii is the last. The two cities lie some 4,392 miles apart [that’s 7,072 kilometers for those of you of the metric persuasion] and in between them lies the International Date Line, a distance easily traversed today in the era of jet travel. Suppose you decide that you want to double your New Year’s pleasure and celebrate amongst the Kiwis first and then zoom off for Oahu to catch the tag end of the planet's New Year’s celebrations. At some point you will cross the International Date Line and go from the new year to the old year. At that point, what do you say? “Happy Old Year?” Would you have to forswear the singing of Auld Lang Syne since, with your crossing of the date line, the present moment would be the auld lang syne the song goes on about? Could you make an old year’s resolution, content in the knowledge that whatever you resolved to do would be null and void only a few hours after you arrived in Hawaii, and what would be the point if you did make such a resolution? The Wright Brothers have wrought a terrible paradox, I fear.

Labels: , ,