If you could know one thing about everyone you passed or encountered during your daily goings on, what would you wish to know? If one piece of information became available to you about everyone on the street, like an unintentional confession printed in mid-air above each person’s head, what truth would you be privileged to read? And what would you give up to acquire this knowledge?
My allowance would be specifically aimed at people with iPods – portable media players, smart phones, all those music-playing devices that people plug their heads into. I want to know what each person is listening to at any given moment. I want to know for the same reason that will probably disappoint me: where is all the expression? What isn’t provoking all of these people to laugh aloud, sob uncontrollably, and generally move their bodies in eccentric and pleasurable ways? Not all of these people – and really not even any but a few – can be listening to relentless ambient noise that petrifies their bodies into a mannequin-like physical condition. Perhaps they are moved to sturdiness! They are strong and unshakeable! I don’t believe that. What is really going on inside those ears?
What would I give for this information? What is it worth? Maybe an old stamp collection. No television for a month. Not much. I’m constantly curious, but I’m afraid I’d just find it sad. And really…if I want to know I should just ask.
Lately I’ve been revisiting old episodes of Doctor Who, in particular those featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor. Why? There is no good reason for spending time like this. Especially since my preferred Doctor to attend conventions dressed as was Peter Davison. But I’ve been watching these anyway and so there you are. I remember fragments from many of the serials, but I’m quite surprised at much of what I’m seeing. Did I really endure all of this?
(and of course there’s something wonderful and cheeky here that’s impossible not to adore. absolutely unpretentious determination to make something stimulating with too few resources – including decent actors – for what they were trying to accomplish. what we witnessed on our screens and what we could make in our parents’ homes with a crappy hand-held camera were not so far apart)
One of the worst series must have been ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. Are they really threatened by the Rutan? Really? Isn’t that like feeling imperiled by the distant presence of Jello? If this invasion really does present a danger to the human species, then the Doctor might do well to clear off and let Earth become a battle site for the Rutan and Sontarans to raze.
So I took great delight today in learning about an incident that I was entirely ignorant of as a fifteen year-old when it took place in 1987: the broadcast intrusion during WTTW’s presentation of ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. Here it is:
The gestures are absolutely disturbing. The semi-sensical phrases cut with bestial moaning make you wince while wondering what’s next. It’s funny when it’s on. It’s good that it ends. Whatever it is…whoever he is that made it and visited it upon unsuspecting Doctor Who fans in Chicago…the disturbance must have been a welcome interlude from ‘Horror of Fang Rock’.
I saw a middle-aged man today pressing down hard with his elbow on the edge of his car’s hood. He was wearing a brown shirt decorated with patches, like a boy scout, but too old for that. The car was long and angular and black. He probably bought it when he was in his thirties. Maybe that’s when he got the shirt, too. As my bike approached and then passed him and his car, I could see what he was trying to do. The hood had been somehow compressed, so that it buckled and pulled away from the frame. He was trying to straighten it out with his weight. It wasn’t working, and he gave up. I thought to stop and say, “I saw how that happened to your car.” But I didn’t. I never tell any fun lies like that anymore.
It’s not inconceivable that I eat too much mayonnaise. Especially when nobody is looking.
I don’t smoke. But once, in the middle of a run, I stopped and asked a smoker on a corner if I could bum a cigarette. He lit me up. I ran off down the street sucking on the cigarette and hacking. I was wearing tight red shorts with a yellow stripe down the side. Just like a Chinese Olympian.
People who hate their jobs should stay up much later at night than they do to read and watch movies and distill gin. They should write poetry in small apartment chambers, pretending that they are Emily Dickinson. They should think about how Edgar Allan Poe died, and imagine him coughing violently with his head next to the curb. They should work with tattoo artists to paint their walls as well as their bodies, despite the landlord’s prohibitions. They should rouse their sleeping friends, who do like their jobs, on the phone. And in person if it comes to that. Then give their worst energy to the daytime hours just to see if the American Dream comes true anyway.
If you have plantar warts, an x-acto blade is the way to go.
What might poets offer dancers? How could a storyteller illuminate a musician’s composition? What does a performance artist have to say in response to a filmmaker’s experiment? And what does the public have to say about any of these practices?
Let’s bring these and folks of all artistic persuasions together and find out. An occasional event. An eclectic evening. A cabaret? If you have something ready to risk, let the collective know about it. The range of offerings will dictate the shape of each exploit. A senate (or some subjective group making more or less arbitrary decisions) will construct the line-up. There will be channels for feedback – yet to be determined. Not much has been figured out. So what? Start getting ready.
This is not about generating mass appeal, though that may be an accidental outcome. It’s not about gleaning compliments from an insular community. And please, dear god, don’t let anybody use the word ‘fusion’ to describe any part of an intention. It may, however, have something to do with physical lines of force. It might delve into the way phrases lurk and palettes rumble into our memories. Laughter and mystery may preside over one ceremony; grief may rule the next. Maybe this thing will just help artists do better with what they are already trying to do. Sometimes it will likely set us productively against one another. So be it.
Devise. Divert. Dare.