I just finished a 7 day performing tour which took me from one end of Arizona to the other, literally Kingman to Bisbee, and two trips to Phoenix, with two shows in Sedona and another in Jerome. Eternal appreciation to my trio of poet/hosts Aaron Johnson, Michael Gregory and Christopher Fox Graham, poetry not only lives, it rocks because of people like these.
I actually got to meet Cindy Sheehan [Rob, she says “Hi.”]
Then tonight I concluded the journey by speaking to a newly forming local writer’s group as their guest speaker. Twenty years ago I was in a group, like that, meeting some guy who said he was a writer and here I was being the guy. It has been a week of magic for this writer. This week was so magic I even walked into a guy’s restaurant on my way home and talked him into paying me to sing and play for his lunch rush. Rush never happened, but I did sing and was paid.
However, this week is getting late and as of yet, i know a lot about my recent magical travel experiences but little else as to news. Luckily I have part two of the earlier reprint (as I had intended when I originally booked the trip). It had had to be originally published in two parts and this seems a fine opportunity.
Fresh comedy next week, in the meantime, here’s some old yucks to chew on till then:
UP NOVGEN AUGUST '93:
HOW IT WORKS PART TWO:
THE TYRANNY OF FASHION
This month there isn't much sense in talking about the big media event as if you didn't know about it, as if it were possible in this very Midwestern location to not have heard about it, often ad nauseam. It was the flood, stupid. And I don't mean the one in Japan where over one hundred people died horribly when gas tanks on land where destroyed by the tidal wave that thoroughly demolished several coastal villages. I'm sure you've heard mention of this tragic sudden lost of human life in between watching the countless human interest stories about folks who built in the bottoms because that's where the rich farmland is and are now getting an object lesson in just how those nutrients got there; OR the exposés about how the states' kept the flood reservoirs filled so people would spend money to go fishing and boating, then, when the flood did come, the water couldn't use the reservoir because it was reserved for commercial interests so it had to go camping at those same people's houses.
No, I won't bore you with more of that. The only thing I will say about the Great Mississippi Flood of '93 is that it does remind us that Mother Nature is more powerful than Republicans. Mr. Clinton will get a jobs bill after all. With every local reporter in the Midwest bucking for their one big break at the networks and every representative eager to fly over back home to look good for the people, Bill won't need a Pare Lorentz to hype up a WPA like FDR did. Suddenly rebuilding America is the fashionable thing to do.
Actually, I wanted to spend this column talking about something else; but, before I get to get to my main subject, as a card carrying member of "the overly-dramatic micro-critical pundits union" Charles Good referred to last month in his column, (obviously I'm not a Republican), I am required to trash our president at least once a month. Trash of the Month: "don't ask don't tell" is what Clinton should have done with that campaign promise in the first place or else he should have at least stood his guns, taken the noble loss and then pointed to the bad old Congress like everybody else does. Though gay rights are fashionable with the hip crowd Bill likes to be seen hanging around with; gay rights, human rights, earth rights, heck anybody else's rights other than those who have the dollars to get them re-elected are of no interest to those who claim to represent Mainstream America. The only people Mr. Clinton served this month are his enemies. Which does not include me, yet.
Oh yes, and as your paper's media watchdog, I also have a contractual requirement to comment on current media trends, such as the hot race for the Summer box office. We go to watch movies in the same darkness at the same time, hoping for a light in the dark … and en masse we receive the tomes of next year's moral fashions. Among my fav’s so far: mental illness and illiteracy aren't painful at all provided you can be cute about it, ala` Bennie and Joon; and neither is being a total burn-out if you can make them yuck it up down on the farm like Pauly Shore in Son-in-Law. My favorite fairy tale this summer so far has been Dave, where we Americans are encouraged to believe whenever the rotten politicians think they've got it all in the bag, some innocent guy will save the day.
As I said, fairy tale.
Then there's movie violence is acceptable family fare provided it is in a movie about movie violence or in a film involving Stallone, as in Last Action Hero or Cliffhanger. In Sleepless in Seattle (a film which when watched will cure its own title problem), you are guaranteed romantic bliss if you are a sensitive widower or a kooky reporter, provided you are also rich, available for cross-country travel at the drop of a hat, good looking and quick with the one liners … and willing to dump somebody for a chance on a fling. As for the other 99.9% of the population, there are always the movies.
The biggest film this year, the one that will dominate adult fashion for the next seven months and direct the minds of our children for the next fifty years (just as Jaws will always have an effect on our thinking), is, of course, Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg, that melder of the minds of the masses for our quarter century, brought out everyone's favorite dino models, including one of the oldest fossils in the entertainment business, the Deus-Ex-Machina- asaurus, when at the end T. Rex conveniently shows up just in time to eat all the bad guys. But besides originating the graphics for much of the children's clothing worn this season and insuring dino fashion another evolutionary era, JP also provides the bridge into this next, the main, section of this column: Jeff Goldblum's character's bit about Chaos theory. Chaos theory is the study of the impact of small events on complex systems, as anyone who has seen my office can attest: Chaos is order.
Great processes begin from apparently insignificant incidents; the more complex a process, the more chaotic progress appears. A drop of rain falls on Minneapolis and Des Moines loses all its drinking water for months. In a river, a drop joins a drop and when too many join it's called a flood. In physics, a stray electron bombards a random uranium nucleus and 100,000 people are vaporized in Japan. In politics take that same A Bomb and build your way through forty years of cold war mentality and you wind up with Yakoff Smirnoff headlining in Branson and our “peacenik president” bombing Baghdad; meanwhile Russia starves and America wallows in denial of its gun addiction.
American society is a complex system, the way we join the flow of our times, function in the market, is primarily a process of fashion. Fashion is pepper--which once cost eight times its weight in gold. Fashion is the gold in the first place. Fashion is radio, television, newspapers, magazines and circulars, it is what you see at the mall and it is how governments are run.
150 yrs. ago if an American family knew of hundred people at all (which was unlikely) you could bet that the majority were people they actually knew, their family, neighbors, the local polls and police or long dead biblical characters. Today we move away from our families, don't trust our neighbors and so our communities become our media. We watch the people who set our fashions in movies, magazines and on TV, places where they're always selling something. A hundred and fifty years ago being self reliant was fashionable. It meant growing your own food, finding your own water, producing your own heat and keeping the killers away from your door. It meant curing most of your diseases, making your shoes and clothes and house and furnishings, and weapons and tools and if you had any time left for entertainment you could play your own violin, providing you could keep it in good repair. Now it means remembering your PIN when you go to the cash machine. Take, for example, fashion in women. It used to be fashionable for women to be pear shaped. Pear shaped women have more functional pelvises, less breast cancer and stronger backs and legs, look really good when painted by Rubens and in general spend less on their vanity. But as consumerism rose, a woman's primary function shifted from being a producer to being a consumer and men's ideal woman dwindled from being a strong wife, mother, partner to being someone to buy as your own pet Barbie.
Fah-fah-fah-fah-fashion. Fashion eats red fish extinct, clubs doo-doo birds to death and turned miles of buffalo into moth-eaten coats. Fashion brought you bell bottoms, twice dammit. Fashion created skinheads and cocaine. Then there's the downside: fashion claims to justify the existence of Paris, New York and L.A. One day Madonna dresses like a slut, the next it’s your daughter. Some comic makes fun of a drunk by messing up his clothes, and then kids look cool by showing their boxer shorts and wearing their ballcaps sideways. Rhett Butler gets away with saying he does not give a damn and fifty years later Andrew Dice Clay is on SNL. In Germany, fashion once meant death for sixty million.
Ever one to be a fashion plate, like many Americans, I cooled out on the Fourth of July by joining several thousands of my fellow Springfieldians at our state capitol to lay on my back in the middle of the street, listen to a top 40 radio show, eat junk and experience the sensation of hundreds of pounds of explosives going off. I took my son and a niece so they could be the next generation to grow up appreciating our country's sacred war ritual of gawking at the blinding flashes and the deafening thunder of gunpowder when controlled by the latest technology and a hundred or so men in uniforms with guns, all the while surrounded by a multitude of my countrymen all also swept up in the nationalistic fervor. With the radio on. And regularly scheduled commercials. It was a National Holiday, it was a celebration. It was the fashionable thing to do.
--mikel weisser writes from the Left Coast of Arizona