Get ready for Halloween. Eat all the white tips off the candy corn kernels. Summon the specter of Martin Van Buren Bone. Where’s your spirit gum?–not the adhesive, the chewing gum for spirits? Revel in the harvest. Cast your chaff into the bonfire. Dress up as zombie Charlie Brown kicking Lucy’s head instead of the football. The Doctor is FUCKING OUT. Drink a pitcher of boilermakers. Dance to this song.
The school that I work for, Ztown U, is about to acquire its second working Pennsylvania German nineteenth-century barn. Maybe take a moment to let all those modifiers sink in. ‘Pennsylvania German,’ ‘second,’ and ‘nineteenth-century’ are probably the most important ones to keep in mind. A crew of Amish builders are disassembling the barn in situ, labeling each piece, and preparing everything to be carted back to the campus. There’s apparently a video on a local newspaper’s website of all this hot beard-on-barn action. While other schools are doing cancer research or, I don’t know, buying and erecting humongous magnets, Ztown says pshaw to all that. Ztown says, Fuck Off, Progress! (actually a translation of the school’s Latin motto: Abi, Progressus!). In a way though, it does make sense. This place will never, ever be able to compete academically or financially with even the shittier state schools, so why not become the go-to place for a program that no one else would dream of developing, and only a handful of the loneliest, most misguided souls would pursue: Pennsylvania Dutch Heritage Studies. Unless one day colleges start offering Bawdy Wenches and Lively Ales as a major, I believe that Pennsylvania Dutch Studies will forever hold the crown of being a course of study custom-made for the once-and-future Renaissance Faire devotee (because: weird food—check; old and bizarre customs—check; strange clothes—check; somewhat different language—check). Make love with a corn stalk in one hand and a warm shoo-fly pie in the other.
We were told to leave the normal office and go to the orangery. That was the secondary location for our project. Contingency planning required that we have three operational sites, though I knew only of the orangery, and no one I asked could tell me where we’d go if the orangery flooded or lost power or was attacked by a scurvy-maddened mob. Though of course there were no oranges in the orangery, which was only one of the many disappointments on offer there. In the car on the way over, I wondered aloud to N where we might go in the event that both the normal office and the orangery were offline, which is the word the contingency planners used, and N said to not worry about it, the whole thing was planned out to the smallest detail, even down to the doormen and the janitors. Are there tertiary janitors? I asked him. Do they know they’re in line to assume the office if their predecessors should fail? Of course, N said. It’s all written down in a plan. It stands to reason that the contingent sites grow more unlikely as one proceeds down the line of possibility, so perhaps the tertiary site is a hunting shack or shanty town in the middle of the woods. What if one of us were offline, I asked, what would happen then? N either did not know or care to admit to such knowledge.
More Party Activities
Opening Mixer: New Brunswick Stew. Pin on the backs of guests the names of ingredients of New Brunswick Stew: beef, potatoes, turnips, carrots, rock salt, rice, pepper, onions, oranges, Vulcanized rubber, water, celery, tomatoes, aitchbone, chelated iron, pork, parsnips, cinnamon, butter, soap, milk, etc. There are 72 ingredients. The guest that gets them all written down first wins. Of course this will be difficult to do, as everyone must try to keep the others from reading what is on their back. Expect this mixer to end quickly, and in bloodshed. Keep plasma and cheap coagulants on hand for the hemophiliacs.
Try Your Luck on Telling the Truth: Prepare a list of questions somewhat like the following and ask different people in the group to answer correctly the question asked them, telling them that they are on their honor to tell the truth. Tap a syringe labeled ‘sodium pentothal’ while you say this.
(1) How much did you pay for your suit of clothes?
(2) How many times have you been proposed to, and why? Was it out of pity?
(3) Who do you think is the homeliest man in this room?
(4) If (insert name) were your child, what would you do to him?
(5) If you were proposed to, was it because you were pregnant?
(6) Did you fake this pregnancy?
(7) Why is the homeliest man so homely? Is it those hairs on his nose?
(8) If you were a leper, would you purposefully become a toll-booth money collector to
spread your disease?
Are there consolations for the losers? Do you think they go back home and drink cups of restorative tea? If you’re paid to play a game, does that decrease or increase the amount of personal pride at stake? I would like to watch a 96 hr. film composed of these montages: foul balls, throw-ins, free throw misses, goalie warm-ups, long toss, coaches’ wardrobes, regretful grimaces, tip-offs (tips-off?), and desperate time-out takings. Let’s think about the kinds of things the players say to each other in the clubhouse after the game: like “We played hard,” or “Next time,” which in almost all instances are just clichés and hurried filler for the post-game interviews—-but for once mean something a little different when uttered in this context, peer to peer.
Partial transcript from “Morganalia”, an overview of miscellaneous J.P. Morgan traditions, presented by VP John Weiss to new employees, June 11th, 2007
John: Gentlemen and ladies, you are here because you are the best of the best of the best, the creamiest of the cream of the crop. You’ve been recruited from the finest schools in America, Britain, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. Each and every one of you has shown unimpeachable excellence in some way: through leadership, loyalty, mathematics, statistics, ruthlessness, economics, computer science, and other assorted activities. However, I’m here to tell you that J.P. Morgan will challenge you. This firm does not know the meaning of the word ‘complacency’. We are constantly on a quest for perfection. If you came in through the main entrance of the building, you surely saw the 20 foot-high plaque that displays our mission statement for all who care to see it: ” J.P. Morgan and Co. will provide unmatchable excellence in all areas in which it is engaged. Perfection is what we work towards. Competitors will be left, crushed and disheartened, in our wake.” That is a direct quote from the man himself, people. The man in whose image you have all been created, so to speak. In a way, we are all merely flawed avatars for the spirit of John Pierpont Morgan, and we must, at all times, be mindful of this fact. Although he died almost a hundred years ago, we should strive to do his will here on earth. Now, I realize this a lot of information to absorb all at once, so I’d like to open the floor up to questions.
Novice Morgan Man: HI SIR I HAVE A QUESTION
John: Sure thing, what’s your name, son?
NMM: MY NAME IS RICHARD GODSHAALK SIR. [clears throat] I WAS JUST WONDERING WHAT THE COMPANY’S STANCE IS ON CLOTHES I MEAN TO SAY WHAT IS THE DRESS CODE EXACTLY? AT CONSIDERABLE EXPENSE I HAVE ACQUIRED A WARDROBE WHICH ONE MIGHT SAFELY CALL STYLISH OR EVEN FASHIONABLE. DO YOU THINK I WILL BE PROMOTED QUICKLY OR NOT BECAUSE OF MY CLOTHING?
John: That’s tough to say. Some of the traditionalists within the company, who, coincidentally or not, occupy the higher levels of our corporate hierarchy, favor a more conservative style of dress. For instance, my boss, Bryce Gordon, likes to wear some of your heavier wools and tweeds during even the summer months, since he feels that brings him closer to the ESSENCE of the company, which was founded prior to the advent of the concepts of either ‘sweat’ or ‘comfort’. Take a look at some of the pictures in the MorganGallery, and take note of what the bankers were wearing back in the early 1900s. If you want to play it safe, I’d suggest modeling your ‘look’ on some of those heroes. I’ve heard that word on the street is that all of us Morgan Men and Women wear DKNY, Prada, Gucci, Armani, and Versace. Not true. Take pride in your appearance, sure, but don’t go crazy. To you, Richard, I’d say: burn those clothes, and go out and get yourself a nice set of jute summer suits. We all have to learn how to crawl before we can walk, right?
[Johnny Whitney is formerly of Blood Brothers and currently of Jaguar Love. BUY the Acoustic Mixtape Vol 1.]
There is no epic poem in the Pennsylvania German language, because, according to a study prepared by Heinrich Hess Reichard in 1918, “Pennsylvania-German Dialect Writers and their Writings,” the simple lives of the people who speak the language do not permit the sorts of lofty imaginings necessary for the composition of long-form dramatic poetry. PA Germans have no need for the heroic. There are, however, quite a few excellent poems about the raising and cultivation of flax (see, for instance, Eli Keller’s “Vum Flachsbaue,” which Reichard refers to as “perhaps the most moving and most intimate poem about flax-raising ever composed in the language; a series of ten cantos that brings with it a whiff of the field and the violence of threshing.”).
Jeanie does not really consider the weather again until she’s standing by the front entrance of Erie Central with her bookbag slung over her shoulders, watching the snow come down from the sky in what looks to her like dotted diagonal lines, like movie snow. It’s slightly warmer out now and the flakes are bigger, which Jeanie knows means the storm is almost over. She hears a boy’s voice behind her ask someone to borrow a quarter for a can of pop. A palindrome, she thinks, pop. The boy behind her is next to her now, Mike Yakutchik, taking weird sideways sips from a can of Mountain Dew. Jeanie’s thoughts disappear swiftly and completely in Mike’s presence, leaving behind only a heavy blankness and a touch of heat, as if she were buried beneath a powdery drift but still somehow insulated from the cold of the snow.
“Looks like it’s going to stop soon,” Mike says, lifting his can so that it appears as if he’s toasting the weather. “Probably quit by the time we’re home.” He sips again, with the can almost perpendicular to his mouth, and wipes his lips with the back of one gloved hand.
“Yeah,” Jeanie says. She knows she can stare out at the front yard of Erie Central with Mike for only so long without saying something, anything, to him. “What time is it?” she asks. “My mom’s usually here by now.”
Mike shoves the sleeve of his super-puffy Northface coat up his arm and checks his watch. “Three fifteen. Huh.”
Jeanie grimaces before she can catch herself, making the same face—she knows this because she has checked in the mirror—as her mother: a harsh, ugly frown that turns her lips into a semi-circle and gives her chin a weird dimple, so that it looks like there’s a faint fermata where her mouth should be.
[DOWNLOAD Autumn, Again for free, but think about buying that maroon vinyl, it’s worth it.]
Gavin Russom has made and is making some amazing music–in Delia and Gavin (who just released their Track #5 on DFA), on his own as Black Meteoric Star, and now, with various guest vocalists, as The Crystal Ark. One thing that seems to hold constant is the sheer degree of hotness, sensuality, etc. that comes through in his music, whether it’s the solid sex of the basslines in those Black Meteoric Star songs or the bothered, slightly off-mic sighs and moans of Viva Ruiz in this song, dude has got an ear for what makes a song not just interesting but insanely alluring. “The City Never Sleeps” has a sinister edge, too, (that bass is elemental) so it sounds a little bit like the kind of thing that’d be appropriate for a quick tryst with a succubus/incubus (take your pick), but the song moves into a more everyday romantic mode towards the end, when Russom himself drops in and sings, like a straight-up creeper, “Open the door/Don’t you want some more?” How can you not say yes to that?
1. It sounds like the wind making love to a geometry book (Duchamp), which event in turn inspires spontaneous, blind make-out sessions and hurried post-kiss proofs on the streets below.
2. Are the vocals in the latter part of the song phenomena that arise from the guitar notes that were there from the beginning?
3. To dance to this song correctly, I think you’d need a safety harness, a partner, and a picturesque suspension bridge.
4. This is an example of pretty disparate sounds put together (in an inventive way) and charged with meaning. There’s a lot to be learned from this song.