Description: Finding ways to survive--this time, with pop music.
Date:20 January 2005
I think this one speaks for itself, almost 2 years later. (Do we really have that much time left?)
Today Bush gets sworn in as Emporer and I'm thinking of writing about art? It's my continuing dilemma: how do books, movies, etc help at times like these, especially those which appeal to my rareified tastes? A literature of social action, yeah, but for some reason I mostly love difficult work of cultural conservatives from Pound to the recently deceased Guy Davenport.
Today though I've got two songs in my head--Black Sabbath's turgid "War Pigs" and Depeche Mode's "Black Celebration." An unlikely pair to be sure, but at times like these we take nourishment where we find it. I think of this like 45 with two A-sides (an outdated reference, but bear with me). "War Pigs" describes the truth of the coronation: "Generals gathered in their masses/ Just like witches at black masses." Rhyming the same word in a pop song is usually a cop out, but succeeds here in creating an identity between the war mongers who claim to carry out policy and protect the 'homeland' and the "Sorcerers of death's construction" they really are, "making war just for fun" [if fun means extraordinary profit and power consolidated by fear and lies]. Metal has a reputation for conservatism if not fascism, but this song is straight up protest music: "Politicians hide themselves away/ They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?/They leave that role to poor." When thinking about these words in context with the current reign of witches, the conclusion is ironic: Ozzy predicts that the war pigs will fall from power and face divine retribution. In a way this will happen: the rabid right will return to the hills when the theocracy doesn't rise in the next term and the reality based community--be it McCain, Giuliani, Clinton, or Obama, will return to power. I just hope it's in time.
After the ceremonies, when the next round of balls has begun, we'll go home and flip the single. The New Wave dirge fits our mood: "Let's have a black celebration...To celebrate the fact that we've seen the back of another black day." We'll have a few drinks--the hardest stuff we have--and we'll figure out a way to "carry on/ When all hope is gone." My slogan for the last Bush term has been "alcoholism--it's the new suicide," but we'll find other ways to carry on. For me, it's going to be the hard work of teaching and the continuing solace and challenge of art. It's a paradox that a "single" has two songs on it, but even such an overbearing occasion as today's Black Mass is complex and multivalent. I guess this little ditty on two sub-pop songs actually answer me question about aesthetic life in dire times: we learn to eschew simplicity and to strive for something beyond our reach.
books: The Recognitions by William Gaddis. Three Piece Suit by Eddie Campell
quote: "To patronize the faculty of taste is to patronize oneself. For taste governs every free--as opposed to rote--human response. Nothing is more decisive. There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion--and there is taste in acts, taste in morality. Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas." Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp