Thursday, 13 December 2012

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Against Springsteen According to Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball is the best album released this year. Why? Because of lyrics like: Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bill. It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill. They “rage at corporate oligarchy and economic injustice,” things at which I’m raging too, so I completely understand why Rolling Stone would think they’re good: it agrees with them. There’s only one problem: they’re not. The state of political rhetoric is such that feeble statements of solidarity pass for insight. We’ve traded genius for blandished agreement, resulting in a situation in which we praise people for writing: There ain’t no help. The cavalry stayed home. I wouldn’t be complaining were it not for the fact that, of all people, it’s Springsteen they’re praising for rehashing tired polemic. Because part of the reason I’m lefter than I’ve any right to be is that this same Springsteen fellow once made me feel the anger and hopelessness to which he only here alludes. If you’ve never seen the debut performance of “The River,” do yourself a favor and do so right now. I can wait. Granted, “The River” isn’t an explicitly political song–it’s decidedly lacking in policy statements–but it’s a far more compelling vision of what lives are like “on account of the economy” than the broadsides found on Wrecking Ball. Let’s start with the titular and abiding image: a river. What are rivers like? To trade one bard for another, here’s John McPhee on the Mississippi in his “Atchafalaya“: Southern Louisiana exists in its present form because the Mississippi River has jumped here and there within an arc about two hundred miles wide, like a pianist playing with one hand—frequently and radically changing course, surging over the left or the right bank to go off in utterly new directions. Always it is the river’s purpose to get to the Gulf by the shortest and steepest gradient. As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side. Major shifts of that nature have tended to occur roughly once a millennium. The Mississippi’s main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier—arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river’s present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into...
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CHRISTMAS! Copyright (c) 1980, 1982, 1983, 2006 Sekocom, Inc. All rights reserved. CHRISTMAS! is a registered trademark of Sekocom, Inc. Revision 23 / Serial number 8940726 West of Apartment Complex You are standing in an open field west of a white apartment complex, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here. > go home You turn to your left and find yourself at an airport. The line of weary parents and unsupervised children snakes around the airport twice. > stand line You find the first available line and deposit yourself and your luggage at the end of it. In front of you is a college student of indeterminate age with suspect hygiene. To your right is an incontinent child. > ignore You are unable to ignore the stale sweat with its hints of Adderall and vodka. The child to your right is making a face. > stop face You grab the child by the face. Its father lunges at you. He is carrying the child, a camera case, a man-purse, a laptop bag, a carry-on, three large suitcases, his wife's hat and two pairs of sunglasses. > fuck him Are you sure you want to do that here? > fine punch dad You strike the father in the face and make contact with one pair of sunglasses, a camera case, a carry-on, one large suitcase and his wife's hat. The child resumes making a face. > stop face You grab the child by the face. Its mother lunges at you. She is carrying a copy of 50 Shades of Grey, a lady-purse, a child's car-seat and a pet-carrier containing a small yapping animal. > kick mom You kick the mother in her lady-purse. She throws 50 Shades of Grey at your head but it strikes the unkempt college student in his. As he turns around she drops the pet-carrier and looses the small yapping animal. The family chases after it as screams of "Rat! Rat!" echo through the terminal. > cut in line You occupy the place vacated by the family. A few of your fellows-in-line shoot you disapproving looks but they are too demoralized to care. Five hours later you reach the ticket counter and receive your boarding pass. > bout fucking time There is no one here for you to fuck. You walk to your gate and await the initiation of boarding procedures. Hours pass. Centuries. Kingdoms rise and fall. Great men are born and die alone on sodden streets. Women are elected to offices higher and highest. Hot coffee spills from your tilted cup onto your most sensitive parts. > GET IT OFF The coffee has soaked through your boxers and threatens to weld them to your skin. Your favorite bits will never work again. > JUST A DREAM This is no dream. > JUST A DREAM You are wide awake and in unimaginable pain. You begin to imagine life a life without– > AM DREAMING AND CAN NARRATE OWN LIFE. PRECIOUS BITS ARE FINE....

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