A little video I made for my song "Ford 632."
A little video I made for my song "Ford 632."
As my regular readers/friends/family members/acquaintances/co-workers/fellow Masons known, I am not much of a self-promoter. Oklahomans, a group I sheepishly sometimes admit I once belonged to, don't like boasting and are sometimes almost pathologically polite and self-deprecating. A sometimes nice quality that keeps us from being Texans--that and a lack of ambition. Anyway, that's why I create so much material and generally suck at telling people about it. I have this self-defeating idea sometimes that people don't want to have art shoved down their throat, they want to discover it themselves, which in a way makes it partly theirs. I ought to know that's stupid, since people regularly take the stuff forced on them by radio as if it's good when some of it is worthless. And yet shoving people against the wall and saying "Hey, look at my stuff!" always feels to me like I'm being obnoxious, coercive, self-centered and narcissistic. It's worse when I run into a person who has no problem bragging about his novel in progress, which is going to send him to heights of Olympian glory any day now, and I'm too sheepish to admit that I've written a few of them That's one of the reasons I let Stephanie do most of the promotion on "The Retributioners," our hysterically funny if currently moribund Web show. But unfortunately, I don't have that luxury in my novel-writing career, where I am forced all by my lonesome to look for agents and publishers in squeaky, mousy-voiced little query letters that rarely if ever show the sum of my talents. I've started this process again recently after parting ways with my literary agent and I'm getting used to the rejections all over again. Do you remember the scene at the beginning of "Paradise Lost" where dogs are eating out the bowels of one of the fallen angels? That's what it feels like trying to sell a novel, just in case you've never tried it. Every time I run into a little failure with my ventures, though, I do an honorable thing--I simply start a new project. A new song, a new book or a new screenplay--before the sting of the rejection can hit. Believe me, this shit is starting to pile up, and I'm starting to think that I'm going to drop dead with mountains of work that nobody will ever read or hear or see. That leads to a more self-defeating attitude: Well, maybe everybody will get it when I'm dead and in the meantime I'll stay happily anonymous.
Stupid, I know.
So, in the interest of promoting myself again, I'm going to focus a bit on my music in this post. As far as I know from my odometer readings (?) on this here WordPress site, I get approximately ZERO hits on my music. Really! I count maybe five click-throughs in the past year total. Maybe the stats page doesn't count right. Could that possibly be it?
My first reaction to this silence was that my music must suck so bad nobody is polite enough to tell me. I took it like I took all the rejection of the book world: I've failed to make an impression, time to move on. I know I can't sing well and my production is off, and my time-keeping is also a little messy. I finally sent out one tune to some friends to get their reactions. I'd say I got four positive reactions and two lukewarm reactions.
Then earlier this year I played all my stuff for an actual musician who said that, barring my bad time-keeping on the drum machine (a pet peeve of his) my stuff was certainly worthy of hearing, if not nominating for a Grammy. Then another musician seconded that, and then a third. So I tried an experiment--listening to it from other people's computers. Turns out, a lot of the time I couldn't open the files, which required users to download QuickTime. Could it be that nobody even had a chance to reject my stuff?
So now I ponder: Do I dare ask you, my dear readers, who came here seeking comedy and or Republican-bashing, to listen to my music one more time? If you are willing to, then I'm making the journey easier for you: I've finally opened up an account with Sound Cloud. This player is meant not just to share music but to be interactive--it allows users to make comments on parts of the tracks they don't like. But the best thing for me is, it doesn't require you to download files to your computer. You can just press the big, candy-like button here:
In the interest of space and a clean layout, I've moved all these Sound Cloud files to a new tab on my home page, which you can see at the top of the menu or which you can click on here. (You can also check out my Sound Cloud profile page, but I don't like it as much because I can't control the format or song order.) Not all my music is on Sound Cloud, just 13 of what I consider the best songs. If I start getting some decent hits, then I'll upload more of the music, and if I get a lot of hits, I'm going to start going into promotion mode--sending out free MP3 files with my complete album "Time Traveling Humanist Mangled By Space Turbine" to anybody who requests it. Here's a sample of the art work, created by my friend Corey Sanders:
I promised this song a few weeks ago, but never really mentioned it when it was posted: I've put up a new piece, an instrumental called "The Blue Mom." Don't ask me what the title means. It is what it is, and can be nothing else. I wrote this after getting a very brief man crush on some '60s guitar heroes and dared try what amounts to an extended solo. Dear reader, I will never be a guitar master, but sometimes I hope a nice melody will get me where I want to go when my defiant and heedless fingers will not. Again, if you don't like it, fear not. You've got some 33 other ER Salo Deguierre songs to listen to on this page, most of which do not require fleet-fingered guitar (nor suffer from lack of it).
Dear Long-Suffering Beauty is Imperfection reader, You probably noticed that my blogging has slacked off as of late. I apologize for this and guess I owe you an explanation. As regular readers know, I'm going to be a father soon, and impending parenthood has forced me to realign my priorities somewhat. When my son is born, I plan to give him most of my time as the work-at-home parent. This means a novel that I've been working on for a really long time (we're talking years) will likely hit the circular file forever if I don't get it done now. This has been a pet project of mine that has gotten me through years of unemployment, lonely bachelorhood, career disappointments and generic spiritual malaise. It's largely been my substitute for religion, this novel, and I'm getting close to saying goodbye to it forever. By the time my son is born, I will only have time to send query letters out, and I'd like to have a complete work to share with agents.
Thus I've only had time for a few strident posts like the one I did on taxes yesterday. To my surprise, that blog hit a nerve, and I've gotten quite a few hits on it. It's surprising because all I could think when I read it back to myself the first time was, "Gee, I'm getting increasingly humorless and strident, aren't I?" Not good for a blog that used to be all funny all the time. In fact, I let the article sit for a week for that reason. But my dear readers all gave me the great vote of confidence I needed, spurred on by my close friend Chris Barton, author of "Can I See Your I.D., True Stories of False Identities" (in your local independent book stores now!) Thank you Chris and everybody who liked the article, strident or otherwise!
Best to follow up with something harmless. I've got other things sitting idle on my desk as well, including quite a few pieces of music. So today I thought I'd share one with you.
Here is a piece with a pretense of being classical. Don't worry, Salo Deguierre fans, I have not gone soft on you. This is actually just the opening of an album I've partially written called "The Mechanical Bean," a satire about a family that obtains super powers after genetically modified food pollen from a corporate farm blows onto their land. The idea of this not-yet-finished album is to mix moods and genres, hence my first foray into "classical." I've got another piece I hope to share in a couple of days when I get it properly compressed. That one's more bluesy.
In the meantime, I hope you don't think this blows, and if you do, then please enjoy re-reading my article on taxes!
Another weird offering from ER Salo Deguierre. My first country song. Sort of. It was inspired by some of the more interesting weirdness I was subjected to as a young person growing up in a certain southern-western-Midwestern state.
I have to apologize to those who are having trouble hearing my music. I get few responses on it, so I just assumed nobody was listening to my self-indulgent noodlings. But then somebody told me recently that part of the problem is my files are hard to open with this horrendous WordPress version of Quicktime. If that's the case, I'm very sorry, dear Beauty is Imperfection reader, and I will try to figure out an alternative in the future. I'm a bit tech challenged, though, something I've discussed on a few posts here, and so far my efforts to embed something cooler like SoundCloud have been all for nought.
As usual, all sounds and music made by yours truly.
"Alice Ploughshare" By ER Salo Deguierre
When I walked in the head I found you tweaking Shivering with a mirror and a straw I wrapped you up and covered you in blankets Bloody as the day that you were born
When Interstate 41 turns to Interstate 32 That's where every trucker's dream becomes a nightmare But I still love you Alice Ploughshare You were out there stealing my anhydrous I could not shake you With your vacant stare Just the kind of love I always I needed
Did you see those contents under pressure? When you mixed them up inside that tub? Did the police hear the lab explosion? When they were rousting you outside the club?
With your pupils dilated You're still stocking Sudafeds Making cocktails with the cowboys in the drive-thru
But I won't share you Alice Ploughshare Eighteen months of hard-time prison labor Can I come see you? You smell like burning hair Only 30 minutes with no touching They won't possess you Alice Ploughshare Together we can draw blood from a stone.
Was this love a match we made in heaven? Or simply one we made down in Ardmore? Your teeth rotting out and mine just browning Another year I can't give up the Skoal.
Though your eyes were black and dead Your teeth falling out your head We had more happiness than any two folks had a right to
But chains don't bind you Alice Ploughshare I saw you run away when you malinger But then I chased you Through carnivals and fairs Heaven just a pipe between your fingers
And I won't share you Alice Ploughshare Tweaking all the way to Texarkana And I still love you Alice Ploughshare It never ever seemed you could stop talking
Here's a bit that I've been workin' on for a while: "Five Wounds," a guitar piece I wrote in the style of my hero John Fahey. It's somewhere between folk-blues and muzak, but maybe you'll like it. As always, I recommend you go listen to John Fahey for the real thing, but maybe this is good music for reflecting, digesting or doing your taxes. The guitar is in standard tuning. If you can tell me what key I'm playing in, then you're smarter than I am.
Dear Beauty is Imperfection reader, I have hit a milestone of sorts in music making. I was once a math guy, believe it or not, and I still have an obsessive thing about round numbers. It means nothing to you or to mathematician Kurt Godel or to the number 30 itself, but I now have 30 songs up on my home page. These are all original compositions.
The last two I posted are "The Passion of the Elvis" and "The Merc of Cameroon." These round out a 12-song album I've completed, which will even have a cover and everything when I've finished mastering. The album will comprise, in order, the first 12 songs on my home page. More important is that I've finally got these two songs out of my system after carrying them in my head for more than a decade and a half. That's right, I wrote these songs when I still lived in Austin, Texas. I used to drum out the parts on a steering wheel of a car I haven't owned since 1996. I didn't dare try recording them, however. They had a lot of parts. I wasn't sure how to make the sounds I heard in my head (at least not until recently). And the lyrics were never right. They've changed hundreds of times (OK, maybe dozens). The Elvis song was about a completely different subject and I had to change it when something weirdly Elvisy emerged in the recording process.
"The Merc" is a song about geopolitical turmoil, greed and revenge. Musically, it finds me trying to wed both my love of John Fahey harmonics, the drums of my marching band days, long Sonic Youth suites and, most foreign to me, a bluesier guitar solo than I've ever, ever dared try. The results are ... well, I'll let you decide.
"The Merc of Cameroon" By Salon de la Guerre
Down in the hole where it’s always dark at noon Stuck in a cell with the merc of Cameroon He’s advertised his services In Angola and Equatorial Guinea And now he’s digging tunnels with a spoon
We escaped in a daring daylight raid And by the time we thought we had it made He was cut down to ribbons By a Cuban guard with a hundred medals And I never ever thought I’d get away
So I went off and I looked for his wife And she had his blood diamonds and his knife She and I fell into embrace And we took his car and we took his money But the Merc of Cameroon he was alive
He and his thugs were trying to start a coup Just one thing that your blood money can do So now I’m stuck in a Holiday Inn on the Ivory Coast With my dignitary When I heard the merc come slide across my hotel room A-haw hoo hoo
Time for engineering time for contemplating lies About how those blood diamonds blind my eyes They’ve been here for a million years And they’ll be here when I’m dead and buried But the Merc of Cameroon has me tonight A-haw hoo hoo!
And he’s got me down And I hit the ground And he made one sound A shot in the chest Penetrate the evening
Sometimes politicians have to fall While puny men like me hide in the wall They’ve been here for a thousand years And they’ll be here when I’m dead and buried They leave and track your blood out in the hall A-haw hoo hoo
copyright 2011, Eric R. Rasmussen
I'm feeling all sorts of hope this week, not to mention paranoia, sadness, devotion and maybe just a dash of hypochondria, too. These are the kinds of things you too might expect if you, like me, are expecting a child and just said goodbye to the nervous first trimester. My wife and I have known for a couple of months, obviously, about our baby, but had to keep it to ourselves for obvious reasons. But as I was keeping the news away from family and friends, I also realized that I was still, until very recently, keeping the news from myself in a way, too. As the baby grows from abstract concept to person, I'm going to fall in love with it, and I feel like I'm starting to already. Like your first romantic love, it makes you feel powerful but also fragile. I forgot how hard it is to open your heart up to that kind of love when there are still dangers and risks. I lost my mother and stepfather last year when they died in a car wreck, which has made this a very bittersweet occasion. I'm not only terribly sad that my mother is not going to be here to meet my son or daughter, but worry and grieve over the idea that my own relationship with my baby could ever be cut short. I could get ill or my heart could give out as my father's did several years ago. I'm healthier than he was, but it's my paranoia working. It doesn't have a medical degree.
So keeping in mind my fear and my hope, I finished a new song which, if I can't quite yet dedicate it to the baby who is here, I can at least dedicate it to the generic love for all babies ... or maybe even to falling in love with anything. I hope maybe to sing it to my child someday.
By Eric Rasmussen
First there’s daddy Stand behind his Mustang Who can know what strategy he’s making?
Two there’s mommy Standing on the playground Laughing at the rules the girls are breaking
What kind of game do you think we two can play?
Third there’s baby Peeking through the blanket With all the fussy babies who fight sleeping
After we wake up And take our nap like thieves Who’s that No. 3 so quietly creeping?
What kind of game do you think we three can play?
Can you play with pots and pans Or get lost behind your hands? Tell me where did mommy go? Where do you start and where do I? And why do you cry when I cry? There’s too much to ever know
Moses basket, drifting through the reeds I want to stand so close to where you’re standing World is full of so many big bodies If I fall will you give me safe landing?
What kind of game do you think we three can play?
Put baby’s feet into the sea; just like my mother did to me Hold on tight and don’t let go Bear me up into your arms; keep me safe from every harm And other things I’ll have to know
Teach me all the things you know until I have the strength to go It takes so much courage just to love
*I'm sorry to my wife for the patriarchal sounding title.
Yes folks, ER Salo Deguierre lives! I don't know if anybody has noticed, but I've uploaded some 13 new tunes to my home page in the last month (all of which are on the right hand side of this page). Some of these are songs I had previously posted elsewhere, including MySpace. But most of it comes straight out of the archives--a mix of old songs and new. There are things I wrote 18 years ago (like the folk song "Hemingway," one of my first compositions), things I recorded three years ago but never showed anybody (like "New York Christmas, 1945,") , and a few ditties I rattled off in 2010 (like "Window Train Movie.") I've got a couple of other items in the hopper, but you should probably expect less music from me for a while as I turn my attention to fiction projects that badly need my attention.
If you like any of the stuff here, please comment! I'm very proud of some of these songs, though they may indeed betray the steep learning curve I've faced with the recording process. I hope the amateur passion of my kitchen table rock will help you overlook some of my admitted sloppiness.
Sorry for the sparse posting of late. Like many of you, I was enjoying a holiday out of town (going to see an old friend in D.C. for Thanksgiving) and I've becoming a bit wary of telling people, perhaps burglars, when I leave the house by blogging about my travels. I have also tried to get a handle on a new writing regime. As much as I love my readers, blogging every day as I used to, even when it's just stupid, puerile jokes and top 10 lists, has been sapping the strength I should be putting into my fiction. Furthermore, I was also going through something akin to post-coital depression after the election last month. I felt like I had summed up a lot of my feelings on America's misguided self-mutilation in electing Tea Party members, and I felt I'd succinctly explained my economic point of view. I was a bit spent and didn't feel the need to hash it all out again.
I'm currently working on a 2011 economic outlook for the magazine I write for. The news there is pretty dismal--our unemployment problem could continue for years, not because Republicans or Democrats can do anything about it, but because we have years to pay off our debts, both personal and institutional. Americans in saving mode don't goose GDP forward, and with stagnant growth, unemployment continues. What might help is more government fiscal stimulus. But that's now become politically impossible because of the national mood and anti-government backlash. In other words, America--your misery is largely your own fault. So make sure and go to the mirror tonight and ask yourself, "Why am I personally hurting the economy? Am I a bad person?" If you feel comforted watching non-financial expert Ralph Reed on CNN telling you what's really happening, then that's a perfect place to start looking for your problem.
But I didn't come here to bitch. I came here to share more music (perhaps you'd prefer it if I bitched). I was digging through some old music files last night and came up with something I recorded in 2007 that I never shared--a guitar piece inspired by John Fahey with lyrics inspired by Huck Finn (which I re-read that year). I had planned on flushing this song down the toilet, but was surprised at how much I still liked it, long and dour as it is. It finds me still trying to negotiate a strange path of Americana, threading a route from folk artists like Fahey to noise artists like LaMonte Young and Sonic Youth. The result seemed to be perfect for a melancholy lyric I'd written about death and the frontier.
So for better or worse, I'm sharing it with you now. It's called "Where You Dream Tonight." As always, all the work belongs to yours truly, as if somebody else would claim it.
Where You Dream Tonight copyright 2007, Eric R. Rasmussen
Where you dream tonight Is where your heart belongs Steamer through the mist Ferry hits the logs
Cannon raise the dead Stuck two fathoms down Halo round her head Waterlogged and drowned
Everything you know Everything you see Paddle boats and hacks None of this is real
Looking through the trees Tarred and feathered thieves Is that you and me Longing to be free?
Carnival in town Fireworks display Midgets monkey men Wonders of the day
Bring your children round To the river town Halo round their heads Thank God that you're not dead
According to Webster's dictionary, "cathect" means to invest something with emotional energy. Contrariwise, "decathect" means to take away your emotional attachment to something, perhaps anticipating that you'll lose it. You can decathect from anything. Countries. The linguistic theories of Noam Chomsky. Your dinner. Your friends. Your president. Why do you care? You're probably busy at work, after all and don't have time. Well, I mention it for two reasons. One is that you probably decathect from things all the time. Remember your friend who didn't invite you to her wedding? I bet you decathected from her and decided not to invite her to yours. To use a much more pressing global political example, many groups, for example, the Serbians in the 1990s, have found they must decathect from the idea of a greater nationalism when they cannot realistically unite with their fellow ethnic groups in other countries. Decathecting is a silent friend and a silent killer. We do it every day, almost as much as we rationalize. A lot of us Democrats are going to be decathecting from Congress if we lose it in November. Also, if I go downstairs for a bagel later and find out that they ran out hours ago, I'm going to have to decathect from that wonderful butter-, rosemary-, poppy seed-, onion- and garlic-encrusted bread right then and there.
The other reason I'm talking about it is that I wrote a song called "Decathect." Why? Because it's kind of different. There's no singing in this song. And I'm not playing the guitar so much as attacking it, not playing in chords so much as playing around them. I'd call it an atonal song, but I'm sure Arnold Schoenberg, the atonal master, would berate me for playing a few chords here and there. But the idea was to "decathect" from the chords, from the guitar and from song structure.
So if you don't like it, now you know why. Click here to play: Decathect
To celebrate the end of military operations in Iraq, I suppose it might be apropos to once again offer up the song "Leaving Babylon," by ER Salo Deguierre, a tale of intrigue set against our troubles in the Persian Gulf. It's not an anti-America song, as some might surmise on first hearing. It's more a look at extreme thinkers and how they so easily switch sides. Because, to an extremist, the content of his thoughts is not as important as his extreme feelings. I'm looking at you, Michael Savage, David Horowitz and John Voight.
One of the things you might not know about ER Salo Deguierre is that he's not just interested in ripping off Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground all the time. No, ol' Salo has a soft side, too. In fact, he quite loves folk music. It was 1992 when I first saw a brilliant movie I highly recommend called Dogfight (starring the late, great River Phoenix in one of his best performances, working alongside the equally phenomenal Lili Taylor). As the credits rolled at the end for this devastating tale of lost innocence in the 1960s, I heard for the first time the dulcet tones of a maestro guitarist named John Fahey and my life has never been the same. I spent the next 17 years not only trying (and failing) to play the way he does but also to reconcile how an instrumental guitarist with nobody backing him could sound like a symphony. I wondered for a long time, after listening closely, if his symphonic sound had any relation to the type dreamed up by Sonic Youth troubadours Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. I was pleasantly surprised later to find that my intuition of a musical connection was not superficial; Sonic Youth acknowledged at some point that they had indeed used a lot of John Fahey's alternative tuning approaches to create their own totally original sound. Their debt to him turned out to be so great that they even played shows with him in his waning years (one of which I got to see on my 27th birthday, the best present ever).
John Fahey never sang (he didn't need to), but until I come up with a guitar sound as fulfilling as his, I have to unfortunately do some croaking on my own material, thinking that if I combine some halfway decent picking skills with a halfway decent vocal, I'll have something better than both. My results in this pursuit have mostly been a mishmash in the past, but in the last few months I've come up with something I don't mind sharing.
I wrote this song about 10 or 11 years ago but left it unrecorded until this year. It's about pain, poverty, class resentment. American history, basically. Just click to play.
“Kansas 1921” By Eric Rasmussen Copyright 1999
Go inside the house and get our best wooden chair Before he comes up our porch And takes off his bowler hat And sits down and tells us tales of distant Washington We’ll feed him corn and watch his face
Seems so long Since dad’s been dead But how happy he’d be To have known a president On a whistle-stop campaign In this brave new year of 1921 Just to see our land and give us blessing
Oh ho, high wind, high wall Won’t you take my hand and pull me down There’ll be warm spring wind comin’ round
Punch another hole inside your old leather belt You’re as thin as a bean And your pants are fallin’ down And you might run into rich folk in town Don’t you ever stop to think of who you are?
Try to think that you was raised better than You was raised Tie that dog up in the wood Kick him if he ain’t been good Lick your fingers, push your hair behind your ears Don’t smile when they look you in the eye
Oh ho, high wind, high wall Won’t you take my hand and pull me down There’ll be warm spring wind Comin’ round
There's no getting around it: America is divided. We've become more polarized, less tolerant of one another's ideas and points of view. Less likely to reach across the divide of discourse, less likely to see the ironies of, seek alternatives to or break the paradigms of our own thoughts, less likely to live outside the echo chamber where we repeat the thoughts of our family and friends without thinking for ourselves, where we can't synthesize seemingly incompatible political ideas. We've moved farther apart than ever, refusing to discuss things in a way that might bring us together. Of course, I'm talking about the tragedy of last night's Emmy Awards.
Oh sure, Jimmy Fallon was funny wandering the hall like a minstrel and breaking the proscenium stage to sing with Julianna Margulies and Stephen Colbert. Yes, a lot of quality shows were justly rewarded. You don't even care that they are still calling January Jones a leading lady when she has gotten less air time on Mad Men this year than some of the extras.
But TV has, like America, become polarized, and when you look past the opulence of this gala event, all you see is cleavage ... a wider gap than ever between quality and crap on television. The Emmys now have a category for best reality TV show. For those of you who enjoy oxymorons (or just morons)--here is your category. It must be embarrassing for wordsmiths in a writer's medium to watch the Vandals, Saracens and Goths with their vulgar, vomiting beasts of burden ride across the red carpet and leave horse turds everywhere.
What used to be called television is today called "scripted television." These are the things that stir our spirit, fire our imaginations. You might now call them paintings, and reality TV, contrariwise, is a mirror. Is a mirror on society interesting? I guess it depends on how interesting the people in them are. Mostly, I see people on reality TV picking their noses. And when it comes to, say, the Jersey Shore, I find the stuff in my own nose more interesting.
Emmy night lays bare this cleavage (sorry, couldn't resist), where the best of our artists, like Matthew Weiner, who has tickled our fancy with Mad Men, sit cheek by jowl with Kim Kardashian, who tickles just ass men. Where Tina Fey, who writes so many jokes on every page of 30 Rock that she makes the paper turn black, competes against the likes of Snooki, who, inside and out, is just turning black.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics suggests all systems are in a constant state of flux moving toward disorder. If you've read the work of Ilya Prigogine, the great Nobel laureate winning chemist, you realize that once these chaotic systems reach a level of polarization, they seek a quick, violent means of finding order again. Volatile chemical states reach disorder and strange things take place. Geopolitical disorder also allows weird things to take place. Imagine the Spanish Civil War. First, the political center disappeared in Spain, and pretty soon you had a breakdown in representative government in which each side refused to recognize the other. Then you had skirmishes, three years of conflict and discord and violence, and eventually a return to stasis and conformity in the form of a 40 year fascist dictatorship. Sometimes, amid discord, strange things emerge (like the paradox of an "anarchist government" in Barcelona).
But I like to think Prigogine could also have been talking about television. In a state of disorder, broadcast viewers flee to cable. Cable viewers flee to TiVo. TiVo viewers flee to the Internet and handheld devices. There is no conformity of quality or censorship. We live in a wild west, where a medium that used to be strictly regulated for the family now features regular nudity and sexual situations because the money people have become desperate. We now hear the word "shit" a lot. JWoww will show you her tits. Desperation can lead to phenomenal art (as it did when Hollywood movies underwent similar change in the 1960s). But it can also lead to people breaking the law to get on television. Sooner or later, the system will seek stasis and one side will win. The exhibition or the exhibitionists.
My fear is that people who want to watch something that aspires to be good are going to seek it elsewhere outside of television. Which is sad, because good television can be seriously great (like it is on Mad Men, 30 Rock, the Sopranos, etc.) When the good shows start to disappear from regular TV, the people who stay behind will turn it into a 24-hour spy camera. The Sony Masturbation Helper.
It's great to see Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Lost win so many awards for their quality, but the Emmys remind you of this disorder between us--that the good shows aren't the ones getting the ratings. Most regular people find it comforting for some reason to watch people threaten each other on Hell's Kitchen, beat each other on Jerry Springer, or screw up their big moment on American Idol rather than try to work out that obscure Dorian Gray reference on Mad Men (Note to Weiner: nicely played!). It's the same reason that high school gossip is so compelling--it allows you to live vicariously rather than live. It allows you to validate yourself and measure your own worth by the failure of others. It asks you to judge everything and do nothing. Which is very, very, very attractive.
I like to think of this as using TV to live outside of your body. It's one of the themes of a song I wrote called "TV Head." Technology is changing our brains, doing the organizing for us so that we can do the intuitive work of life ourselves. But it's also allowing mankind to follow a spiritual impulse he's had since he wandered out of the African savannas--to not be himself. When he cannot reconcile the substance that is spirit with the substance that is flesh (and when he can't see how, as some have argued, that the two are biologically interrelated), he seeks to escape and live inside Jonah's whale. He becomes obsessed with ghosts. With the idea demonic possession. He seeks heaven, as if there he will find answers as an angel he can't find now in the encyclopedia. Rather than seeking heroes, he will seek Ryan Seacrest.
So the cleavage is not just within Christina Hendricks' generous embonpoint. The rift in the Emmys is within us. Life is short and none of us wants to say we spent the entire journey watching Kim Kardashian achieve our dreams for us when she has no discernible skills or talents. The thing I like about a show like Mad Men, for instance, is that it's so smart it makes me do the work. It makes me live in my head. It forces me to do something other than just sit there. And, unlike most of the other manifestly awful things on television, it reminds me that sitting is exactly what I'm doing. I have to ask myself, "Could I be more interesting than Don Draper if I tried?"
Ask yourself. What's in your nose?
You can listen to my song "TV Head" here: TV Head
A song with references to one of my favorite books from high school. My wife likes this song because it reminds her a bit of Pink Floyd. That wasn't my intention, but I'll go with it. Just click to play.
Ford 632 Performed by ER Salo Deguierre Music and Lyrics By Eric Rasmussen Copyright 2010
And I won’t speak the truth to you When the jackboots come I won’t say my name to you The daylight came up faster than our eyes can meet it When the morning comes it’ll tell you who you really are
And when I looked into your eyes the look was the same From the dawn of time lovers look away in shame But when the daylight came up that morning And the thugs broke down the door Now I won’t speak the truth to you anymore
And when they hauled you away you were wearing my new jeans And when you stuffed your legs and belly in between I saw right away how my jeans fit you And my shoes and my shirt and my coat And I won’t ever wear those hated clothes anymore
Two lovers fall to the garden from the skies And they clean that garden’s beauty with their eyes For any kind of love they could beg or steal In a world that they can touch but they can’t feel
And I won’t say your name to the officer And you won’t say my name to me anymore Your face it looks like mine does in the daylight And when I looked across the bed to my surprise
A policeman’s daughter you only brought him shame That’s why you couldn’t bring yourself to say his name But if I tore my eyes out completely, I could still hear it in my brain You brought me joy but you only left me pain
And you’d take my name if it weren’t already yours And I won’t speak the truth to you anymore
I've always been fascinated by the story of Malinche, or Marina, the Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast who was sold as a slave to Cortez, became his translator, his mistress, mother to his child, one of the first mestizos and therefore the symbolic mother of Mexico. I'm obsessed with her story because nobody in literature seems to be as exalted and at the same time maligned. She's considered a forerunner of her new country on one hand and a traitor to her people on the other, a motherly whore. Even her nickname "Chingada" means literally "a woman who is fucked."
Her legend is such that she's been referenced everywhere from Laura Esquivel and Octavio Paz novels to Neil Young songs and even Star Trek.
I myself have been so intrigued by her tale and this legendary beauty of hers, one so great it supposedly undid a culture and bewitched statesmen and warriors, that I've named at least two different characters after her in my fiction. I also wrote a song about her when I was 22, which I'm sharing with you now in an updated version.
"La Chingada," by ER Salo Deguierre is either further exaltation or further insult, depending on how much you think the song sucks. The good news is that, if Malinche were here, she would no longer have to listen to the song on MySpace. That's right, I've upgraded my Word Press account and embedded the song on the blog. Just press to play.
I hope to post (and repost) more music here in the next few days.
La Chingada By Eric Rasmussen
Copyright, 1992, 2010
Marina they trade you for horses And swift galleasses that slice through the seas Marina, they trade you for flowers and meat And took you away from me
When you came back you had learned a new language Were decked out in colors, a mistress to kings But do you remember at all When we sat all alone and knew none of those things?
Marina, caught up in intrigue You helped the invader to bring down a king Sat by while his own people stoned him to death For the shame that he brings
Marina now some fish swims inside of you What kind of child will you be mother to? Will he hate your impossible beauty and body As much now as I do?