Saturday, April 29, 2006
MRR Column 278 (sent May 1, 2006)
An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
As individuals, we Jews are like everybody else. We may be less prone to drunkenness, we may be more prominent in certain professions, and we may have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other people; but we don’t boast about these things.
-- Rabbi John D. Ruyner, Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London
I probe my thumb deeply into my right nostril. Forward, toward the tip. The side of the nail scrapes a crusty mass. No room. I switch fingers. The pinky. This is what it’s made for. I wiggle it inside until I manage to catch the top of that crusty mass. I pull. A sharp pain. I wince, withdraw, and try again. Tug. Tug. Uh, aaaah, got it. Loosened and free. Needing only to be withdrawn. Damn, I lost it again. Somewhere high. I don’t want it to escape into a sinus or be drawn into a lung. I hold the top of my nose on either side and blow. Hard. Fast. There it comes. Reaching back in with the thumb, I snag it. Drag it down until I can pinch the thing between my thumb and index finger and take it out completely.
I hold it up to the light to examine it. Green, with flecks of blood red. It’s about the size of a small pea. I put my pinkie back into my nose and withdraw it. The fingertip is crimson with fresh blood.
Shift: I’ve just returned from a 10 day tour of the Northwest. Book readings, heavy drinking. I wrote about it last month, except for the part about the strip club in Portland where this girl had the most amazing breast control I’ve ever seen.. Dancing to the music, she pretends she’s tied strings to her nipples.
Using her fingers to pull up and down on the fake strings, her breasts jerk up and down exactly as if tied to real strings. She bounces her breasts, hands-free, one at a time, up-down. Like you might raise your fingers to type on the keyboard. Jump. Jump. Jump. Jump.
In the back of the club lies a secret passageway that leads to the burrito place around the corner. After the puppet-breast set, my hosts and I go through the passageway and order burritos. Then, we return to the strip club. Faster than a beanfart, the burritos are delivered to our seats—right in front of the stage.
My hosts tell me that, in addition to the highest bar count per capita, Portland has the most per capita strip clubs. It’s weird that people know these things, but I guess it’s part of their identity as Portlanders. I could live there.
Shift again. The deadline approaches for another column. My trip stories have run out. (Except for a fire hydrant running smack into the back of my rental car, but what’s to tell?) I look for inspiration for number 278.
I find it in number 10, where I first started writing for this zine. I find it in all those early columns. I find it in the changes since that time. In what I did, but never said.
I look back and see that 20 years ago, other columnists didn’t write about their own lives and adventures. They wrote about lofty ideas and punk purity. I wrote about anal folds. Now, others do. Other columnists didn’t write in the present tense. They wrote about things as if they were historians. Like they were telling about something that happened long ago and far away. They couldn’t grab the immediacy, the what-happens-next of the present. They were detached and impersonal. I wrote in the present. Now others do.
Other columnists didn’t write about sex, except in passing, as jokes, or to talk about how awful and exploitative it is. I wrote about sex. Others do now. Other columnists didn’t mention their own faults, their pimples, their falling-out hair, their dribbles-not-spurts. I wrote about that. A few others do now. No one else had Endnotes in 1982. Check it out now.
Am I saying I’m responsible for all this? Am I saying if it weren’t for me, columns would be nothing more than thoughts on how bad GW Bush is and how good CRASS was? YES! That’s exactly what I’m saying, but I don’t want to boast.
Shift back to my booger. Like that booger pulled from my nose, I love removing things from my body. I scrape off those calloused brown skin marks that old Jews get. I pop the whitehead on my cheek, letting the white pus ooze down my fingernail. I rub the loose flesh from between my toes. I dig in my anal folds for the recalcitrant dingleberry that I just know is there.
A young white-trash couple visit New York. They wheel their gender-ambiguous toddler in one of those new 3-wheeled strollers. The kid softly gums the ear of little teddy bear. The parents stop to read the menu in the window of The Noho Star. The toddler takes the bear from its mouth and throws it on the ground.
I reach down and pick it up.
“Your baby dropped this,” I say to Mom, as I hand the toy to the kid.
“Thanks,” says Mom.
The kid shakes the bear a couple of times and throws it on the ground again.
Mom takes it this time and hugs it to her chest. The child screams.
“I won’t give it to you if you’re going to throw it away,” she says.
The kid doesn’t get it. He (or she?) screams louder, reaching up, straining against the stroller seatbelt, in a vain effort to reach the bear.
“Don’t give it to him,” says Dad. “He’ll just throw it on the ground again. It’s probably filthy already. Remember, this is New York.”
Mom wants to give in. She does, handing the bear back to the child. The child stops crying… and immediately throws the bear on the ground again.
This time Dad grabs it.
“That does it,” he says. “Let’s get out of here. This place is too expensive anyway.”
“Don’t you know it’s healthy for kids to do that?” I don’t yell after them as they waddle off into the distance. “Don’t you know that’s how kids learn the limits of self? That child is only discovering me and not me. It’s what kids do. It’s what everyone should do.”
Centuries before me, Rene Descartes did his own bear throwing/booger pulling. He too tried to scrape everything away until he came to a center that was really him. He called it THINKING. But GW Bush, a six pack of Sparks, and most of the readers of this zine have shown me that it’s easy to exist and NOT think. So the core must be something else.
I mean, what about you? Are you a punk? A lefty? An anarchist? How long will you stay one? What’s your core?
People usually start as lefty idealists. As they age, they grow increasingly conservative. Punkbands bands start their musical lives as idealistic social activists and end their careers wiggling on stage in Las Vegas. Charges of hypocrite and sell-out follow every move. The band either spends time and energy lamely trying to defend itself, or it simply cuts itself off from its old world and embraces the change.
In Anti-Flag’s UNDERGROUND album they say, Just take a look around the world and you're going to find that nearly all mass media are owned and controlled by a handful of conservative capitalists. We must devise and implement alternative methods of distributing our ideas -- People worldwide working together to make a stand, to tell the truth!
Anti-Flag jumps to RCA-Sony, the notorious major label that infects computers with spyware—just by playing their CDs. You’d expect a chorus of “sell-outs” and rants against hypocrisy. Yet, when I google Anti-flag and RCA and Sell-out, most of the 318 sites that come up defend the band. They say their heroes are NOT sell-outs. They explain how they are getting the word out—avoiding preaching to the choir. Gaining new converts to a righteous cause.
I dunno. It’s my guess that Anti-flag are throwing down their teddy bears. They’ve decided that smallness is not them. They’ve decided the singing to the sung-to is not them. They’ve decided that touring in a rent-a-van is not them. With each this is not me, they have to decide what is them. Or what they really want.
They want to live from their music. They want to get laid more. They want more money. They want to spread their message to more people. I don’t know. Maybe, they don’t know. They’re learning. Picking up the major label, and maybe throwing it down again, like Bad Religion did.
I’m not writing this to criticize Anti-flag. Any band that uses the words devise and implement does not need me to criticize it. Besides, it’s YOU I want to talk about. Not them. YOU haven’t examined life without the teddy bear yet. In fact, you have such a furious grip on it; you can’t tell where YOU end and the bear begins.
Right now, you’ve gripped your own ideas so tightly that you’ve made people believe they ARE you. When you finally throw them down, your friends are gonna point their fingers. You may not jump to SONY, but you’ll have more money—and a family. You’ll change your politics. They’ll call you a sell-out. You’ll throw your friends down too. You’ll say you’ve outgrown them.
Where will it come from, this change? Usually, the move from left to right comes with money and family. If you have money, you want more. You want to keep it, spend it on yourself, not give it to people who don’t have money. You want to protect your money and what it’s bought. You want to build prisons, keep away foreigners, get the local beggar off the street. You lose track of where you end and where your money begins. You begin to think that because you WORKED you deserve the money. Why should you give it to someone who just sits on the street and asks? Money IS you. And you don’t want to part with it.
And family? The pull of family is so strong Republicans win elections by appealing to it. Disney sells stock with it. When you have a family—especially kids, the family is first. Everything else be damned.
I love my family. Sometimes they piss me off. Sometimes they annoy me, but I still am happy when I see them and am sad when one kicks the bucket. But they are not me. When I travel, I leave them behind. When I’m home, they’re a burden more than an asset. People say blood is thicker than water. Maybe. But is blood thicker than ink? I dunno.
So what am I? What’s the closest things to me? As I type this, I think about what’s close. My boots, my jeans, my Stackers t-shirt?
It’s clear I’m not my clothes. I can take them off—and do—more often than most people would want. But my clothes are a choice. They come from somewhere inside. They may not me, but they are OF me. I use Dick Tracy, Lemmy Caution, Mike Hammer, like other punk columnists use me. I choose what I wear because it means something I like. It is NOT be me, but it lets people know about me.
Big Mike Loney tells this anecdote:
Mike’s working the door at ABC NO Rio. Some tall guy with a spiked jacket comes in. Mohawk to here, leather pants, torn DISCHARGE t-shirt, old Doc Martins… the works. Following him is a rather ordinary-looking guy, California style, loose long shorts, sneakers, a backwards baseball hat. The mohawk guy looks the other guy up and down, then points toward his feet.
“Tube socks!” he says, laughing. “Get this guy. He’s wearing tube socks!”
It is funny to imagine the big mohawk lug putting down someone for something so minor. It’s funnier to think he even noticed the tube socks. I laughed too. But now that I think about it, I’m not so sure.
The big punk decided what he was going to wear. He spent hours on his hair. Every aspect of his appearance was calculated. He had a self image, THIS IS ME, and dressed accordingly.
The other guy didn’t think twice about his clothes. Tube socks are cheap, so he’ll wear ‘em. I don’t think the big guy was right to laugh, but he was more conscious of himself than the littler guy.
Like Mr. Mohawk, my clothes are a reflection of what I am. They are the weirdo, the detective, the outsider, the guy who creeps around with a magnifying glass, exposing the wicked, throwing light on the hidden darkness. I am not ONLY my clothes, but they are part of me.
So what’s the point?
It’s that you’re stuck with somethings, you copy others, and still others you create. The real you is what you choose from among those things. What you allow people to see. What you consider and what you don’t. I choose pretty carefully. I choose paths others don’t take. I make paths for others to walk on. You’re free to walk on them, take another paths or make your own. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve made, but I don’t want to boast.
ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (firstname.lastname@example.org) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get a few extra endnotes]
--> Real vinyl dept: In Vancouver, I discovered a cool vinyl-only record store creatively called VINYL. The owner, David Jones (no, he was NOT in The Monkees) bought at least one of everything I had. He bought two of some. He’s interested in building a punk section in his store.
Contact him at email@example.com or 1-604-488-1234
--> Credit where it’s due dept: When I talked about how I changed the face of zine columns, I did not include two points:
One is that other columnists did not simply imitate me. They used my ideas, or were influenced by those ideas and took them in a new way. Or maybe it’s that great minds flow coincidently in the same gutter. Some column writers—even in this zine—have developed a completely unique style, using the tools I brought to column makers. I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism. The guy who built a bookcase did not plagiarize the guy who invented the hammer.
Two is that not everyone followed my lead. The Rev. Norb (C.R.I.P.) is NOT often imitated, or copied. But he IS the most original voice in punkdom. I don’t know what his influences are, but he is the king of creativity.
--> There’s racism and then there’s racism dept: In April, The Nebraska Legislature voted to divide the Omaha school system into three districts – one black, one white and one Hispanic.
Supporters, including the legislature's only black senator, said the plan would give minorities control over their own school board. It would ensure that their children are not "shortchanged" in favor of white youngsters. Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, signed the measure into law.
Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha condemned the bill. "We will go down in history as one of the first states in 20 years to set race relations back," the Democrat said.
"History will not, and should not, judge us kindly," said another senator.
"There is no intent to create segregation," said the black senator. He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school. He said the black students he represents would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.
I say, the whole thing is fucked up and shows that “local control” even at the state level is THE PROBLEM, not THE SOLUTION. How ‘bout if America becomes like every other country (G-d forbid!) and has one set of rules for ALL schools? Then we wouldn’t have to worry about teaching creationism in Kansas or Ebonics-as-a-second-language in San Francisco. Local control is local out of control.
-->Predicting the unpredictable dept: The US Transportation Security Administration said they were going to lighten up a bit. They’ll allow short scissors, and tools in your airplane carry ons. A return to senses? Not so fast!
The TSA also announces, “more frequent searches of body and property at various checkpoints in the airport.” This they said will make the skies safer by “incorporating unpredictability” into the airline process.
They want unpredictability? They should hire some terrorists. That’ll give ‘em unpredictability. Jesus fuckin’ Christ. If there’s anything airline passengers DON’T want, it’s unpredictability.
-->Tears of joy and sadness dept: It was a great show. A CD release party. 21 of New York’s best punkrock bands all on NEW YORK SHITTY PUNK ROCK 2005, put out by Attention Punk Records. I got there late, but did manage to see two of my faves: WORLD WAR IX and THE STACKERS, plus a new favorite: BLACKOUT SHOPPERS.
It was a great night, but why all the tears? Especially on those petite and attractive Orientals? It was THE STACKERS last show in the US. Their drummer was deported when caught by a roaming border patrol in Texas. (Expired visa) I guess they were looking for Mexicans. Now, they all decided to return to the rising sun and play there for a while. I’ll miss ‘em.
Oh yeah, I just had a thought. Motto for Calgary, where Jesus died and was… er… resurrected. Land of the Rising Son.
--> Still recruiting dept. The bisexual email list has been too quiet lately. So, it’s time to RECRUIT. If you want to participate in our discussions, send an email to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.BROWN.EDU. The entire message should read SUBSCRIBE BISEXU-L That should do it. You never know who you’ll meet. And, yes I have, but not often enough.
-->As if you needed another reason dept: Remember when everyone had AOL? Supposedly the company is still the largest Internet provider, but how many people do YOU know with AOL addresses?
Well, for those few, there’s another reason to quit. This edited from the LA Times:
A group of 600 organizations that includes the AFL-CIO and the Gun Owners of America has been circulating an online petition protesting AOL's plans to begin charging extra to route e-mail around its spam filters.
On Thursday, though, the world's biggest Internet service provider blocked e-mails containing links to the petition against the "CertifiedEmail" plan at DearAOL.com.
Yep, AOL reading and censoring your email again. Is it a kind of parental control?
-->Speaking of censorship dept: The entire Internet is under attack by a new law pushed by the big Telcoms. They want to charge a fee to content providers to insure fast and efficient download of their materials. This will destroy the basic equality of the internet and put more power in the hands of a few corporations. (How long before Anti-flag sings against it?)
You can sign a petition against the thing at: www.SavetheInternet.com