SHOOTING FROM THE LIPP
Here you have selections from the publication Downsizing and
Landscraping in the
HOW THE FREE MARKET WORKS (A PUBLIC SERVICE)
Well first of all, it's not free. It's mainly monopolies. What are the last four letters in monopolies? Why would we think the market was free? What's Evian spelled backwards?
Secondly, we're told they sell us products, but actually first they have to buy and sell us: our souls. Turning us into commodities to fill their needs. Then they robotize us, program us to fill our newfound needs with things that can be purchased. Choice becomes a choice between brands. The purchase of souls on their part requires an emotional and spiritual sell-out on our part.
The intellectual part of the deal is called dumbing down. Ignorance is bliss, and profitable. And there's little the schools can do about it once the media have decided this is a morally permitted process.
People complain that I complain about big corporations all the time. It's true I bear a grudge, and I'll try to criticize smaller corporations more. If they'd just stop doing what they do best, so would I. Meanwhile, on with the show.
I have to admit, I'm from the old school. I thought all capitalists were bastards and should be done away with and everything given back to the workers. I've decided to compromise. I'm willing to let capitalists be capitalists, if they will adopt a code of responsible citizenship, and do it. They have to put a priority on working conditions, job security, wholesome products and processes that are easy on the earth, instead of prioritizing pollution and profit. Then they can make a profit, if it's so important to them, up to 10%. I think that's reasonable, and I think they'll be surprised how much fun they'll get out of working together in such a state of mutual security.
There's a simple answer to labor unrest: give labor a rest. No, really. Four days a week, tops. Job sharing, flex time, onsite childcare. We can do it. If we can sell enough hamburgers to reach to the moon and back four times, we can do anything. I just made that figure up, but I still think we can do anything. So I'm willing to give up my old ideology, if they're willing to stop being bastards. That's a fair trade.
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING
I was talking before about Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. I mean really, the idea of wiping out a whole people and then putting their name on the drug that was used to destroy them! No shortage of chutzpah among the goyim this season. They will sell you the dope to hang yourself with and then name it after you. This is family values?
There ought to be a warning on the side of every advertisement, like the one on the cigarette pack that says "This will not kill you as fast as it will kill the person sitting next to you when you smoke it" or whatever they say now. TV ads should be labeled "This commercial has been shown to cause people to treat products as an important topic of family discussion." Or some such.
And while we're at it maybe celebrities should be labeled too. "This star may cause you to strive for nonexistent or unattainable lifestyles and buy associated products." TV shows should be labeled at the beginning with a list of the assumptions contained therein, except it would take up the whole hour. "This show mistakes you for someone who likes to get your excitement in life through watching fake car crashes and fake sex, and will turn you into that person before the hour is up." Might be better to cut the number of programs aired in half to allow for a rebuttal to each program. As a transitional approach, of course, to getting less destructive programs on the air.
As Fred Allen pointed out, TV is called a medium because anything well done is rare. Or going outside - while there's still any air there. Maybe they'll invent a TV patch like the nicotine patch, to help you ex-spectate.
For that matter, stores should be labeled, on the front door, with information as to who owns it, who owns the owners and so on up to the top of the bottom-feeders. Also what else they own and what they've destroyed that week in the way of rain forests, ozone, lungs, arteries clogged, hearts broken by years lost to social clambering after impossible fantasies. How about fast food joints with warnings on the door: "May tend to eliminate rain forest, choking lungs of planet." "May tend to destroy local cultures throughout the world."
And then in case people ignore the signs, there should be advocates at the checkout counter, badgering - no, helping customers remember that they're citizens: "Do you really need that? Do you know they pay women a dollar a day to make that? Why don't you buy the big bag, it uses less packaging. You know, you can make one of those with a hanger and a paper clip and it'll bring you closer to your kids." Buying things is like erasing stuff from the planet: fossil fuels, flora and fauna, union rights, fabric of community; there should be a second thought function at the checkout counter like on a computer: " Are you sure you want to erase this?"
You are what they sell you, you know.
Do I exaggerate? No, but if people knew the effects of their collective purchases, well...it's like this. People can't feel the effects on other people when they vote, jingoize or purchase ignorantly. Other is too far away. Nobody knows or cares how the families of 100,000 dead Iraqis feel (I err conservatively). Bosnians? What can we do. It's even hard to imagine the suffering in flooded Iowa, and those are some fairly white people out there.
All this is not to mention the destruction of cultures, the replacement of local drinks with Coca Colonization, the loss of indigenous musics to Corporate pop schmear, etc etc. Hard to fathom, harder to feel. So let's try bringing it home. Suppose you went down to the village square - ok, so you went downtown - sorry, to the mall, looking for your favorite fiddler, I mean synthesizer, I mean...all right, so you went there expecting to hear your good old time honored, all-American muzak on the hidden speakers, and it had been replaced by some kind of Turkish-Laotian bagpiper! In your mall! How would you feel? Malled?
For example, the young woman serving me a chicken sandwich one day asked where I got my bracelet. I said Guatemala, so she goes "Oh. I got mine at the mall." So I'm like, ever wonder why they call it Guatemalla? So then she's all "I don't know much about politics." Well then for God's sake if you don't know much about politics don't buy anything until you find out. Jeez. One time in a restaurant I asked a woman where her jacket was from. She said Indonesia. Letting that pass, I commented that some of the patterns on it looked Guatemalan. She said, "You know I used to buy a lot of the Guatemalan stuff, but they don't keep up with the trends."
She had a point there. Not a good point, but a point: what can trend-impaired Mayan Indians do when fashion shifts to Indonesia?
Standing on stage at a weekly outdoor fair in Eugene, Oregon recently I was heckled by three guys at once. Women don't heckle much. Either they're not as obnoxious, don't need the attention, or in this case, they got the joke. These guys were differently clued. Irony deficiency. I was doing my George Stump, Moderate Clearcutter impersonation (I hope the real one never shows up) and this one fellow said he lived in the forest and you could use everything that grew there for some purpose and he didn't want me tearing it all down. Fair enough. I just couldn't figure why he was dressed all in black. You don't need to wear black in the forest - there's nothing to be nihilistic about there. Unless he lives in a clearcut.
The second guy said you didn't need to cut trees for paper since you could make it better from hemp. Fine. The third guy was a logger, who I immediately invited on stage to share the microphone. It's like Republicans - I like them where I can see them. When they're out of office, I'm not sure what they're doing in their underground Think Lairs. I wanted this guy on stage where I could keep track of him.
Suddenly I was reminded of the time I went to the opera in South Bend, Indiana and there was a sign just past the ticket table saying "No loaded guns beyond this point." Every other time I'd been to the opera they set out cough drops to keep you quiet. Both times, as I recall. Here they collect your bullets. Not. Turns out there was a gun show on the same floor. This made for interesting male behavior in the men's room, where it belongs. Guys sizin' each other up to see if they're gun nuts or opera wimps. To this level has class struggle in America sunk. I started talkin about the crazy guy wavin a single shot antique around like there would be no tomorrow. You know, the kind they had to make do with back in Mozart's day. And they all moved away from me on the bench. All except this one guy who was loaded, in lieu of his gun, and wanted to buy me a drink. From his belt he pulled out a small bottle of Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. I asked him didn't he have any Martin Luther King Jr. Lite Beer. He moved away too.
Can You Say Generation Gap?
One decade I woke up to find that folk music was back. Of course, they don't call it that, because it isn't real folk music - you can tell: it doesn't start with Come All Ye. The new young players learn it from CDs. Folk music, when we had it, was learned from vinyl. No, they call it acoustic music now. At first I thought they said acrostic music, which was puzzling. I'd say it's high time Kids these days, they play their idea of rock n roIl so loud some of us older hippies have to turn our hearing aids down. As Tipper Gore said, I don' like to see good old rock n roll carried too far.
These superbass things you here riding around, sometimes I can't tell if it's coming from their car or mine. I swear, one of these days I'm going to drive through the city at one AM, pop in my Pete Seeger tape and turn the treble up to 10, see how they like that! I walked into a coffee house in the Haight and the people working there weren't born the last time I was there. Am I old, or don't I get around much any more?
But I like the new music. I learned the difference several years' ago playing in a bar in Munich. Young guy came up after and said "The first song you did was interesting. The second was not." I now have an A list and a B list, for people under 25 and over 50. Grownups like folk music, kids like acoustic music. People in between, like me, still want to know what happened to the old bands with normal names like Strawberry Alarm Clock. What is The The, a noun shortage?
They also have a new thing called Spoken Word Concerts. This used to be called talking, but I guess there's more money in it if it has a longer name.
I am getting old. I still have an in-dash that plays 78s. On the information superhighway, I'm in the towaway lane. I just got into punk zines. I bought one that said the next issue would have an article telling "Why it's ok to like Melanie." Never came out. Melanie is not on the cultural literacy list. But then, neither is "zine." See, I remember stuff. I can remember when the Smiths broke up and formed the Smithereens. But one of the benefits of getting older is that you have the option to appreciate more diverse kinds of cultural input. You also have the option to narrow yourself so you can fit into a narrower cultural space - to forget what you knew and learn a little less each year. I haven't exercised that one yet. Of course you all know the Big Bang theory: All the different kinds of music were created in the 1st trillionth of a second, and they've been getting farther and farther out ever since. Which is a problem when I travel, because I have a lot of tapes in the car and if I switch from Zap Mama to Mozart I have to stop and change jackets. Mood jackets are very important. You wouldn't go to a Cumbia dance with cowboy boots would you? Well then.
Occasionally I do turn on the radio, but four heavy metal stations in a row is a good case for nationalization. Eventually I suppose all those nice young metal people will grow up and metal out and then some guy in the top floor of some World Trade Center will invent the Classic Metal format and then I'll probably like it. I just don't like it when they re-write my history. As Dylan said, nostalgia is death. That's because nostalgia is a distortion, a longing for a version of life that never happened. It's my own life, deboweled. And what is speed metal anyway, the sound of a car on the freeway hitting robot road kill?
I'll tell you what's even worse is four Christian rock stations in a row. Nothing against Christianity or rock, in their place. Which is not together, unnaturally conjoined, on my radio. No. Sometimes in the mountains the Christian Rock station is the only one that gets through. That would be enough to make a convert out of me, but then they put that..."music" on. 100% Real Imitation Music. Kinda weakens their case, I think. So back to tapes. I'm not getting a CD player in my car, because I happen to know that in honor of the tenth anniversary of CDs, they're replacing them. With mini-CDs. In fact, in honor of the 25th anniversary of almost everything, I'm having a music implant put in, direct to the digital computer God gave me, with a universal adapter installed in my forehead. Then when they try to sell me a new configuration I'll just plug in and head-butt them and they'll fry in their own market manipulation. I'll claim self-defense.
Incidentally, the cheaper the car, the better speakers you need. They make speakers with a summer switch now, for those of us who use manual air conditioning, known also as windows. Lacking pricey speakers, no subtle music in the summer. It's all right, in summer you want to relive your youth anyway.
You learn a lot when you travel. Like the fact that each town limit sign tells you the local population and altitude. That's so you'll know how high the people are. This can be important to a visitor who wishes to act right. Suppose you went into a pub in Ireland and sang a bad song. Misconception. The Irish, like the Spanish Republicans, lost all the battles but had all the good songs. This is bound to change soon, though. The Brits will get a good song any time now.
It's important to fit in. Otherwise you'll never learn anything. I wouldn't say you should fit in at home; that would certainly be counterproductive and result in mass fascist rallies and wars of aggression. Has. But we're talking about travelling here, learning about new peoples and their ways, broadening your horizons, visiting Arkansas. Towns where you pull into a parking meter and it's got ten hours already paid. In my town, people pay more to park than most people pay to live. Some of the towns there are so community-minded, a guy waved to me at a stop light because he knows everybody around there. When he realized he didn't know me, he tried to take it back. But I had already copped the wave and sped on to the next town.
I get a kick out of running around the country trading my albums for things. Dinner, auto repair, bridge tolls, bail. One time though, trade was not on the menu. I'm pretty sure I almost got mugged that time. These two friendly young guys pulled alongside me on the highway and said my back wheel was loose. That should have been a tip-off right there, because I'm a bit of a mechanic and I happen to know there's two back wheels on that particular model. But I pulled over, and they pulled over, and I looked at them and I pulled un-over and got on out of there because I'm pretty sure I've seen that movie before.
One time a guy asked me what time it was to see if my watch was worth mugging for. Never carry more on your wrist than you're prepared to defend. Another time a guy took all my money only to realize it was only two dollars, so he gave it back. He didn't exercise his other option, which was to beat me for being a poor provider. Never carry less than you would want to get yourself, if you had his job.
In some parts now they have rumble strips on the highway every 20 miles to wake you up. That's really irritating if you're asleep. But I think if I was really drunk, which is the implication, I'd just drive right over them without taking much notice. Some people say they're there to keep people alert. I say, get a coffee implant. I have an in-dash coffee maker, but I don't use it because it always spills into the Fax machine. I had it put in after the time I had $200 damage done to the car. The car was stolen.
As it happens, I have a very active fax life, and that's why I don't fall asleep. As a matter of fact, I've given up drinking for fax. Fax reassures me that someone cares. That makes me feel like I fit in. I don't, but I like the feeling.
In New York State near the Tappan Zee Bridge, there's an exit for Readers' Digest Road. Is that a condensed version of the state? The country? On a back road in Missouri, there's a "Rug and Flea Mart." Is that one-sto shopping? There's also "Drive-Through Chinese Food." Is that messy? The World Arm Wrestling championship isheld in Bend, Oregon. This is true. In Arkansas there's a gun store right next to the donut shop. So they don't have to shoot far, I guess.
Ever since they put call waiting on the phone sex lines (callus interruptus) I've gotten jumpy every time I hear a stray beep. I decided to get a vasectomy and started shopping around. I usually buy stuff second-hand, since it helps to contain the nation's economy and to expand mine. You don't want the economy to expand out of control, since the economy generally expands into the ecology, which is unhealthy for plants and animals and other living things. But a good used vasectomy is hard to come by, so I just bought a good, serviceable non-designer one at Sears. Now every time I get excited the garage door goes up.
This didn't do much for my phone problem so I got a phone implant. Now I can talk on the phone while I walk, drive, talk to other people, etc. Sometimes I get mixed up and make a bank deposit instead of a fax, and then I have to take my head down to the bank to be balanced. But that's about all the technology I own. I have three tools, two of which are nails. I have an exercise machine on my desk, one of those rotary telephones. It exercises your fingers, which is all the muscles a guitarist or columnist really needs.
I've always thought visible muscles were a sign of excess leisure time. It's jealousy, of course, but have you ever thought about those sweat shops people hang out in, those gyms, as they politely call them? The exercise machines are hooked up to a gizmo that runs the lights for the building, right? Think again. Or think at all! With a gym on every block, they could power the whole city while they're getting healthy and hard. But noooooo.
I seem to remember a time when people had muscles or even health because they worked with their bodies, outdoors, procuring or raising food and all that. Well, I don't begrudge a civilization a little urban muscle tone decay, but if they're going to spend all that time and money pumping themselves up they could at least turn on the lights for the rest of us. Maybe they could even accrue part ownership in the gym, build up some sweat equity.
For a while I was famous in certain circles for having a VCR and no TV. Then I got a TV and sank into obscurity. It was, however, obscurity without cable. I have to go over to my lawyer friend's house to watch cable. She slipped the cable guy a token of her esteem and now she has all the channels. She even has the Playboy channel, which of course I only watch for the articles.
It was in fact in one of these articles that I learned about the computerized shopping carts. Seems some of your more yupped-up markets now have a little digitised screen on the cart, and if you're looking for a particular item in the store, you just stick your digit on that item on the screen and it will point out your current relative location. It will also beep at you if you pass an advertised special, a feature no doubt difficult to unilaterally disconnect.
Well, the more I thought about all this the more it struck me as potentially the site of the next great consumer movement. You know that boycott book, the one that tells you what brands of anything in the world you shouldn't be buying, and why not? Software, Charlie. Put it on disk. I'm not saying this information should be included in the shopping cart's hard disk - that would be asking the store to sell you the rope to hang them with.
No, the popular demand is for disk drives in shopping carts. Bring in the disk yourself, pop it in, and pass each product over the screen. If the company is on the moral goody list - nice to unions, women, minorities, bears, trees and ozone- you get that reassuring late-high-western-civ beep. If they're bad guys, it speaks, and loud enough for everyone in a three-brand radius to hear: "Boycott!! Invests in slave-wage factories in Burma! " The frequency of these reports will have the side benefit of making it unpleasant for everyone to shop, which frees up time for more positive pursuits.
Just an idea.
I perform mainly for the two basic denominations: churches and bars. I come on after Georges Shrub and Stump. My
character isn't as developed as theirs, but I play guitar better. Sometimes, though, the audiences don't respond, and then you have to put another quarter in. It was in the churches that I got into twelve-step groups. Naturally the first one I went to was the group for compulsive talkers, On and On. There was a guy there who wanted me to come to the meeting for obsessive-compulsives, but they met every night. I do work on it a lot. I'm still in denial, but at least I admit it.
Of course the things I substitute for religion have fallen into ill repute. People say I should stop quoting Karl Marx and quote Harpo more. That just shows how illiterate people are. The reason people are illiterate is that they don't read. That might seem simple, but behind it is the accelerated pace of all the things that have replaced life. People who do read can only do it in snatches, during commercials, in between other tasks and sometimes even at the same times. In fact, there's a big debate going on now about whether, if you insist on brushing your teeth while reading a book, you should pull off the road first.
In response to illiteracy, or perhaps as a further incentive to it, words are being replaced by acronyms. Real literacy is knowing that KFC is a place to get chicken, not a computer store. Soon actual words will be considered anachronyms. Even your PC won't recognize them any more. I don't like the trend. In fact, I'm passing around a petition to ask Congress to end this decade early so we can start over.
Since we've stopped using words, naturally we don't read newspapers any more. That's a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we don't know what's going on. On the other hand, those of us who do read the paper know even less. We know things that aren't even true. It's called the mainstream press, but that's a misnomer. This is not a mainstream country. Meanstream, maybe. Using words like "free" - free press, free trade, free market, free world. The nerve. Free exploitation, maybe. The first one's always free.
If the new religion is celebrity, the sacrament is fast food. So as a premature old fart I found it a great pleasure to stop at a drive-up diner on a back road somewhere in the Mid-South one night and order a fish sandwich. The pleasure was in the fact that the fish sandwich was actually called that on the menu. Not a Filet-o-Fish. Not a Whaler. Just a fish sandwich. I once ordered a fish sandwich at a certain chain face-filling emporium - I will admit to having been there even though I don't like chains, or whips either for that matter, so the story can be told - and the counter clerk demurred, insisting that I order something that was on the menu. Pretending to cooperate in my own transformation into a walking, talking advertisement for their product, I again ordered a fish sandwich. Instantaneously classifying me in the computer God gave her - these workers are amazingly overqualified - as a hopeless nut case, she pressed the microphone to her lips to ensure distortion and barked "Whaler!"
Of course, most folks think someone takes the cue and goes out the back door, catches a whale, cuts off a square piece and slaps in between a bun. Those of us who have studied the matter know our meal is actually made of dolphin. But back at the back road cafe, which doesn't even have a name-Way!-but does have a sign reporting that "We Be Cookin'!", they're out of fries. But that's all right, because I would prefer fish without fries than being whipped into a whaler.
I never understood the health care thing until I got sick. One night I was having pain and swelling in my throat. I couldn't even swallow my own spit - I had to hire someone to come in. I couldn't get to sleep, so I tried to doing a mailing. That usually works. Not. So at 2:30 in the morning I went down to the emergency room.
A lot of us live in the fast lane, not necessarily going anywhere but busy, with people wanting a piece of our time, calling us up, computers calling us up, talking to our computers, behind our backs. Constant demands. Well here's a place you can go where you can be left alone. No one will bother you in the emergency room. You can sit there for hours, waiting for Hillary or someone like her. At six the shift changed, and the outgoing head nurse walked her replacement down the hall explaining what everybody's problem was: "Gun shot, gun shot, gun shot, gun shot, sore throat..." Triage. I went home and took an aspirin.
There's a simple reason we can't have health care. It costs money, and we don't have any. The cities are decaying because the money went to the suburbs. Now the suburbs are decaying because the money went to the other suburbs. As soon as the cities were beyond help, sometime in the seventies, Black mayors were elected. They can't do anything about it, and they get the blame. Everybody in the emergency room except me was black. The city has become one big emergency room. And as soon as the NAFTA-GATT folks finish transporting their operations beyond the control of any government, we'll probably get a Black Woman President, who won't be able to do anything either, and will get blamed.
As soon as the store is bankrupt, they give you the keys. This is the cue for the media to take a poll and explain to the people that they hate the government for doing this to them. Not the corporations, but Big Government, Affirmative Action, Minorities, Women, everyone but the actual thieves, who are laughing all the way to an offshore bank.
A lot of people don't realize that health is mainly a question of mud. The word humor originally meant liquid, as in the four humors of the body: blood, bile, piss and vinegar, or something like that. Being in good humor comes from being in good health. Back then it was humour, but they took u out, and we've been illin ever since. From the same root comes humidity, obviously. On the other hand, humility comes from humus, earth. So does human. Earth and water together make health. We have got to get ourselves back to the garden, and mud. That's what we were trying to do at the first outdoor rock festival, in 1968, the Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Aire Faire. We held it in Washington state, to make sure. I can remember the sixties like it was yesterday. Of course, I can't remember yesterday too well. But I've always thought short-term memory loss isn't nearly as bad as historical amnesia.