May 30, 2008

Exhibit 17: Tie-dye

Tie-dye is a chemical process applied to shirts, vestments and sometimes pants. In tie-dye, segments of a garment are constricted with rubber bands or other binding, ribbon-type apparatuses. The garment is then dipped into a vat or series of vats filled with reactive color dye. When removed and allowed to dry, the resultant garment is colorfully patterned, signifying the astral ambitions of the wearer's mentality and/or spirituality. When worn by urbanite men, tie-dyed clothing is also a failsafe tool for promoting sexual abstinence.

As with many popular chemical processes, tie-dye was originally developed for military use, specifically in covert operations against renegade guerillas in Latin America. These actions were never reported in the mainstream press, but the Museum was able to obtain a recorded transcript of one such skirmish through the Freedom Of Information Act. The records do not state the specific country involved, but acoustic experts familiar with the tape assert that a very low-frequency buzz indicates the presence of puss caterpillars, which strongly suggest the confrontation took place in Bolivia:

CHE GUAVARA: All right, I'm missing my cigars. Somebody 'fess up.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #1: I thought you quit.

CHE GUAVARA: What makes you think I quit?

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #1: Didn't you say something about how self-denial of luxury was important to the revolution, how it aligns us with the peasantry?

CHE GUAVARA: Why would I say something like that? Geez, you make me sound like a stick in the mud!

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: I think I heard you say it too, Che.

CHE GUAVARA: Come on, people! What have you been smoking? My cigars, perhaps?

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: Look, man, why don't you just have a
cigarette? Here.

CHE GUAVARA: I don't do cigarettes, man! C'mon, you've known me all these years. Fidel gave me those cigars. It was a very important symbolic gesture. If you wanted one you just had to ask.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #3: Why you getting so uptight about symbolic gestures? I thought we were men of meaningful action, not square dancers!

CHE GUAVARA: Look, it's a simple pleasure, okay? A little taste. It's not what I'd call total slobbering luxury. I'm not sitting here waving my caviar spoon in the air in a silk suit bellowing at the waiter to bring me an expensive cigar. I'm just on my cot, layin' back, thinkin' about things, revolution, et cetera et cetera et cetera, and I just got in the mood for a good cigar. Not every little common gesture I make has to have some Maoist extrapolation to it – I mean, geez, perspective, guys.

UNKNOWN ASSOCIATE #2: Have you looked in your smoking jacket?

CHE GUAVARA: Ah! Damn, you're right, totally forgot… yep, there they are. Anybody got a…

(sound of door bursting open)

CIA OPERATIVE #1: CIA! Freeze, commie! Don't move!

CHE GUAVARA: … Oh, my God… what in God's name are you wearing?

CIA OPERATIVE #2: You like it, huh?

CHE GUAVARA: I don't so much like it as… I'm mesmerized by the… the…

CIA OPERATIVE #1: It's called freedom, motherfucker! Good ole American freedom! This shirt means I'm free!

CHE GUAVARA: That has got to be the ugliest shirt I've ever seen. Is that agency-issue? God, it's like a trainwreck, I can't look away, I…

CIA OPERATIVE #2: Got 'im. Fire away, Rainbow.

CIA OPERATIVE #1: You got it, Love Gravy.


The hippie population of the San Francisco Bay Area, thriving on irony as they did, adopted the CIA's new uniform as one of their own, effectively demystifying the military's aggressive use of tie-dye. Soon it was the costume of the psychedelic rock movement of the late '60s. Although tie-dye became ubiquitous in the community, it often incurred derision and dismissal from the upper echelon of high fashion correspondents.

The famous fashion commentator Mr. Blackwell, in fact, published these comments about tie-dye wearers in a few of his annual Worst Dressed Lists between 1966 and 1972:

Grace Slick. Heavens to Kerouac, this is a psychedelic disaster! You don't need to go ask Alice to why this tie-dye is a no-go -- divine Grace will show you herself! This appalling multi-colored smock makes her look like a Martian control panel! If she really wants somebody to love, then she should try not to look like an unattended mold culture in the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic! This is one Airplane Mr. Jefferson doesn't want to board! I'd like to smother whoever designed this rag with a Surrealistic Pillow!

Jerry Garcia. Frankly, the sight of Mr. Garcia's tie-dyed vest is so horrible, I think I'll be grateful when I'm dead too! This unflattering garment looks like a family-size serving of pasta primavera after Mickey Hart and Pigpen have sat in it! This blobby, blubbering, bulbous and bulky blight has less form and purpose than a 45-minute guitar solo! Only a friend of the devil would wear such a dastardly disaster, and I think even The Dark One would rip it apart with a pitchfork! This is not exactly an American Beauty – more like an Aztecan Hag! Word to the wise, Deadheads: LSD does not stand for "Let's Stop Dressing!"

Country Joe McDonald. This Fish stinks! A revolting tie-dye button-down with a matching cowboy hat that should have stayed in Vietnam! Mr. McDonald should have burned this outfit instead of his draft card! He has clearly scraped the bottom of the bong for this contraption! If Mr. McDonald were in fashion school, he would just as well be asking his instructor to "Gimme an F!" Whoopee – we're all gonna dye? Count me out, peace-monger! Classify this draft dodger I-Y – for "intensely yucky!"

Fig. 1: Grateful Dead tie-dye shorts, originally marketed with the unfortunate tagline "Show her where your head is at!"

May 26, 2008

Exhibit 16: Graphic design

For years after the music industry's introduction of long-players, visual artists were troubled by the expense required to render cover art for albums. The revenue collected from the commission of the artist quite often did not cover the cost of paints, easels, photography, neutral grain spirits or French cigarettes. The musical artists, as well, were inconvenienced by having to sit for the rendering of portraits, especially when the pose was for a painting. (Jazz drummer Buddy Rich, a figure known for his frequent cantankerousness, once toppled the palette of a Belgian painter working on a portrait for Rich's unreleased album Swingin' Pre-Raphaelites. It was thought that Rich was incensed about having to pose for seven hours in a silk tunic while holding a bowl of apples, but accounts suggest Rich was more upset that the painter wore a beard.)

The job and Citannes budget of the visual artist was made much more manageable with the proliferation of graphic design. By combining prefabricated artistic elements for a single set piece, artists were not only freed of the toil of painstaking creation, they were also able to produce in a much higher quantity than before. Those artists who did not increase their output in light of this new convenience found their schedules opened up, which not only meant more smoking of French cigarettes, but also a higher potential that they would have more time to fly to Paris themselves to purchase the cigarettes personally, rather than rely on shady local associates with pencil-thin moustaches and a penchant for existentialism.

The aesthetics of graphic design also correlated with the sharp, brazen, scabrous style of rock and roll. Impressionism, with its indistinct lines and over-reliance on bonnets, could not keep pace with the instantaneous thrill of rock and roll. Graphic design was aligned with the immediacy of rock music: As the large majority of early hit singles ran less than three minutes, a graphic artist could conceivably finish the accompanying artwork in the same amount of time, given a readily available supply of construction paper.

Graphic design was best championed in the New Wave era of rock music. With a whole rash of newly aloof music heroes forging emotional detachment through mechanical instruments, the graphic artist helped to refine the dehumanization through art that could conceivably be produced with a garlic press. Several landmark examples of this renaissance era of graphic art are shown below:

For Split Enz's excellent album True Colours, the artist uses reflective triangles, alternately shaded squares and rectangles, and one single bold stroke to illustrate how the band's hometown of Auckland, New Zealand was built using a Fisher-Price Shape Sorter.

The cover of the Rolling Stones' New Wave-influenced album Some Girls was fashioned from a sample page of a wig catalogue and not, as was fervently rumored, a listing of the cheapest per-hour prostitutes in New York City.

Genesis' self-titled 1983 album cover featured all the Fisher-Price Shape Sorter blocks left over from the construction of Auckland (see above). Although the cover is a photograph, not technically graphic design, it was done nearly as quickly, as was the songwriting on the album itself.

The cover of this double-A single by punk band the Cortinas features the British Royal Family moments before a banquet in honor of Ronald Reagan. This is also not strictly graphic design, as only the Royal Family itself was assembled from construction paper and paste, as has been the monarchy's wont since the rule of James VI in the 17th century.

And finally, the 1988 issue of Elvis – Live With Love From Terre Haute, features this indisputable classic from the graphic design genre:

May 18, 2008

Exhibit 15: Meeting the Devil at the crossroads

The annals of popular music are filled with anecdotal legends featuring musicians who meet the Devil at the crossroads. In each of these myths, the Devil makes the musician a Faustian offer of fame and wealth, in exchange for the Devil's dominion of his or her immortal soul at the termination of his or her earthly existence.

The myth has been accepted as fact by many music followers in attempts to explain or rationalize the immense popularity of certain musical acts, especially pop "family" acts such as the Osmonds and the Brady Bunch Kids. (These families' deals with the Devil were considerably more complicated, as the souls of each member of the family had to be processed in separate contracts, each with different limitations, conditions and evergreen clauses; the Devil frequently had to temporarily stop proceedings to retrieve ball-point pens and official letterhead from Hell, leaving the families to wait by the crossroads for up to 3 years until he returned. "Deal with it," the Devil was reported to say to patriarch Mike Brady,"at least I made it back to earth earlier than that other guy.")

In reality, encountering the Devil at the crossroads is a phenomenon that stretches back to the earliest days of contemporary American popular music. Reconstituted written journals show the following exchange at a rural intersection not far from Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1892:

DEVIL: Say there, young man, -- you, marching over there. Can I help you with that tuba?

JOHN PHILIP SOUSA: Forsake it! This thing is impossible to march with! I can't keep dropping it like this!

DEVIL: I'll tell ya what you need, sir – you need a way to carry that instrument around your neck! Why, yessir, I think that should just do the trick!

SOUSA: Suspending a tuba via your neck, using a common necklace or lanyard? Speaking of such a thing is nonsense!

DEVIL: Better yet, why don't we take the throat of your tuba, and curve it so the instrument itself drapes against your nape?

SOUSA: You make a mockery of me, candid stranger?

DEVIL: No sir, I am perfectly serious! Wanna strike a deal? We shall make alterations to your tuba, name it after you, and you will make untold amounts of money! In exchange – well, I have one very simple condition for you, sir.

SOUSA: No, sir, I say. No.

(Long, pregnant pause)

DEVIL: You can have orgies.

SOUSA: Where do I sign?

The most well-known account of arranging a deal with the Devil is, of course, that of bluesman Robert Johnson. The legend says that Johnson was guided towards a set of crossroads in rural Mississippi, where the Devil took Johnson's guitar and offered to tune it so he could play any blues song masterfully, as shown in this transcript from a rarely-heard field recording:

JOHNSON: I wanna whammy bar.

DEVIL: A what?

JOHNSON: A whammy bar.

DEVIL: What the hell's a whammy bar?

JOHNSON: Somethin' you attach to the bridge to make the notes vibrate.

DEVIL: You already got a whammy bar. You got ten of 'em. They're on each of your hands.

JOHNSON: Nah, they can't cut it. I want that real fast tremolo, you know?

DEVIL: You can't do that kind of thing with a guitar! Are you crazy? Anyway, I just said I'd tune it. I said nothing about accessorizing.

JOHNSON: Man, you gonna make all these changes to my guitar an' shit, why can't you just throw on a whammy bar? I thought you could do anything.

DEVIL: I… I can, but you're asking me to bend the limits of physics in a way that's impossible!

JOHNSON: Don't gimme that shit. It ain't impossible for you, bitch.

DEVIL: Man… why did I do this today? Why didn't I just go scare the shit out of Benny Goodman like I usually do on Thursdays?

JOHNSON: You comin' down here with all this power and you're tellin' me you ain't gonna use it? Gimme a goddamn whammy bar, cheapskate.

DEVIL: Look. It's very simple. I tune this guitar. You play the guitar. You become the biggest singer in the Delta. That was it. I am tuning this guitar. That's all. I'll tell you what, I'll buff up the frets too. As a favor. I'll even throw in some tuning pegs for free. Because I like you. But there is no way in the world I'm giving you a quote-unquote whammy bar so you can vibrate your notes like some Biloxi whore. If you keep bugging me about this whammy bar shit I'm personally unleashing my hounds on your ass. Is that clear?


DEVIL: Good.

JOHNSON: Then gimme a wah-wah pedal.

The Devil continued acting as impresario in this vein throughout the 20th century, imbuing musicians with unmatched instrumental skills, attractive sexual partners, and the finest alcohol available. During the punk era he also made fliers.

Despite the dying bedside pleas of the artists the Devil conducted business with, the entity steadfastly refused to let any of his clients out of their contracts. The first, and so far only, case where the Devil voluntarily broke a contract was recorded in September 2006, during this taped call to a cell phone in Southern California:


DEVIL: Hey, Kevin… this is Satan…

FEDERLINE: Yo yo yo, whassup D-man?

DEVIL: Not much, not much, how are you?

FEDERLINE: I am rollin', sir. Heavy mobbin'. Chillin' as usual. You get the promo I sent you?

DEVIL: Uh, yes… well, that's kind of why I'm callin', Kev…

FEDERLINE: Does my new album thing slam or what? Does your head hurt from all the slammin' you did? Did you slam against walls and doors and shit? Damn, Devil-man! I wanna know if you slammed! Hey, that rhymes! I just made up a new rhyme, G!

DEVIL: Um… Kev, listen, I… you know, there's no easy way to say this, so I'll just come right out with it.

FEDERLINE: Whatsa matter G?

DEVIL: Uh… I'm letting you out of the deal.


DEVIL: The deal. I'm breaking the deal. I'm giving you back your soul. You're not going to hell.

FEDERLINE: What are you talkin' about, man? The album drops next month! You said it was gonna debut at No. 1!

DEVIL: I know, I know, Kevin. And trust me, nobody feels worse about this than I do.

FEDERLINE: Then why are you doin' it?

DEVIL: Well, Kevin… it's… (sigh)… Man, the album just sucks so bad.


DEVIL: I mean, really, dude, it's horrid.

FEDERLINE: You're hurtin' my feelin's, man…

DEVIL: I mean, Kevin… "Lose Control"? You're calling a single "Lose Control"? Do you know how many rappers have a song called "Lose Control"? What's the matter? Did your ex get custody of the thesaurus?

FEDERLINE: But I wanted a track that made the listener really feel like they were… they were… you know, they were… sort of…

DEVIL: I get it, I get it. Losing control.

FEDERLINE: Exactly! You feel me, yo!

DEVIL: Look, look, K-Fed… I have this reputation to uphold, you know? Quality standards. Look at my record… The Eagles, Rick Dees, that guy who did "Undercover Angel" whatever his name was, Christopher Cross, Crash Test Dummies, Stryper…

FEDERLINE: Daaaaaaaaaamn.

DEVIL: I can't risk my reputation. I just can't. I let you get away with this, then every half-wit white rapper from Podunk U.S.A. is gonna be callin' me, askin' me to hook 'em up, sayin' "I'm totally off the hook, like K-Fed!" And the whole thing will just snowball. I can't have that. So let's just… look, you get your soul back, you don't go to hell, and we just forget this ever happened.

FEDERLINE: But… I ain't gettin' no No. 1 album?


FEDERLINE: No fancy cars?


FEDERLINE: No fur coats?


FEDERLINE: No Grammys?


FEDERLINE: Not even the Best Metal Grammy that Jethro Tull got?


FEDERLINE: No stables of bitches?


FEDERLINE: No cell phone plan with unlimited data?


FEDERLINE: No customized Myspace page?


FEDERLINE: No three-ring binders?


FEDERLINE: No gift cards for Mickey D's?


FEDERLINE: No milkcow in my backyard with a pretty Dutch milkmaid with lips like a trout?

DEVIL: Kevin, please, stop this. Why don't you go on one of those cruises? You see what Norwegian's doin' these days? They take real good care of you.

FEDERLINE: Damn, Devil… I don't know what to say. I really… I really wanted to be famous an' shit, yo.

DEVIL: Oh, you'll be famous.


DEVIL: Um… Yes, in a way, you'll be famous. Very famous.


DEVIL: I can almost unconditionally guarantee that you will… achieve notoriety of some kind. I just don't want to have anything to do with it.

FEDERLINE: Ah, great! I gotta tell the wife!

DEVIL: Kev, Kev, Kev! No, wait! She's not -


May 17, 2008

Exhibit 14: The Grammy Award for Best New Artist

The Grammy Award for Best New Artist was a weapon used for terminating the careers of young artists who, for whatever reason, had vexed or irritated the psychopharmacology industry.

The weapon of revenge was used most successfully in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the burgeoning industry took out a "hit," in effect, on middle-of-the-road and soft-pop artists, whose soothing songs were cutting into the sales and consumption of prescription medication. Grammy voters at the time, who were particularly fond of cocaine (see Exhibit 10), were only too happy in their hyperactive states to weed out the likes of Starland Vocal Band, A Taste Of Honey, Christopher Cross and Debby Boone. By seemingly "rewarding" these artists with the apparent praise of the Best New Artist Grammy, voters were virtually ensuring that the artists would never be heard from again in any widespread capacity.

Christopher Cross's 1981 Grammy triumph – in which he swept all four "big" categories of Record, Song, Album and Best New Artist of the Year – was a particularly vicious act of retribution on the part of the psychopharmacology industry. Dr. Vincent B. "Vinny Valium" Boccacini, was adamant that Cross's career be rubbed out with utmost verification, as exhibited in audio tapes from FBI surveillance of Boccacini's clinic in a Trenton, NJ strip mall:

"Chris Cross my fat ass. I wanna see that fuckface done with. I want that yacht-lovin' pastel cream-eatin' fuckface cryin' in his wheat germ. I wanna see this fuckfaces's sailin' ass in the Bermuda fuckin' triangle. I want Jimmy Buffett to tank this fuckface up on margaritas and float him over to Rio with a big sign stickin' out of his fuckin' ass sayin' 'Sailors Board Me Now.' Christopher Cross, you've sedated your last housewife. You have calmed your last Tupperware party. You have soothed your last receptionist. You have numbed your last dental patient. Chris Cross, my fuckin' ass. Fuckface."

As the psychopharmacology industry fell victim to RICOH prosecutions in the late '80s, their grip over the Best New Artist Grammy loosened, and eventually fell apart. Determined to restore the validity and prestige of the award, in December 1989 the Grammy's then-president C. Michael Greene declared:

"All right, fuckfaces. From this moment forward, the Best New Artist Grammy will only go to the most deserving, talented, important and worthy musical artists in the industry. Starting now! No more getting back at the Swingle Singers because they stiffed your dad at poker one night. No more giving Marvin Hamlisch the kiss of death just because he didn't come to your opening. No more squishing on Jody Watley because she's prettier than you. And let's not even talk about what happened to poor old Robert Goulet, you bastards. All the bakesales in the world will not give this man his instep back. From now on we use the Best New Artist Grammy as it was intended -- to reward bold new artistic genius. I mean it. Enjoy your watercress salads."

Grammy voters applauded Greene's resolve, and helped Greene keep his promise by giving the 1990 Best New Artist award to Milli Vanilli.

May 12, 2008

Exhibit 13: Elvis sightings

Elvis Presley, modestly nicknamed "The King of Rock and Roll," died on August 16, 1977 from an overdose of Nutter Butters and Nyquil. However, many fans of early rock and roll refused to believe that an artist of Presley's iconic, even messianic, stature could ever truly pass from the physical plane of existence. This persistent faith has manifested in thousands of Elvis sightings across the United States and Europe.

Only four of these reported sightings carry any weight of possibility:

  1. On February 3, 1981, a drifter named George Ponson passed by an automobile service station in East Brainerd, Tennessee, at approximately 3:15 in the early morning hours. Ponson, an admitted prescription drug aficionado, claimed to see a white-cloaked figure he called "E.P." in the dimly lit garage of the station, performing a wheel alignment on a 1974 Ford Pinto. Ponson then suffered a massive allergy attack and fell unconscious; he awoke three days later in a Chattanooga hospital and retold his sighting in a crazed, epileptic frenzy. He was rewarded with unlimited access to any prescription drugs he wanted, which sustained him until his 1993 death from complications of vertigo. Ponson effectively forgot all the details of his encounter. On the morning following his alleged sighting, however, employees of the gas station arrived at work to find the Pinto had been painted gold.

  2. On August 16, 1987, a housewife named Eunice Clarkson received a visit at her home in Prattville, Alabama, from a healthy-looking man dressed in a business suit and sporting a spit-curl.

    Clarkson taped the encounter and provided the transcript to the Museum:

  3. CLARKSON: Yes?

    VISITOR: Good afternoon, ma'am.


    CLARKSON: Can I help you?


    CLARKSON: Sir? Can I help you?


    CLARKSON: Um, sir, I'm not trying to be rude, but if you don't…

    VISITOR: I'm sellin' insurance.

    CLARKSON: Ah… well, I think we're all covered…

    VISITOR: It's really good insurance.

    CLARKSON: I'm sure it is, I just…

    VISITOR: I ain't never seen insurance like this. Hot tamale, this is good insurance.

    CLARKSON: Sir, I appreciate your coming by here, but…

    VISITOR: It's insurance for the afterlife.


    CLARKSON: I've never heard such a thing.

    VISITOR: Oh, you'll need it. Trust me. 'Cause when you die, you don't go straight to heaven, ma'am. Heaven… it ain't like it's the A&P just down the street. It's very far away. A long way.

    CLARKSON: …Well, you're probably right.

    VISITOR: I'm tellin' ya, it's even further away than Kansas City.

    CLARKSON: I suppose it…

    VISITOR: That's what I'm tellin' ya.

    (protracted, uncomfortable pause)

    VISITOR: Hot tamale.

    CLARKSON: Sir, again, I…

    VISITOR: An' the road to heaven, it's just like any other road. Like one of them interstate deals that runs through Nashville. Except it's got twelve lanes on it, an' I don't think the interstates that go through Nashville have more than three or four. An' even those twelve lanes to heaven ain't enough, so what you got is all them people drivin' like crazy in their hotrods, weavin' all over the place, not even signalin' when they change lanes or nothin', so of course you see it's just trouble waitin' to happen. We got you covered. We got full collision coverage, very reasonable deductibles, and new desk calendars every year for ya.

    CLARKSON: I think we'll just…

    VISITOR: Lemme tell ya, when you're goin' through that space-time continuum, a desk calendar comes in real handy.

    CLARKSON: I appreciate that, sir, but I'm just not in the market right now, and my husband would just have a fit if I spent money without me callin' him first.


    VISITOR: Well thank you ma'am.

    CLARKSON: Oh, my God… it can't be! You sound just like…

    VISITOR: Uh-oh.

    CLARKSON: Wait a minute! You're…

    VISITOR: Bert! The name's Bert! Ah, crap, look at the position of the North Star… uh-uh-uh-uh, I mean, the time! Look at the time! I gotta run!

  4. On January 7, 1995, commodities broker A. DaMachado retired to his hotel room at the Circus Circus in Las Vegas at about 10:30pm, and fell asleep by 11pm. DaMachado claimed to be awakened at 4:35am the following morning by a luminescent Elvis Presley, hovering at the foot of his bed. According to DaMachado, Presley then performed the entire set from his 1973 special "Aloha From Hawaii," restarting "Welcome To My World" twice due to a bad count-off. DaMachado grabbed his camera at mid-set and furiously began taking photographs of the event, changing film rolls twice, and ending up with 72 pictures of what he hoped would be irrefutable evidence of "The King's" presence. DaMachado took his film to a one-hour photo developer the next morning, but much to his chagrin, all the prints he received bore the exact same image:

  5. Finally, on May 11, 2008, a waitress at the Donnybrook Diner in Dogwood Hill, Virgnia claimed to see the image of Elvis in a piece of French toast she was about to serve, of which she, too, took a picture:

May 8, 2008

Exhibit 12: Upbringings in depressing British industrial cities

Far from the sweltering American south, where rock and roll was borne from the collision of hedonic euphoria and the religious release of gospel music, young men who had upbringings in depressing British industrial cities felt the call of the new music that had simultaneously enthralled and liberated their brethren across the Atlantic. However, the characterless factories which employed these boys, and their fathers, mothers, and if under age 9, sisters provided Britons with an even more restrictive, overbearing entity to rebel against than the Americans' Southern Baptist churches, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Benny and Moon Pies.

A conspiracy of hard labor, 28-hour days, soot inhalation and malfunctioning vending machines both filled these young men with rage and oppressed their spirits. But a faction of these men were eventually able to use their decidedly rough breaks as the spark of inspiration for powerful work, as this 1962 transcript of a supervisor-employee meeting in a Birmingham munitions plant preternaturally reveals:

S. BRIGHTLY: Right then, so, young laddie, your production of safety latches here at Sabbath Industries is down one-eleventh of one percent this quarter, and don't think everyone in this depressing British industrial city hasn't been noticing it all along. What have you got to say for yourself?

O. OSBOURNE: Um firtunn fokin yurrs ull, yald fut bustird!

S. BRIGHTLY: Blimey, I can't understand a word you're saying with your mouth full of food, Osbourne. Swallow that biscuit… there. Thank you. Now what were you saying?

O. OSBOURNE: Um firtunn fokin yurrs ull, yald fut bustird!


O. OSBOURNE: Ths int wut a firtunn yurr old ked shud be dooin! I shud bi havin foon like thuss Amerkin keds!

S. BRIGHTLY: I'm… I'm afraid I can't… why do you keep looking at my parrot's head like that?

O. OSBOURNE: Hingry.

The Dickensian existence of these children in relentless, exploitative conditions was misery enough, but even more traumatized were children beset by unemotional, even-toned exchanges with their drunken fathers, who upon returning home from a trying factory shift would begin drinking instantly and not finish until the following fortnight.

The cool, uninvolved responses of these fathers often drove these children to carry deep secrets within themselves for years, secrets that were frequently exposed with much embarrassment in the most unexpected of situations. A transcript of this 1969 exchange at a pub in Walsall, outside Birmingham, reveals this tendency in heartbreaking fashion:

EDWARD NAUGHTON, VISITING FROM KENILWORTH: What are you talking about, Robert?

ROB HALFORD: I dunno. I just feel out of place in this depressing British industrial city. I see all these men with their wives and families – well-toned men, with strong physiques, confident gaits. I notice them walking. I can't stop watching them. I feel an inner rage building up – no, "rage" isn't quite the word – it's a sort of prickling that begins in my breast, and travels in a somewhat southerly direction… then I just want to put on my leather pilot's cap and leather vest, strap some chains about my chest, and… and…

EDWARD NAUGHTON, VISITING FROM KENILWORTH: Robert, I think you have a secret. Is there something you'd like to tell me? A deep dark secret that you haven't told anyone else? Something that could be hidden in plain sight for many years if people just looked upon your style of dress but would not be able to admit to themselves because the fact of your identity could threaten their long-held opinions about masculine ideals?


ROB HALFORD: Well, Edward, I…


ROB HALFORD: Please, I beg you, don't tell my dad.

So antagonistic and overbearing were these depressing British industrial cities that even people who lived in collegiate or white-collar communities who visited one of these towns could not help but get sucked up into the morass of industrialized gloom, which furthermore seeped into their pores and blockaded their hearts with epic rage. This is exemplified in a conversation by two young men from Cambridge visiting a steel mill in Sheffield in 1970, as shown here in yet another of the Museum's seemingly endless supply of dubious transcripts:

ROGER WATERS: Right, so, Syd, why have you dragged me here to this depressing British industrial city?

SYD BARRETT: Oh, Roger, my opalescent man-pet, I listened to the spiny leaves as they rat-a-tat-tatted their communiqué to me, man. I am here to offer you something. For it is your birthday.

ROGER: I know, I just mean, a little greeting card or perhaps a nip at the pub would have sufficed.

SYD: But I got you something special. And it's for you to receive and do what you will with when I am no longer in your immediate range.

ROGER: Well, thank you. Where is it?

SYD: Look.

ROGER: Look where?

SYD: Up in the sky, Roger. Look up in the sky.

(long pause)

ROGER: Syd.. um...

SYD: Well, tell it, Roger! Isn't it marvelous?

ROGER: … it's a giant flying pig.

SYD: Yes!

ROGER: You got me a giant inflatable flying pig for my birthday?

SYD: Yes! Yes! Isn't it adorable?

ROGER: Where am I supposed to keep it? The house in Coventry doesn't even have a shed.

SYD: This isn't just any flying pig, Roger… it's a magic flying pig!

ROGER: It's going to get its leg caught in one of those smokestacks if you're not careful.

SYD: No, it has something else, Roger… look, as it's drifting towards us…

ROGER: Good grief, Syd, this one really takes the cake…

SYD: Look, Roger, the pig is almost directly over us!

ROGER: Great, great, Syd. A giant flying pig. I'll just go get my giant flying chicken and my giant flying bread and we can have a decent breakfast.

SYD: But this pig is magical, Roger! Hold on, it's directly over us now! Keep your head up! Keep looking.

ROGER: Good God… oh, all right.



ROGER: Err… right.

SYD: Hold on. Hold on.

ROGER: Seriously, Syd, I don't know why they still let you in at the druggist shop.

SYD: Patience!

ROGER: Listen, Syd, this is a really… really lovely, garish gesture but I… ow! What the… holy fuck, the fucking pig… it's…

SYD: It shits!

ROGER: What the hell, Syd? What the hell are you trying to do?

SYD: It shits! It shits beautiful little prisms!

ROGER: You got me a flying pig that – ow!! – that defecates prisms on people?

SYD: It just leapt out at me! I saw it at the notions shop! "My, what an adorable little giant flying pig that shits prisms! Roger will love the Carrollian overtones!"

ROGER: Overtones? Overtones? I'm getting pelted by prisms that have been shat from a pig!! I -- OWWW, FUCK! – I couldn't care less about these overtones! I'm getting triangular welts on my bloody back, Syd!

SYD: It's beautiful!

ROGER: It's a fuckin' nightmare, Syd! That's it! This is the most… the most… oh, no… oh, no… now it's shitting bricks!

SYD: Yeah, they came free with the pig.

May 5, 2008

Exhibit 11: Gothic fonts

Gothic fonts are used in published materials for musicians and bands to connote a connection with the medieval mores and block character components of the Middle Ages. With their sharp diagonals, refined serifs and suggested (but rarely manifest) concavity, gothic fonts paradoxically invoke both the regality of stately monarchy and the bloody glory of divine violence; that is to say, with gothic fonts a musician may portray him- or herself as sovereign leader, Arthurian gangsta or, in a select few cases, both.

The imperial ornateness of the gothic font lends a sense of weight and social fixedness to the name of an artist or object. Its implicative qualities work immediately on the phrase, elevating it to a standard of permanence and institution that contemporary sans-serif and downscaled fonts cannot provide. Displayed in the most momentous of gothic fonts, any phrase can be transported from the temporal to the immortal:

The gothic font has proven surprisingly versatile in range of purpose. It has given authority and royalty to pop music works that appear, on first glance, slight on thematic grandeur:

The gothic font can often be used in collaboration with threatening countenance to imply severity and finality of a pending act of smackdown:

Gothic fonts are particularly effective when combining royalty and severity, in their deployment as symbols of ominous physical harm and dominant sovereignty:

Finally, gothic fonts yield yet another depth of mass when they are permanently seared onto flesh:

Gothic fonts have been known to get into very public, physical altercations with more modern fonts. Despite their chronic arthritis and use of primitive blunt instruments, gothic fonts almost always prevail in these skirmishes, leaving modern fonts alone to be branded upon technological gadgets and male-oriented anti-perspirants.

May 4, 2008

Exhibit 10: Cocaine

Benzoylmethyl ecgonine, spelled more easily as cocaine, is a powdered substance derived from the coca plant. Known for its stimulation of the central nervous system and over-effectiveness as a diet aid, cocaine's usage stretches back thousands of years. South American indigenous peoples often chewed the leaves of the coca plant; as a result natives often experienced spiritual epiphany, claimed to be medically healed, and gained access to Bianca Jagger's VIP room at Studio 54. Others reported feelings of "accelerated grumpiness."

Cocaine was legal in the United States until the 20th Century. The substance was in fact aggressively marketed by pharmaceutical and soda-pop companies as a spirit-lifting tonic. So accepted was cocaine that it was celebrated in popular songs of the early part of the century, such as Glenn Miller's rarely heard "novelty" big-band recording, "Cocaine Choo-Choo":

Heeey, conductor, where do ya stop?
Lead Singer:
Why I'm pullin' up to the pharmacy shop!
Heeey, conductor, what'll ya get?
Lead Singer:
I'm gonna go snortin' with my favorite pet!

Lead Singer:
I'm on the Cocaine Choo-Choo! (Chorus: The Cocaine Choo-Choo!)
Just a-chuggin' down that line!
When I meet ya at the station
My sinuses'll feel so fine!
And the whistle goes, "Toot-toot!" (Chorus: "Toot-toot!")
Gimme a "Toot-toot!" (Chorus: "Toot-toot!")
Touch my stash and I will rip your fucking jugular out

In the rock era cocaine was revered for its ability in giving musicians an edge in terms of production and endurance. Writing came much easier, because musicians were up all night finding constant inspiration from every angle. Just one little ingestion would inspire reams of poetic and lyrical insight. The mind would work on all cylinders and the thought process would continue at a seemingly unending pace. People would just keep writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and then they would do some more writing and then they would pause for a minute to have a cigarette or maybe a drink of bourbon or something like that and then they would go back to their cocaine and do another line or two and then they'd go back to writing and writing and writing and writing. There would be no inhibition at all and the ideas would just flow out of them like ketchup comes out of a constantly squeezed restaurant bottle and then they'd realize that ideas didn't have to be like ketchup from a glass bottle with no squeezers because it didn't make sense to wait around for ketchup to come out of a glass bottle when you could put the ketchup in a squeeze bottle and have it come out instantaneously instead of waiting for it to come out of a glass bottle because that doesn't make much sense does it? So cocaine helped that process out tremendously and was a real boon for musicians because sometimes pot made them stupid, it would just dull the edges around them, they would just sit around all night and write songs in a stupor and they would all be about plants and floral arrangements and things like that but cocaine made them write songs that were very edgy because they would write very very quickly and without much reservation at all and it would be pure rage coming directly from their cerebellums onto the page with no editing or reconsidering whatsoever and the song would feel raw and great and nothing would harness its immense power and there would be nothing you could do about it except just let it come out like vomit or like saliva from a baby since that's a much better metaphor for creativity because we're all just like children awakening ourselves and seeing things for the first time and it's very inspiring and we can't stop ourselves from examining the wonder and thanks to cocaine we can just sit back and look at our black velvet paintings and let the inspiration come and come and come and come and come, because one should never stop inspiration while it's coming and coming so we need to just keep writing and writing and writing and then do some more writing and what's with that look you're giving me? Don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about, because you do, you know exactly what you intended to say without words because of that look that you're giving me and I don't like that look very much, and what are you saying, that I should put a clamp on my creativity and longevity and endurance and stick-with-it-ness just because of some archaic moral standard that you cling to like Linus clings onto a blanket or whatever and what are you trying to tell me? Don't brush this off because it would be exactly like you to brush this off with your moral high ground and your nose in the air excuse the pun. I knew all along that you were out to stop me and that you were out to get me because you just can't stand that I can write and write and write and write and write and write and write and have a protein shake and then write again and write and write and write because the ideas just don't stop with me they just keep on coming and there's nothing you can do about it, I am like an idea train, the ideas just keep coming and coming with me and you can't stand it and that's why you're out to get me because you are jealous of my infinite ability to make constant sense all through the night and you just sit there with your dullness and your apathy and you think that you're better than me and I really wish you would stop looking at me like that but then again I realize there's no way you can stop looking at me like that because looks are all you have, they are like convenient defense mechanisms of your depraved soul, the soul that rots in the basement while my soul rises and rises and keeps on rising and then rises some more because I'm up all night writing and writing and writing and writing because the ideas keep coming oh shit here comes another idea and I better get it down now before you talk me out of it you jealous backstabbing piece of jealousy, go ahead and sit there and be jealous as I write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write.

Cocaine was eventually replaced by the hacky sack.

May 2, 2008

Exhibit 9: High school musicals

For many an aspiring pop star, high school musicals are the initial tableaux of discovering their own talent in front of a paying audience. The institution is now the subject of much reverence thanks to a series of television shows and concert tours under the franchise title High School Musical, featuring teenagers who have deferred their G.E.D.'s to warm the hearts of an audience that can afford the exorbitant ticket prices, and their parents.

At one time, the high school musical acted as a penal colony for those unable to participate in athletics or Future Farmers of America. These outcasts, numbed from years of torment by nose tackles and the agriculture industry, found solace and camaraderie in the anonymity of a chorus line in South Pacific.

The selection of lead and supporting roles in the high school musical schemata follows a very specific code of instructions, formulated and copyrighted in the late 50's by Oscar Hammerstein:

a. Female lead: Must sing well, be flawlessly punctual, and well-regarded by peers though not freakishly popular. Should not have an athlete boyfriend. Must bring thermos of hot tea to each rehearsal. Virgins preferable, although this condition is not easily enforceable. Must mistrust extras, but should not subjugate or belittle them in any way.

b. Male lead: Good singing voice optional, though subject should not be entirely tone-deaf; maintaining steady tone without a hint of vibrato perfectly acceptable (occasionally ideal, see: Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady). Sturdy build is positive, though often unattainable. Tall enough not to get bullied, but polite enough to be pleasantly avoided. Must hope to find girlfriend in chorus and maintain relationship at least through opening night. Must think beer is exotic. Should not acknowledge extras in any way.

c. Female supporting role: Reserved for girls with "personality." Must sing with "character"; that is, should opt for brassy pluck rather than operatic ability. Should be able to conjure specialty dialect ("New Yawk," deep Southern, nasal, psychotic) at will. Can never look as if she knows more than either of the lead actors. Red hair a definite plus. Must struggle in math and science, but excel in English literature. Must get stoned with extras at least once, optimally during closing night party.

d. Male supporting role: Should be gay.

The most popular high school musicals, until recently, were those whose principal characteristic was being set in a specific location. For example: South Pacific's most important overtone was that it took place in the South Pacific Ocean. This was also the case with:

  • The Sound of Music (which took place in Austria)
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (ancient Greece)
  • How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (New York City)
  • Cabaret (Nazi Germany and/or badly run San Francisco nightclub)
  • Oklahoma! (Akron, Ohio)
  • Cats (the seventh circle of Hell and/or Baltimore).

As such, the unspoken star of the high school musical was the set designer, whose charge was to convince the audience of realistic location and authenticity through the use of colored butcher paper. The set designer was never introduced to the rest of the cast, since he either thrived on his position's invisibility or was on parole.

The Disney metacommentary High School Musical (2006) was a landmark in theatrical self-examination: a movie musical about teenagers finding valuable identity components through participation in a high school musical. The franchise has already spawned two sequels, including a film. Indeed, the success of High School Musical led Disney to sign the creators to a 75-year contract to present one new production per year. The annual series follows the lives of the same students from the original High School Musical, from their mildly disappointing community college tenures through their confused and forgetful final days in state-run, unsympathetic nursing homes.

Critics are said to be looking forward to the 24th installment of the franchise, featuring all the cast members at an AA meeting where they contend with the failure of their post-high school acting careers. It is rumored this installment will feature Corey Feldman in the role of "Steve the Counselor." The premiere of the 24th episode is scheduled for Cleveland's Playhouse Square in the year 2030; at present the waiting list for tickets is 60 years long.

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