2002 Notebook: Weak XLI
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9 October 2002
No. 9,380 (cartoon)
It seems like nothing but pain and suffering.

The latter may be optional.

10 October 2002
The Big Payback?
James Brown, Godfather of Soul, Hardest Working Man in Show Business, He Who is More Wild and Crazy Than You’ll Ever Be, et cetera, et cetera, is being sued. That’s not particularly surprising; there’s a lot of truth in the old maxim, “where there’s a hit there’s a writ.” (According to the press report I read, Brown, with ninety-eight “hit” songs, has sold over one hundred million recordings.)

Deanna Brown Thomas and Yamma Brown Lumar claim they coauthored some of Browns most famous works when they were aged three and six. Thomas and Lumar are Brown’s daughters.

Although I’m not familiar with the details of the case, circumstantial evidence suggests that the women’s argument has some merit. When I was younger, I disliked Brown’s music because it was so simple and repetitive. Now that I’m older, I like Brown’s music because it’s so simple and repetitive, the kind of music a three-year old or a six-year old might compose.

I regularly steal the work of young children and claim it as my own with impunity. But then I’m not famous, nor do I have children who might remember their early compositions. That’s why I feel just a little bit sorry for James Brown, on principle. If you can’t steal from your own children, why create them in the first place?

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11 October 2002
Alert State Bikini Black Special
I was wandering down a road along the North Sea when I came across the Whitburn Firing Range. Cows occupied the military facility, so I decided to wander around the abandoned barracks. That’s where I saw an enigmatic sign, “Alert State Bikini Black Special.”

When I got to the pub, I told Trevor about my sighting and asked him whether Alert State Bikini Black Special was a good thing or a bad thing.

“You idiot!” Trevor exclaimed. “That’s a live artillery range!”

“Didn’t look very live to me,” I replied. “Nothing there but empty buildings and cows.”

“The cows are the targets,” Trevor said. “Where do you think the paras get their shredded beef from?”

I never did find out what Alert State Bikini Black Special meant.

12 October 2002
New Dimensions in Contemporary Art
I just visited the recently-opened Baltic arts center in Gateshead, England.

(Pause for stifled yawn.)

I thought the building was very similar to other structures designed to serve the art and culture industry. I saw an overpriced hip coffee shop, an overpriced chic cafe, an overpriced trendy restaurant, and an underlit gift shop. In addition, the venue also showed lots of work by a single artist who would appear to have enjoyed lots of methamphetamine back in the hippy days. Tens of thousands of words in cramped, tiny handwriting might possibly have worked in a large book, but I didn’t find that the pages and pages and pages and pages of almost unreadable notes provided a rewarding gallery experience.

As I was leaving, I happened to run into one of the institution’s directors. He went on at great length about how wonderful the new seventy-million dollar building was. (That, of course, is his job description.) He was particularly proud of what he described as “the multidimensional integrated visitor experience.”

I was more than a little skeptical, since all I’d seen was a typical exhibit of two-dimensional works on walls, three-dimensional objects on floors, and a few computer monitors.

“I think I may have missed the integrated multidimensional stuff,” I admitted. “What did it look like?”

“Did you see the video screens in the cafe and coffee shop?” the administrator asked.

“No,” I replied. “High prices ruin my appetite.”

“Too bad,” he said. “They’re doing a brilliant job promoting the gift shop merchandising program. And we pipe the kitchen smells into the gift shop to drive the customer base to the other profit centers. That’s really what the multidimensional integrated visitor experience is all about, isn’t it?”

I was in no position to argue.

13 October 2002
The Hierarchy of Loves?
I had dinner with Fiona, Sooty and Richard last night. When it was time for tawdry gossip, we talked about David. (Another David, that is.) We hadn’t heard much about him since he left the real love of his life and ran off with the true love of his life. They had a kid, and that was that.

And then David left the true love of his life and their small child and ran off with the great love of his life. Soon after that, he was smote—no other word will do—with a great tragedy. But that’s another story.

We agreed that it’s only a matter of time until David meets the absolute
love of his life and abandons the great love of his life. And so on.

Sooty suggested that David may have discovered the hierarchy of loves: real, true, great, absolute, penultimate, overwhelming, and so on. We discussed Sooty’s proposition for a while, and finally arrived at a much simpler explanation for David’s behavior.

David is a cad and a bounder.

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14 October 2002
The First Lord Armstrong’s Birthplace Lintel
I was walking through a Newcastle-upon-Tyne industrial estate when I spotted an incongruous sight. I saw a small, understated monument erected nearly a century ago declaring the location to be of historical significance.

    The Above Stone is the Door Lintel of the House where the First Lord Armstrong was born, and indicates the site occupied by the House.

The sad little tablet, almost lost in an ocean of asphalt, paving stones, and bricks, reminded me of a quote by the British prelate William Ralph Inge. “Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.” I’d wager that most—if not all—of the people laboring in the windowless, brick buildings built on the site of the former Armstrong estate would agree with the latter part of Inge’s proposition.

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©2002 David Glenn Rinehart