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The International Writers Magazine: US Politics & Frank Zappa!

You say Tomato
Dean Borok

Don’t tell me that American presidential politics has not entered The Twilight Zone.  Forget the evaporating dollar, the bank crisis, the Iraq war!  The real issues that concern Americans are now floating to the surface.
I have long maintained that Americans are behaving like imbeciles because environmental degradation is causing them to suffer genetic breakage.  But having failed to discover any corroborative evidence to substantiate that assertion, I am forced to confront the possibility that they are just a bunch of incoherent boobs.
The presidential candidates seem to be adhering to H.L. Mencken’s truism that “nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”  Only they seem to be applying that immortal adage for purposes of universal suffrage.
This landscape of electoral mirth is so rich in detail that it is hard to divine where to start excavating.  Hillary Clinton is a rich load of nonsense.  In between leaking nasty digs at Barack Obama, she found time to invoke alien invaders.  Citing the extraterrestrial invasion portrayed in the film “Independence Day,” she exhorted voters at one campaign stop to “unite on behalf of our planet.”
Even Richard Nixon, who was a past master at setting up a phony issue and then knocking it down, would have saluted this little piece of stellar sophistry had he survived to witness it.  Giuliani, no slouch himself (remember his campaign to shut down the Brooklyn Museum over a painting of “The Black Madonna” executed in elephant dung, in a bid to rally blue-collar support for his anticipated 2000 senate run against Clinton?) has never pointed his nasty little snout toward the celestial constellations either.  No, for an inspired bit of rubbish like that, it takes a real visionary.
Now, I was born in this country, so I am a U.S. citizen by birthright, but my mother confessed to me on her deathbed that I was conceived in a spaceship hovering in the sky above Roswell, NM, to which she had been transported after having been abducted while motoring between Albuquerque and Truth Or Consequences.
That explains why I can see through walls and fly.  But no matter, the point is that as an Alien-American I resent being singled out as a scapegoat in order to get votes.  Oh sure, take it from me, there are a lot of evil aliens who would like to suck up all our water and eat all the earth’s human inhabitants, but most of us are honest, tax paying citizens who just happen to prefer drinking beer through our noses.  It takes all kinds, right?
But bad as she is, Clinton is not capable of the kind of buffoonery manifested by her Republican counterparts, who have an even more bizarre voter base of lunatics to whom they must pander.  After apologizing to Mitt Romney for the seventeenth time, this time for saying that Mormon Church doctrine teaches that Jesus and Satan were brothers, Mike Huckabee qualified that pronouncement.  What he really meant to say was that they were only half-brothers, having been born of different mothers.  Romney, in the meantime, broke down and wept recounting the immense joy and relief he felt in 1978, when church doctrine was changed to permit black men to become Mormon priests.
Whom would a ruling like this affect?  Maybe one guy, because if I recall correctly, Mormon theology used to condemn black people as the direct descendants of the evil Cain, who murdered his brother with a club.  I remember many years ago having breakfast in a diner in Salt Lake City on Easter morning.  The place happened to be situated right across the street from the immense Mormon Tabernacle, and I had the good fortune to be there just when the service let out and the beautiful, blonde, beatific elite of the Mormon community streamed out into the sunlight, framed by the magnificent church and surrounding snow-capped mountains, and not a black face among them.
But no matter.  At least I resisted the temptation to refer to these eminent Republicans as Mutt Romney and Mike Schmuckabee!
This year the African-Americans have their own champion in the electoral war, mounted on an ebony charger to do combat for progressive causes.  Barack Obama represents not only people of color and the Rainbow Coalition, but, politics being what it is, he’s also charging forward with the blessing of the large corporate interests who normally fund Republican candidates.  After eight years of blundering Republican misrule which resulted in our currency becoming the laughing stock of the world (The New York Times recounted an anecdote of an American woman in Morocco offering a dollar to a beggar who scornfully declined it as being worthless and asked for some “real money”.  Ouch, when mendicants in the Kasbah throw your money in your face, that hurts!), the corporate interests have hedged their bets and are supporting Obama in the hope of derailing Clinton.  How else to explain the enthusiastic coverage being given him by such phalangist organs as The New York Post and The New York Sun?
Obama, who began his campaign in a positive tenor with the realistic goal of increasing his stature so that he could hopefully cash in at a later date, has of late become aggressively insulting and nasty to Clinton, egged on, surely, by the false advice of his handlers, who are undoubtedly benefiting from corporate largess for their part in this Shakespearean drama reminiscent of Othello.  They are telling him that he actually stands a realistic chance of winning the nomination.  What he is actually doing is driving a wedge in the Democratic coalition of blacks and liberal whites.
Obama reminds me of the old boxing story of Depression-era Italian fighter Primo Carnera, who was a mountain of a man but totally unskilled as a boxer.  He was brought over to this country and matched against opponents who were paid to take a fall.  Sports writers were paid to promote Carnera as unbeatable.  After enough pressure had built up, his handlers set up a match between him and Max Baer, who was a mad dog, who had already killed two men in the ring. This time they didn’t pay Baer to lose, but instead bet the farm on him.  Naturally, he demolished their tomato can, making everybody rich except Carnera, who hadn’t been let in on the gag.  Pretty funny!
Is Barack Obama the new Tomato Can of politics?  Is he a Trojan Horse set up to be knocked down, the same way Hillary Clinton set up me and all the other space aliens living peaceably in this great nation?  Let the American voters in their infinite collective wisdom decide.
Don’t ask me.  I don’t know any more than any other extraterrestrial freak trying to survive in New York.  I live by the doctrine enunciated by Hillary Clinton’s future ex-husband, Whatsisname.  Only I changed it.  Now it’s called Don’t Ask/Don’t Know.

School of Rock - Zappa is the King

You have to stand up for what you believe in, or whatıs the point of living in America?  My opinions are always getting me in trouble because Iım comfortable finding my sources in places that are off the beaten track or that are out of fashion.  

A couple of weeks ago, while I was cruising my favorite web site, Fan Nation, for the latest sports updates and opinion, I ran across a blog which had nothing about sports.  It was a compendium of the worldıs greatest rock guitarists.  Hendrix came in first and then Jimmy Page blah blah blah.  

So me, like a schmuck, I decided to contribute my two cents.  I wrote, ³What about Frank Zappa?²  Because aside from all his other monster talents, Zappa could play the guitar like a screaming banshee from hell.  
Well, the guy came back at me like a hammer.  ³Zappa, ugh!  Get over it!² he wrote.  
I responded to him something along the lines of ³You donıt know dick about rock nı roll,² and I let it go at that.  

So, yesterday while I was perusing my favorite piece of tabloid fish wrapping, The New York Post, I came across a feature about Paul Green, whose school for teaching little kids how to play rock nı roll was the inspiration for the hit movie ³School Of Rock,² starring Jack Black.  When they asked Green ³What are your favorite bands to use for class?² this is what he had to say:   ³Frank Zappa is a very good teaching tool.  Itıs kind of a one-stop shop for different ideas.  Within that band is funk and jazz and rock and reggae, and the modes and odd-time signatures.  Plus lots of different kinds of singing.  Itıs pretty much 95 percent of everything [the kids] will need to know.²  

This is the professor talking, not me.  Zappa was a wide-open compendium of rock culture, encompassing every kind of genre from garage band to the ultra-sophisticated neo-classical symphonic orchestrations of Edgar Varèse, with the electronic effects of Karlheinz Stockhausen thrown in.  His symphony, ³200 Motels,² managed to incorporate such disparate elements as symphonic strings and knee-slapping hick cowboy music.  

Zappa was also an incomparable comedy writer.  His lyrics and on-stage comedy antics were the rock equivalent of The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers combined.  For readers inclined to bend their minds a little, I recommend ³Frank Zappa Live At The Fillmore East,² which recounts the struggle of a traveling rock band to introduce a live shark into the nether regions of a bunch of groupies.  For virtuoso guitar funk, you neednıt travel any farther than the album ³Hot Rats,² recorded forty years ago, which will definitely shut down any debate about who is the greatest rock guitar player of all time.   Zappa was acutely affected by the political hypocrisy and Republican double-dealing of the Vietnam war and Watergate, and his hostility to Republicans eventually landed him in bad trouble with the Reagan administration, which he lampooned mercilessly in his stage act.  He considered the Republicans to be no better than bottom-feeding swamp things, and the vindictive revenge of succeeding Republican administrations effectively excised him from the American culture of succeeding generations, which explains the hostility directed towards him by my Fan Nation interlocutor.   But when all these Republican creeps are gone and forgotten, Frank Zappaıs genius will ensure him a place of prominence in our classical heritage. 


© Dean Borok December 21st2007

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