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Category: Similes

Similes: Failed Heroes


He is summoned…by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist. – Thomas Pynchon, “A Review of Oakley Hall’s Warlock”

 

Joe Paterno left in disgrace last November after 46 years from his position as head coach of the Penn State football team when allegations surfaced that he had knowledge of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual involvement with multiple children. Mike McQueary, one of Paterno’s assistants, went to Paterno in 2002 after witnessing Sandusky in the shower with a child. Recently, Paterno recounted that conversation he had with McQueary:

You know, he didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.

Francesco Schettino, captain of the now-sunk Costa Concordia, has been criticized for leaving his sinking cruise ship before all passengers had been evacuated. When asked why he left early Schettino said:

I was helping some passengers put the life boat to sea. At a certain point the mechanism for lowering it, blocked. We had to force it. Suddenly the system unblocked itself and I tripped and I found myself inside the life boat with a number of passengers.

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Similes: Vertigo, Velvet Underground, and Rape?

I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning. – Andy Warhol

This:

The symbol has become so identified with The Velvet Underground…that members of the public, and particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognize the banana design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground.” – Quoted from documents re: The Velvet Underground v. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Velvet Underground alleges that the AWF is getting rich at their expense by reproducing the famous VU banana image on iPhone covers (via: NY Post)

That:

It is morally wrong for the artistry of our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what they were intended.” – Actress Kim Novak, after discovering the film The Artist had licensed portions of the Vertigo score for its own use (via: Daily Mail)

Vertigo was released in 1958, Velvet Underground’s first album in 1967. It feels wrong when an artist tells you what a piece of artwork represents. It feels worse when people claiming to be speaking for the artist tell you what a piece of artwork represents.

I do know two things:

  1. When someone argues against a dead artist, the dead artist always wins.
  2. When someone argues for a dead artist, assume the dead artist disagrees.

 

 

Similes: Jazz Rock

Then:

“Yet Gaucho is more than a good laugh or a twinge of recognition. If you leave a question hanging long enough, it becomes practically metaphysical. (Are you with me, Dr. Wu?) And that’s a loophole big enough to let the angels in.” – Rolling Stone review of Steely Dan’s Gaucho

Now:

“His understated humor is intact, but Kaputt is no joke. It would be far too easy for Bejar to simply poke fun at so many swishy synths, lounge-lizard inflections, and cruise-ship bass lines, but he does something much tougher here. He redeems them” – Pitchfork review of Destroyer’s Kaputt

Nearly every review of Kaputt devotes at least a paragraph to assuring readers of the album’s sincere post-ironic stance: it’s ok to smirk, but know that they’re serious. Many reviewers celebrate the cool sincerity of Destroyer’s appropriation of saxophones and synths from the smooth jazz-rock loving era of the early 80s: “Here, Dan [Bejar] just sounds carefree; like he just doesn’t care. What makes this album amazing is that he really doesn’t…It is a mighty, mighty piece of work and really worth celebrating.” And we’re ok with this. After all, this is the so-called era of Retromania–everything old is new again because nothing “new” is being created.

However, what strikes me is that even in 1981, Ariel Swartley, who reviewed Gaucho for Rolling Stone, was clearly aware that Steely Dan were not only more than just the sum of their pop, jazz, and rock idioms, they were remarkably self-conscious. In other words, we tend to laugh at Steely Dan because we assume from our 21st century, Retromania-enlightened position that they are being unknowingly earnest–which, let’s face it, unknowing earnestness can be hilarious. Steely Dan were creating something new by consciously appropriating and combining ridiculous riffs and sounds, and their success lies in their ability to use those sounds to create a space between irony and earnestness by, as Swartley contends, perfecting the “aesthetic of the tease.” Unintelligible lyrics, saxophone solos, “potentially passionate outbursts,” all serve to create an atmosphere of paranoiac (un)meaning. Are they serious? Are they joking? Sometimes it’s just easier to laugh than to understand.

Steely Dan and Destroyer are asking you to do both. Understand that they’re winking, but understand that they’re completely serious.

Similes: The Bonus Army and The Veterans For Peace

Then:
The Bonus Marchers, believing the troops were marching in their honor, cheered the troops until Patton ordered the cavalry to charge them—an action which prompted the spectators to yell, “Shame! Shame!”

Now:
Police appear to clash with peacefully protesting veterans from Veterans For Peace, an organization of U.S. military veterans who oppose war. The veterans’ flags, including the American flag, also appear to be thrown to the ground. All the while, the veterans chant: “We are the veterans of the United States of America” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!”