How Much Thompson Do They Read In China?
I wanted to address a couple of comments left here over the past few days. Both of these come from good friends of Blind Confidential, Chairman Mal, who has been reading and sending along comments from nearly our start and the second by Leon Gilbert, editor par excellence, of Blind News.
I’ll start with the Chairman as his comment inspired the title of today’s post. Following the last Gonz Blinko entry, Chairman Mal wrote, “I am flattered that Blinko’s lawyer promised him an autographed poster of me for his birthday.” I have caught myself contemplating this statement since I first read it. I couldn’t decide whether or not to mention the thoughts it provoked so I waited a few days. Now, after sleeping on the matter a couple of nights, I felt that I really should respond.
I think that Chairman Mal, as a name, shows a bit of cleverness and creativity. Mal means “bad.” When I think of Chairman Mal, I think of terms like “bad boy,” “prankster” or someone who wants to make an interesting statement on current events by picking a name that sounds like a legendary dictator.
When I think of Chairman Mao, though, I remember things like the cultural revolution, books and essays by An Chi Min, friends who escaped his evil regime and others, millions of others, who perished due to his genocidal leadership. I don’t think of clever pranksters living in the land of Hippy Hollow, great live music, a billion cool bars, one of the best universities in the world and a culture that celebrates diversity. Chairman Mal is funny; Chairman Mao is tragic.
Austin may not have the same cool factor it did back in the days before Michael Dell and all of those other technology entrepreneurs made so many people so rich as to have moved them to a state where they cannot reach the heights of hip available in Austin back when they first arrived, young and broke. I’m not suggesting that coolness requires poverty as Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Depp have (or had) beaucoup bucks and raise the bar for coolness quite a few notches. These techno-millionaires, though, didn’t start out with a whole lot of cool and working around the clock to fuel the boom certainly didn’t help. Sure, Austin still has Hippy Hollow but, recent reports suggest that the place has been overrun by fat, rich, long haired millionaire nerds wandering around naked in hopes of finding a gold digging U. Texas cheerleader. In most other cities, these fellows understand that they should pay hookers for their sexual needs but Austin’s famous nude beach gives them a place to park their sports cars and romp wildly among other naked people. These geeks should probably, due to the visual impairments they might cause, never be permitted to remove all of their clothing, even at home.
Gonz Blinko, my HST inspired alter-ego, like Hunter himself, keeps photographs and effigies of people they detest. I think it has something to do with the masochist side of their paranoia. While the real Hunter S. Thompson kept a life sized Nixon doll in his living room, he didn’t do so to honor the man who had moved to the retired president’s home but, rather, as a reminder of the person who ended the hope and joy that Thompson enjoyed during the sixties. HST refers to the way Nixon caused the end, the crest of the wave of cool that broke in the California desert somewhere near Needles, Barstow or Mescaline Springs in both “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and in “Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail ’72.” Thus, it was no homage to Nixon to hang in Thompson’s home.
I chose the photo of Chairman Mao to replace Nixon because Mao, unlike Tricky Dick, had no redeeming qualities. Thus, the fear and loathing factor would increase due to presence of the picture and autograph. I also chose Mao because he and Nixon share a moment in history and one can hardly think of one without the other.
So, Mal, I think you’re a funny dude with some cool stuff to say but please don’t take pride in an association with Mao. A number of years ago, back when I lived in Cambridge, my friend Tom and I thought of publishing a collection of genocidal maniac, mass murderer and serial killer trading cards. Like the baseball cards we enjoyed as kids, we planned on putting the stats of each monster from Andrew Jackson to Stalin to Idi Amin to Saddam on the back of their card. The Chairman Mao would be to genocidal maniac collectables what the Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron is to baseball. Mao’s stats make Stalin, a man who once said, “kill one person, it’s a tragedy; kill a million, it’s a statistic,” puke. Hitler and Pol Pot, even in their darkest hours, never planned on killing anywhere the number of people as did Mao and his gang of four. The former Chinese dictator may have actually been the single most evil human ever.
Years ago, a really smart dude on the New York punk rock scene named Michael Bored (probably a pseudonym) had a couple of bands in succession. The first, called Art, featured the only punk tuba player and did their best to taunt a crowd of pretentious art school types and other hipsters who believed we had achieved cool because we had hair in colors that do not exist in nature and generally fell pretty far outside the white, upper middle class families and neighborhoods from which we emerged. When he had run the course with Art, he started his second act, called Artless.
The second band didn’t have the subtlety of the first as Michael realized that our crowd had grown so intensely self-congratulatory. The message he presented in Art, according to the CBGB gang, described posers and other “part time” or “soft” punks but didn’t include those of us who were “hardcore.” With Artless, Bored took off the velvet gloves and came directly at us. He attacked our politics and our naïve calls for an anarchist future. Michael would get up on stage and taunt us about our stereo systems, our comfortable childhood homes and our misplaced anger. One night, at Great Gildersleeves, when Artless opened up for some other act, I sat upstairs with some of the super hip who had permission to go up to the balcony area rather than just mingle with random riff raff from the suburbs. Bored started off the set with, “This song is dedicated to all of you left wing, anarchist, communist punk rockers, it’s called ‘How Much Punk Rock Do You Hear In Russia?!?”
At that point in my life, I thought about the super coolness of my friends and the scene of which I was an active member. I thought the dream of anarcho-syndicalism could be achieved in my lifetime. Then, Jell-O Biafra really drove the message of our naiveté home when he said, “If anarchism were imposed today, every redneck with a pick-up truck and shotgun would be playing king of the neighborhood.” Biafra and Bored were correct; we were in an ideological cloud that had no basis in reality.
Thus, the title of today’s article, addressed to my friend Chairman Mal, “How Much Thompson Do They Read In China?”
[Author’s Note: While on a trip to Amsterdam in the early eighties, I actually met a hardcore punk band from the then still active Soviet Union. They played at some club we hung out at and stayed in the same youth hostile as my crew. I don’t, however, think they planned on returning home for a long time.]
The second comment came this morning from Leon Gilbert, the man behind the Blind News email service. He writes, “In relation to one thing you've said here, I would like to point out, that the blind news @blindprogramming.com mailing list does not re-publish
any articles - whether from newspapers magazines or blogs. It's simply a ‘news-by-mail in plain text’ delivery service.” I apologize for misstating the concept behind Blind News, a service I rely on, read daily and enjoy very much. I also apologize to Leon if he thought I understated his efforts. Anyone who subscribes to Blind News can tell that assembling the daily mailings is far from a simple task. Leon has raised the action of finding news articles of interest to our community to a high art. I would have heard about the WebBraille controversy, I still read the Village Voice and New York Times so I would probably have stumbled across the Granny stories and, because, in spite of my refugee status, I still hear most of the gossip from within the AT biz, I would probably hear stories about screen readers and such anyway. I would not, however, ever read an article (unless some other person sent it to me) from publications in Nepal, Thousand Oaks California, the Poconos, Salem, Manila or any of the vast array of sources Leon includes in Blind News.
Leon Gilbert, through his efforts in BN, has been an invaluable member of the BC team since the day I subscribed and I will speak for both myself and our readers by saying that we are grateful for the time and effort he puts in to make BN such a great and comprehensive service. I would also like to commend Leon on having the good taste to include Blind Confidential as often as he does in the Blind News mailings (modesty will get me everywhere…).