Same as It Ever Was
Same as it ever was, same as it EVER was…
The thing about death, is that you cannot entirely die from it -- If people are still talking about you.
The Bold, may mistakenly become rock stars, perhaps unwitting (when they die), that the world was actually ending.
People used to bring flowers to the graves of long passed loved ones, grand-parents, Elvis and such, buried long in graveyards. cut splays droop in the heat, as a custodian tosses hundreds of rancid bouquets into the trash. Today we bring flowers, pictures, protest banners and candles to makeshift vigils for those shot in schools, grocery stores, and concert venues.
Today, we remember the fallen, taken too soon by racists, maniacs, and broken teens weened on porn, processed food, Red-Bulls, Rock-Stars and first person shooter games.
Today we recognize political protest movements as nothing more than a gathering of untapped potential -- Like a street fair, a concert event -- lolla-fucking-palooza. We wave a banner, don a charged up T-shirt, shot-gun a half dozen piss warm beers, and march around taking awkward queues from two or three people who've read the news, and then we go home and sleep it off.
Although David Byrne would later refer to “Wartime” as a loose memoir about living in alphabet city, — “Life During Wartime” commemorates what many listeners consider context for a middle-class apocalypse. A clear analog for humanity’s ritual homicide -- “Wartime” captures the context of a changed urban landscape, where surreality shifts from comfortable consumerism to simple survival. A napkin sketch of human-kind's ongoing fascination with destruction — Cautiously, distrustingly on the vanguard of an insurgency.
As kids, we’d practice cowering under desks well before “active shooter” became a thing — A child's macabre preparation for that ultimate shit-storm of nuclear winter. Every cold war kid was trained to imagine themselves humming nervously, crossed-legged beneath one’s desk — followed by a brief flashing X-ray of small bones, before our bodies vaporized snugly below chrome, melamine, and melted chewing-gum.
I could count my age on two hands, when "Life During Wartime" began to play on the radio. I recall it playing from the Zenith Kitchen radio as I dissolved a packet of Kool-Aid into a cancerous plastic pitcher, pouring tepid July tap-water into Tupperware. "Where does that Highway Lead to?" ...Melting granulated sugar with red dye number 5, watching pale powder, turn deep crimson. Kool-Aid coated the corners before bubbling bright red staining upward into a froth.
Just like Wartime.
"Got some groceries, some peanut butter, but I -- Ain't got no records to play".
Well before MTV, We watched Cartoons, and Cronkite, as blood spilled only occasionally on TV, (always someplace else), while a soundtrack by cultural heroes named David kept time. David Byrne, David Bowie, David Gilmour… filled in all the gaps glazed-over by TV news. With 'the Davids', we’d soon become more watchful, mindful, mournful, maudlin.
When I first heard Life During Wartime, I understood that things would change with age. I knew right away that becoming an adult meant I’d need to pay attention to such things, (even the news), and then I stopped stirring Kool-Aid twisted the ice-cube tray, and hummed, before the song changed to something aloof by Eddie Rabbit.
We dwell in a snow-globe, a sealed bubble where tiny figures with weighted lungs, struggle in silent scuba flitting about through downy ash in slow motion, unable to escape heavy gravity.
When we bother to tune into the drama, an oppressive atmosphere cloaks us, connects us, and prevents our free movement. Within this liquid biome, we consider our weight as war stories slow our timeline to a stand-still. Shooters now punctuate our weeks with Silence and outrage, of what we've come to accept as normal. With nothing more to consider than the name of some small town nobody's ever heard of -- Before gunshots rang out. Then there is the piercing ringing, of explosions.
An atom bomb to a soundtrack of Rage, and Punk Rock. In my youth the end game was nearly never a shooting.
Our lungs contract before we capture our first charred breath of the new air, and the smell of burnt hair. We are all complicit in allowing this new wartime to unfold, because we teach it every day. We no longer aspire to anything more than stuff, screen-time, and virtual notoriety. Momentary mute anguish betrays the strange context of our bullshit hindsight. We've enabled this plague of hatred as a generation of Love gave way to callous conceit. It's noteworthy that we were always well behind the enlightened child who saw it all coming. The meek kid who communed with trees, rocks and butterflies, and who knew that so and so, was up to something shitty. It is precisely our confinement to our homes, ourselves, and our planet that's capped our ability to imagine anything more important than the self. Our shared experience which makes us human, has also hit a technical ceiling. We've run out of cloud storage -- Run out of space to express oneself in any way other than Online.
Nobody eats a meal without snapping a photo first.
No one enjoys a moment without comparing it to another's.
No human who is loved shoots people.
But do we really need to share the same world with psychopaths?
Our collective life during wartime, may seem a stale rerun. Being baptized by fire, pandemic, or a hateful shooting does not bring out the best in people. The adage "whatever doesn't kill you..." is an absurd nursery-rhyme scripted by those still sporting 1950's nostalgic machismo.
The Greatest Generation (the one which convinced every American male to resolve disputes with a bullet) has been long buried, along with their infantile fantasies of Bomber-Jacket Super-hero's. Their legacy however, left in its wake, the Bronson-esque bravado of a billion guns. What fantasy fiction remains of your granddad's rusty rifle, wears a catheter bag in a Hogan's Hero re-run sponsored by Geritol. Today, we can be proud of the past thirty years only because we managed not to blow ourselves up yet. The joke is that the cold war was also led with the same exuberant blunt instrument. The leading strategy for conflict resolution -- "bullet or bomb", became 80's religion to keep the masses in line. When our fright finally shifted from fear-mongering about Bombs and Bullets to Pandemic, neither bullet nor bomb became back-seated. We simply swallowed a full mouth-full of madness, and stocked up on N95's, Bullets, and Sniper Rifles.
It is our unshakable connectedness in misery at times of crisis which makes us less well equipped to make good judgements. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you more likely to give up and suffer an existential mind-fuck. In the Eighties, when fear, loathing, and recession took a good person with it -- at least it was a quiet suicide. Write a note, and pick your poison.
In Highschool, playing 8 bit video games, Eight of my friend's Dads took their own life. Quiet and ashamed... None of them tried to take anyone with them.
Today, the latest first person shooter Game is writ live by broken humans in small towns, as cowards spend their "final life" in a rageful suicide by cop. This is our new life during wartime.
As for my ten-year-old brain's inability to imagine what life during wartime feels like, I knew for certain that fear and the sense of being wholly changed would never leave anyone baptized by bullets and bombs.
In my cold war youth, (living under oppressive recession, failed middle-class aspirations, widespread layoffs, factory closures, and rampant suicide) -- I came to know that every day may be my final moment. The unknowing of which made me a piss-poor planner, a worse saver, and anything but a morning person.
It wasn’t until ’84 when watching "Wartime" performed in "Stop Making Sense", would resolve two better perspectives: 1. A far better sense of what it meant to share our snow-globe with some truly talented and some truly evil fuckers. 2. Preparations for the apocalypse would be punctuated with Punk Rock to get a handle upon the color shift of a globe evolving from black-and-white, to technicolor, and then to gray.
"...And you may ask yourself.. How do I work this?
Sewn into the seams of my messed up youth, will always be this awkward art school geek standing, shaking, wiggling, trying like a four year-old in a horror film to wake his dumb-ass parents. They “just don’t fucking understand!” There is a Hush, of complacent comfort, of smug solace, and then the globe shatters, liquid spills from mute ears, and we hear loudly the shots, or the screaming in-bound missile.
So..., what’s about to land? — because it’s quiet now, and it's calm — As the spring breeze blows, a dog whimpers, and then… BAM! the bomb kisses the earth, and a millennial wartime struggle ensues.
There will always be War, as well as the peaceful geek who is “tapped-in” -- And this one kid knows what you are clearly missing, Overlooking, Are too stupid to notice. Being marginalized is part of the human experience, and your digital world is not full of human beings, but robots.
LOOK, MOM, DAD… the thing is… we kids have an actual idea how this goes down, and it doesn’t end well for the unadaptable. Oh, and by the way, you may want to duck right-the-fuck-now; As stray shrapnel and mid-caliber metal riddles the stillness, all with a laugh-track, whilst you watch YouTube.
As “End of Days” soundtracks lent meaningful context to my fucked up youth, I emerged in the world wholly unprepared for digital hijack. I feel it is OK to tap one point. Your digital meta-verse, has one glaring red flaw, which Andy Warhol may have also promoted. Wherever he heard it first..., "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" became (a)merican entitlement -- But this surely is not your fucking birthright.
Ever since the 80's, the digital world has taught humans to claw their way up the belt of some moving walkway, promoting the promise of (P)opularity for EVERYONE. Even if your mom didn't groom you for beauty pageants, and even if you were never popular in school; your meta-verse seemed to promise you a shot. Quick math reveals that most of you poor fuckers will need to sit on your hands, because there are not enough minutes in the day for every bench-warmer to feel special. We are not only out of cloud storage, and I.P. addresses, ...but we are also out of time.
You are simply not entitled to becoming famous. Not by your Instagram, Your Reddit post -- Not by your food photo, not by the pen, nor the sword, nor the bullet or bomb.
It is precisely when we feel entitled that we behave badly. It seems some internal clock ticks away, while others appear ahead of us on the meta-beltway, and so (when time seems to run out), we act badly. Whether it is for a lack of feeling special, or by false exceptionalism --This dead-end is what kills.
Punk rock, like D&D and other analog games, taught generations of disenfranchised kids to make believe for a bit. Whether slamming into each-other in the mosh pit, or re-inventing themselves as a fictional bad-ass, the fact that we the ordinary are mired in mediocrity, can be ameliorated with a touch of fiction. One can slam into a few hundred angry youth without bloodshed, without a single bullet, and without the fictional promise of punching above your pay-grade. It's OK to be ordinary, to feel un-entitled, and to rest a while offline.
It may be less important to tap the artist’s recollection of a song’s origin, and far more helpful to use great sound tracks for reflection as we would any classic poem, or painting — When pen hits paper it is generally the initial impact which becomes the full measure of meaning — And not the talk-show interview. Given a long enough time-scale, a great song will outlive whatever the artist told the press it meant in 1978.
Successful people don't share every nuance of their private lives in hopes that someone will pay them attention. Great artists don’t spoil their story recounting every detail -- But by sketching broad strokes styling a background often without an eraser, or edits. New applicants discover seemingly by mistake, that the rule book for human behavior is rife with rewrites and plagiarism. I've argued that there are far too many people on earth and far too few human beings. But I know for certain that becoming a human requires being present for yourself, and for others.
If "Life During Wartime", became an 'adultish' anthem for war-orientation, Then "Once in a Life-time" defines the malaise of three decades of America's blahs. "And you may ask yourself -- Where is that large automobile?"
As witness to four decades of American un-exceptionalism, we can confirm our pretense of world leadership, is at best trial and error.
David Byrne explained his lyrics for "Once in a Lifetime": denying that they address yuppie greed... He said this song was about the unconscious: (as adults) "We operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven't really stopped to ask ourselves, 'How did I get here?"
During your wartime life, you can actually die, and have no fucking idea how you got there, nor what the fuck just hit you, and then… it's silent -- So it's probably best to make an effort to become well remembered.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.