by RIP RENSE
sitting here on a nondescript Tuesday---another one of those Tuesdays
that seem to come every week, unless you live in Mexico, where they are
Martes-es---with the ghost of Frank Zappa. Frank visits every time I
need to be reminded that the world is full of shit, and people are grubby
little greed-mongers hung up on self-aggrandisement and cheap gratification.
We are listening to
“Andy,” Frank and I, from the last Mothers of Invention album, “One Size
Fits All.” I have cranked “Andy” way the hell up because once, when I told
Frank how much I liked it, his eyebrows went up and he said, “I love
Yes, it’s a beautiful
work, “Andy,” with jagged, improbable rhythmic juxtapositions (what else is
new in Zappa music?) and nuclear lyricism; built of a number of madcap,
wildly different sections that somehow seem just right for each other.
Careening melodies. It’s almost a mini-suite, really, punctuated by the
antic vocals of the late, great Johnny “Guitar” Watson.
This is about as far away
from “commercial,” of course, as commercial gets, such is the originality
and brilliance and goofiness and sheer inspiration. There is not another
musician or composer alive or dead who ever even conceived of such music.
You should rush right out and get it.
So Frank’s ghost is
sitting in the chair next to me, legs crossed, foot twitching in time to
the music, smoking a Winston. He’s nodding slightly, not speaking. Ghosts
don’t speak much, at least in my experience. He’s just giving me the eye,
one eyebrow slightly raised, as he did in real life, the eye that says “fuck
‘em and keep on doing your work.”
And now, as the music
ends, he’s gone. But the melody lingers on.
“One Size Fits All.” Ha.
What a title. Zappa knew so much, saw through so much, saw the chicanery and
artifice and cunning clearly. Probably why we hit it off. I’ve got a look in
my eye, too, you see.
And I had a little
“One Size Fits All” experience just now, in fact. Ran right up against the
marketing/demographic Great Wall of Greed. The money machine. I’ve had a million such
experiences, really, and I don’t usually talk about them the way you don’t
talk about an illness, or having one leg, or why you got fired. You know,
it’s a longgggg story and all that. And it’s depressing.
But what’s funny is that
this has to do with my “Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity” (LTSEWH)
series of columns, which I started writing in 1994 or ’95 for the L.A.
Slimes, then continued for the creepy website, World Net Daily, then the
magnificent Rip Post.
Ever read ‘em? Well,
if you are a thinking, sentient person who has noticed the decline in
civility, sanity, efficiency around you, and the attendant rise of
narcissism, incompetence, and gimmegimme, you should read them. They’ll make you
laugh. Print them out and take them with you to the bathroom, when you’re
irregular. They’ll clean you right out.
They’re in my
archive, of course, at least some of them. They
always get oodles of e-mail, and when they ran in the Slimes years ago, they
got oodles of U.S. mail (which a bitch secretary refused to forward to me,
saying “I can put it in a box and you can come and get it.”)
Well, here’s the deal. I
sent a pitch for an LTSEWH book, which I have written at great effort, to an agent. A bigtime hotshot kingshit agent. Bad idea! Here is the salient portion of the
agent’s chin-stroking response.
“I'm not convinced that a
collection of such columns would add up to a commercial mainstream success,
especially since you're not a nationally syndicated columnist or well-known
humorist/comedian. Basically, from an agent's standpoint, it's more about an
author's platform and marketing clout than literary content, however funny
Now this is one hell of
an LTSEWH unto itself, eh? I mean, the guy must be psychic, as he never
even looked at the manuscript! Wait. . .wait. . .I hear "Andy" again:
"Is there anything
good inside of you?
If there is, I
really want to know. . ."
I am always surprised
at how people are never ashamed to be caricatures of themselves;
mockeries of their professions. Here is a translation of the above: “Rip, if
you were famous, I would publish this, because there would be money in it
for me. But seeing as you are not, the content and quality mean less than
Thirty-two years in the
business, bylines in most major papers and many magazines---it all means
nothing. I mean really---absolutely nothing. It was waste of time and
energy. I was duped into thinking otherwise, that I could write
articles/profiles/interviews/columns that mattered, and that would “make
people happy,” and “make people think,” and improve the lot of humanity.
Never mind the lousy pay!
Can you say. . .chump?
No, Agentmannequin, I’m
not a columnist, for which I largely thank the Slimes, which once offered me
a column, and then rescinded the offer because, and I quote a particular
female editormannequin who still works there, earning well over a hundred
grand a year, “we have too many white male columnists here.”
No, Agentmannequin, I’m
not a comedian, although frankly, I can think of no one around who has a
more laughably absurd life.
What’s really amazing here is that this vile creeping crud---let’s call him
Punchinello, just for um, fun---actually comes right out and says “I am a
jackass phoney pandering to lowest common denominator for a buck.” Here is
how he says it: “it’s more about an author’s platform and marketing clout
than literary content, however funny and entertaining.”
One size fits all, see?
. .marketing clout. . .All that demographic buzzword bullshit. All
that formulaic, soulless crap. Punchinello is so locked into moneythink that
he says outright that “literary content, however funny and entertaining,” is not important. And remember again: Punchinello
never even read
Oh, well. Why bother
anymore. I can’t get published because I’m not famous. I’m not famous
because I can’t get published. The snake eats itself, and vomits. If I led
cops on a high-speed car chase, or recorded a rap album about raping “ho’s,”
or danced naked at a Bush press conference, I’d be famous and could get
published. But all I do is write fairly well.
I hear "Andy" again:
"Do you know what I'm really
Is it something that you
Another song on that
Zappa album, by the way, is called “Sofa,” which is a kind of love song, and
includes the line, “I am here, and you are my sofa.” Yes, the hallowed,
coveted, American sofa, the emblem of all American Dream tush-cushiness. Can
Punchinello make a nice sofa out of my manuscript? No, because no one has
ever heard of my sofa.
So everything has become
a sofa, just part of the massive entertainment/marketing juggernaut
rampaging in through your plasma TV. (An apt term for a bloodsucking
device.) All is sofa reality in this country, and most everyone in it has
become “Po-Jama People,” the title of yet another fine song on this grand Zappa
album, which includes these wonderful, wonderful lines:
The Po-Jama People are
boring me to pieces
They make me feel like I
am wastin’ my time
They all got flannel up
and down ‘em
A little trapdoor back
And some cozy little
footies on their minds.
(Footies stamped with
Chanel, of course, just in case the owners haven’t proudly stamped Chanel
right on their asses.)
marketing, power—it’s mass-Murdoched every aspect of culture and politics.
It’s as big as the sky. Meanwhile, pinhead infantile America rages at the
“commies,” the “socialists,” the “terrorists,” the "godless," plugs into the
big Daily Newsboggle on Fox and CNN, while all the while being spiritually
raped and sucked dry of cash and the power to think and express.
No, no, I’m not
overreacting based on one little incident. I am just too careworn and
weatherbeaten to make the case with any passion or illustration anymore.
It’s in just about every column I’ve written, anyhow, one way or another.
So the fix is in, the
game is rigged. Doesn’t matter what you write, how good it is. If I were
black or latino or Asian---or a little bit Asian, you know, so I could add a
cool Asian middle-name to my own---I would have had the columnist job
at the Slimes years ago. And if I were a famous “humorist,” Punchinello
would have scooped my book up, even if it were covered in excrement and
maggots at the bottom of a dumpster. With his teeth.
One hilarious irony here
is that this is all an ideal LTSEWH (you should see what I wrote to
Punchinello!) but I just don’t have the will or interest or wit to bother to
frame it amusingly for you.
So I sit here instead,
comforting a couple of cats who are terrified by the roofers hammering and
pouring carcinogenic tar over our heads, lucky enough to have shared a small
moment with the ghost of good old Frank, one of the greatest thinkers and
creators of the 20th century.
I love “Andy.”
BACK TO PAGE ONE