August 28, 2007

I’ve driven through every end of the state today.
Across little towns and empty fields just the same.
I dropped them off at the airport
And make my way back home

William Gedney, John Cage Picking Mushrooms, 1967

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"Bad financial paper, like rust, never sleeps.

"We may be in the traditional torpor zone of late summer when the whole nation takes off on vacation, but worms are still turning in the compost heaps of securitized alphabet debt (MBSs, CDOs, CLOs, et cetera) behind the glass banking towers in places like Wall Street, London, Frankfurt, and Shanghai, and the odor from all this garbage blowing 'round the world grows stronger by the day.

"Transfusions of loss-cover-loans from the Federal Reserve have enabled the The Big Fund Boyz to spend a last weekend or two rubbing elbows in the Hamptons with transcendent beings like Diddy and Kelly Ripa. The Boyz gather along the dunes at twilight, bongs in hand, to gaze at Hedge Fund Island, looming off-shore in the gray Atlantic mist, and they notice something alarming: the island, which the BFB's built themselves over the past ten years, seems to be either floating out to sea or perhaps just sinking!

"The scores of billions of dollars and euros that central banks have poured into the maw of losses lately will only paper over the essential problem for another few weeks, at most. The damage to global structured finance has been done, and it can be stated rather precisely: a widespread recognition that it's not possible to get something for nothing, after all. And that when you hold a lot of paper that was gotten for nothing, and put it up for sale, nothing will be offered for it. What a surprise.
"Reality is biting hard. As with the little marmot caught in the Gray Wolf's jaws of death, the body simply surrenders and God's grace of physical shock softens the translation from free-willed joyful creature to dead meat. That is where we are at here in the final days of August, 2007. Digestion follows. The Big Fund Boyz and all their minions will end up as mere worm castings in the aforementioned global compost heaps.

"Terrible shocks are going to rip through the socioeconomic fabric of the USA as we turn the corner past these late summer doldrums. The fiasco of bad debt won't be contained. The choices for those who find themselves financially underwater in the fall of 07 will be 1.) liquidation, 2.) bankruptcy, or 3.) destroy whatever remains of confidence in the US dollar in order to erase debt by hyperinflation. People holding power don't like the first two, which translate into Depression (let's make it capital 'D.') When a nation turns into a fire sale from sea to shining sea, and bankrupt citizens don't even have enough cash-on-hand to buy things desperately cheap -- well, that's a Depression. Everybody from Fed officials to news editors have favored the softer term 'recession' the past half century because it implies a mere pause in the inexorable march of progress toward economic nirvana. That's not what we're heading into.
"This is how America enters the Long Emergency -- in a Nascar rapture, with Jesus directing the pit crews and the Holy Ghost working the barbeque concession.

"I apologize for what has been a rather excessive spewage of mixed metaphors this week, but the extreme abnormality of events has just got me going. The bottom line, though, is simple and straightforward: things may appear normal for the moment, but we are heading into a shit-storm as sure as Sam Walton's descendents contracted to buy all the three-ringed loose-leaf binders made west of the international date line. America, you're about to go back to school the hard way."

* The world's most expensive desserts.

* From a 1996 interview of John Cale. excerpt:

Q: What was David Byrne like to work with on 'Crazy Egypt?'

Cale: We've known each other for a long time, and our daughters play together a lot. But I'd never been in a work situation with him. His studio persona is very calm. He made the whole mood of working better. I was really impressed. There wasn't very much said, but it was effective.

Q: Describe the last time you saw Warhol.

Cale: We were exercising. The old Factory had been changed into a carpet manufacturer, and there were a lot of rugs there. In the back he had notes of how many lifts and curls he had done. He used to do that every day, so he was strong as an ox. I did leg curls. He was on a bike. It was around the time my daughter was born, and I had stopped drinking and turned around my metabolism.

Q: Tell me something funny Warhol said.

Cale: I had this album [Honi Soit], and I said, 'I don't have a title, and I don't have a cover.' And he said [imitates Warhol], 'Oh... John. I'm very close friends with Yoko. Why don't you have your picture taken with Yoko and call it John and Yoko?'

Q: What happened with the Velvet Underground re-breakup?

Cale: Everybody had songs they wanted to do, so we did that, and I was like, 'Now let's do some new stuff.' But instead we got into nit-picking about the guitar part on this song or that, and it got inane. And the level of abuse that everyone had to take from Lou in the end was just abominable. There comes a point where he just wants it all. Whatever promises are made in the beginning are very quickly gone.

Q: With all the success that he's had, why can't he be more generous?

Cale: I have no idea. When I first met him, he was a very fragile individual and also very volatile. Any situation could go anywhere. There was a generous side to him when we first met, and I prefer to remember that. I couldn't have had a better guide to New York and to the underbelly as well.

Q: Victor Bockris' biography of Reed, Transformer, says that his parents tried to 'cure' him of some of his personality traits by having him undergo electroshock therapy. Do you think that's true?

Cale: I know it's true. Some of that book, I don't know how he got it. No one in the band participated—that was one of the terms of going out on tour. I think Lou has a certain problem with the truth. Ninety percent of that book is true.

QL You produced Patti Smith's first album, Horses.

Cale: We had great fights. Patti has a way of connecting in conversation by shadowboxing. One of the things I did when I got there was take away all of the band's instruments because they were all warped and out of tune. I spent the first day getting them all tuned, and then when they were in tune, the band sounded awful. So I got them all new instruments. I handed all these guys who were sensitive musicians completely new axes to do what they're used to doing. But the results were inestimably better.

Q: What do you make of kids these days?

Cale: The Beck generation? Fucking fantastic. Best thing to happen to rock in a long time. I turned on Top of the Pops one day and here's this guy loping around singing 'I'm a loser.' I was like, 'Where does this guy come from?' It worked in the way that rock and roll was supposed to work.

Q: What do you want your epitaph to be?

Cale: No talking in the library

* "I would just as soon play the music on the new album [Clear Spot] because when I see all those people out there taking acid to get into *my* music, then I don't want to play that kind of music. I don't want to make people think they've got to use some sort of elevation to get into what I do. If I did that, what kind of artist would I be? Just another phoney asshole." -- Captain Beefheart


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