taming of hicks in DC
Sunday, March 6 2005
This morning I was reading an article about DC's emerging Christian fundamentalist elite in the Washington Post. It seems that now that they hold the power in Washington, many of these folks have shelved their earlier, radical tendencies. No longer do they stock huge posters of mangled fœtuses to hold up at anti-abortion rallies. Some have even abandoned their tongue-talking, fire-breathing churches for the pompous civility of Episcopalianism (I kid you not!). Once they have nice houses and big mortgages and live in a real city, it becomes difficult to maintain the know-nothing provincialism that brought them and the people they work for into power to begin with. They can try living like backcountry hicks in DC, but before long they've actually met genuine homosexuals, they've tasted a little white wine at a (Christian) bookstore opening, and perhaps they've even eaten a little sushi by mistake. Before they're even aware, they're becoming - shudder - civilized!
This brings me back to my favorite example of this process: the Mongols who took over China in the 1200s. They came riding in on their horses, raping, pillaging, and not knowing much about a science book. In a few generations they'd been completely absorbed and China continued on as, well, China. That's the way China is; if (in its folly) the United States were to ever conquer China, the Chinese could relax in the knowledge that what was actually happening was the sinafication of the United States.
Similarly, though a grim band of retro-medievalists have taken over the seat of American power, the damage they're in the process of inflicting can only be maintained as long as they themselves remain uncivilized. Even as they destroy the art and institutions of American civilization, they themselves are absorbing the values and refinement of urban culture. They can't help but carry this back with them to the blighted villages and townships in which they grew up, and, being relatively influential in those areas, they might in turn increase the civility of those places.
One can at least hope.
For the past few days I've been including Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt" in my music rotation. I hadn't actually heard the original, so I downloaded and played it too, but only once. The version by Johnny Cash is far superior. It replaces Trent Reznor's snotty affectations with the craggy voice of authority, a man who actually knows one or two things about hurt. In this song, Cash's voice is strong, vulnerable, and occasionally even a little threatening, moving effortlessly between all three. The strain of age is clear in his voice, but it's perfect because it is so genuine. Conversely, Reznor's voice sounds like that of a spoiled rockstar painting yet again with that one emotional color he can reach on his palette.
While I'm comparing the two versions, it's important to mention that the strong-but-barren instrumentals in Cash's are also much more powerful than the annoying pseudo-industrial cacophony in Reznor's. Interestingly, the dynamics of the song are much less intense in the Cash version, but what little they are have a power greatly intensified by their nuance (and the way they interplay with similarly-subtle changes in Cash's voice). In the context of the musically-extreme world of today, this is a very difficult thing to achieve, and I have to commend the late Cash (as well as the not-so-late producers) for their virtuosic effort.
This evening Gretchen and I went out to eat Indian Food at the Curry House in Red Hook with a couple of friends, the ones who live in a customized house out on Lapla Road. We'd been to the Curry House once before for a rather mediocre meal, but Sunday night is buffet night, and buffets always have better food than non-buffets (mostly because they benefit from direct Darwinian selection pressure - you only get what you find yourself actually liking). The place was packed with a surprisingly diverse crowd of people and the food was delicious. Over the course of our meal we discussed many things ranging from Mr. Lapla's metal sculpture business (recently relocated to Port Ewen) to Ms. Lapla's job as a radio DJ.
I was also called upon at some point to paint a picture of the place I grew up, mostly by telling various "Josh Furr stories." The ones I told included "Pizza and Beer for the Black Man Next Door," "Squandering a Quarter Million Dollars Ain't Hard to Do," and everyone's favorite, "The Dead Man in the Concrete Bench."
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