genius to bacon

One is lauded for wrapping abstractions into pop culture popcorn references, imposing the sense of humor of a precocious adolescent on complex themes such as love and existence. Yet, much to his credit, one could never accuse him of being pretentious. The grim reaper playing chess, Max Von Sydow’s baritone voice- C’mon…! What’s he trying to pull on us?!  Give me marijuana comedy and Star Wars innuendo. And bacon….”

 

by jason martin

 

Genius: 1) an attendant spirit of a person or place
2) a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude

Bacon: 1) a side of a pig cured and smoked.
2) Bacon, Nathaniel 1647-1676 American colonial leader led short-lived uprising in Virginia known as Bacon’s Rebellion

Marlon Brando– Beauty to bacon.
Elvis Presley– The ultimate American metaphor. (Bacon)
Orson Welles as Quinlan in dialogue with Marlene Dietrich as Tanya in “A Touch of Evil”:

Quinlan: Have you forgotten your old friend, hmm?
Tanya: I told you we were closed.
Quinlan: I’m Hank Quinlan.
Tanya: I didn’t recognize you. You should lay off those candy bars.
Quinlan: It’s either the candy or the hooch. I must say, I wish it was your chili I was gettin’ fat on. Anyway, you’re sure lookin’ good.
Tanya: You’re a mess, honey.
Quinlan: Yeah. (Bacon)

Ernest Hemingway- “We do not have great writers. Something happens to our good writers at a certain age … You see we make our writers into something very strange. … We destroy them in many ways.” (Blasted his head into bacon bits.)

These are just a few examples of American beauty fallen prey to a certain uniquely American phenomenon. Early, preternatural success- achievement is the American Kiss of Death. Many self-destruct but this is less a personal destruction as much as a mutual alienation.

Americans like their geniuses imported now. Or to dwell in the margins. Aesthetic anti-heroes.

Genius to Mole:
Thomas Pynchon, (underground)
J.D. Salinger,
(underground)
Terrence Malick-
(predominantly underground)

Harmony Korine. What do we about him? He does not receive reviews of his films as much as his intentions. It is the pretense of the director that is condemned. His aspirations are put on trial. What is he trying to pull on us? Pretense is worse than incest in American art. Yet this alienation by the establishment serves to reinforce iconoclast status. No, Korine doesn’t possess the genius of Orson Welles but he might be doomed to his fate (Bacon) if his work ever becomes universal enough to win over the mainstream. Because, as soon as he makes the next miasmic installment in his carnival oeuvre the mainstream will throw him back into the underground like a three-eyed fish. When he turns on his flashlight his friends have already left. Let us not pity him. After all we have…

Kevin Smith vs. Ingmar Bergman-
One is lauded for wrapping abstractions into pop culture popcorn references, imposing the sense of humor of a precocious adolescent on complex themes such as love and existence. Yet, much to his credit, one could never accuse him of being pretentious. The grim reaper playing chess, Max Von Sydow’s baritone voice- C’mon…! What’s he trying to pull on us?! Give me marijuana comedy and Star Wars innuendo. And bacon.

The handicapped, the junkie, the thug.
We admire those that dwell in the margins- that act irrationally and smile through it. If it cannot be pop culture ontology then give us the warped kids that seeped the cracks of society as long as it represents waste, we accept it. As long as it degrades existence, trivializes love, reduces our capacity for greatness we love it. It is real. No one is trying to pull anything. Look into Todd Solondz’ mirror and remember that High School was hard. The suburbs are mephitic. People look ugly when they masturbate and calling a girl is really hard. It’s all familiar and sustaining. Like a laugh track.

European artists are nourished/nurtured. In America artists are sentenced to the underground for pretentious aspirations and false moves. The artist prefers this to “selling-out” of course; mass appeal is a frightening thought in a land where “Survivor” is a national phenomenon. No one tries to pull anything on Survivor.

Van Velvet Underground Gough (Give me bacon or give me death!)
Nick Drake
Gram Parsons
Basquiat

Ideally, in America, you will toil in obscurity, then die, and then your genius may be recognized too late for you to live in it. (See John Lurie’s Marvin Cadillac bio at Strange and beautiful.com) A nice example is Jean-Michel Basquiat, a talented painter and charismatic epochal figure. His premature death has led to the inevitable American process of martyred mythology and subsequent comparisons to Van Gough- the ultimate painter/martyr. Categorically absurd. Basquiat never had his chance to become bacon.

Indie Rock Insulation-

Here are the young men, a weight on their shoulders
Here are the young men, well where have they been
We knocked on doors of hell’s darker chambers
Pushed to the limits, we dragged ourselves in

If you listened to a Joy Division album in a dark room for 34 consecutive hours and knew, really knew, that there was no one looking out for you, you understand now that Ian also knew. Dead at twenty-three, a legacy of empty, unfulfilled space, but dripping with precocity, unrealized potential like raw energy, like electricity gone amok, is powerful enough to twist your memory banks. And spawn archeologists of obscurity, archivists of pathos. “I have a great record collection.” Recondite recordings. I am the culture I collect. These records speak for me. And when I have something to say I speak about them. And through them. “Let me play you somethin’…” I hope you’ve never heard of it and if you have we’ll smile at each other and know that we both spent those 34 hours in the dark, in our room, and we can pretend we are lonely 14 again and the world, oh lo, the world! Ian! (Never had the chance to become bacon.)

Billy Excorrigan
David Pajo, Papa M, an “Indie rocker” as he is known sometimes, with ties to Tortoise, Slint, and others (Slint is obscure enough to score you 7 points in a conversation- not great.) has formed a band with singer Billy Corrigan and is being excoriated on his own website as a traitor and a whore. A Judas of the marginalized geek set. With the horrific exposure of residual Smashed Pumpkin Light, other, more evil people might learn his name and the precarious intimate balance of the Indie rock world will tilt- upset. Esoteric meters sink.

Corrigan brings with him the curse of recognition. The potential for bacon. Your only safeguard against this success is irony.

McSweeneys- Not great, but clever! Like an Indian reservation full of Indians performing rituals of the past with Steve Martin arrows’ through their heads, look out your tee-pee. You can see clearly that the McSweeny’s circle is making the traditional movements of the rain dance, all the gestures, but the arrow, you see, the arrow shows that they are safe. They aren’t really trying. One can cloak creative insecurities and inadequacies in irony. An old village elder wanders out from his tee-pee to see, what’s with all the giggling? This is supposed to be a ceremony. Laughter sure, but this baleful chief hears weird frequencies. The din of smart asses and the soft click of winks, myriad winks, because saying your great and not really meaning it, saying it and then winking, is so much more amusing than actually being great. No one can accuse you of trying to pull anything. And you could never be truly hated- only despised; by those that sense this lack of greatness, or the unwillingness to try-and besides lovers of greatness are so few these days.

Bacon though, everyone loves bacon.

 

Originally published:
Issue Twenty
June 2002

 


Jason Martin’s work has appeared in Alt-X, Hubris Magazine, Ventilator Magazine and others.

 

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