Thursday, April 16

You Swing Like A Girl. Or So We've Heard.

Condimelda Rice, "My Weekend on Tiger's Trail". April 13 via Wonkette

FIRST, any day that begins with the headline:

Drinking Led To Sword Fight Death, Charges Filed

in your local paper, even if your local paper is the Indianapolis Racist Star, which could probably run something similar every day or two if it wished, is not a day to be boldly stared at across a small space, at least not without a lot more coffee than I've had by 7 AM. Perhaps, even, not without the same level of alcohol consumption which last weekend led Christopher Rondeau, 37, from intoxication to incarceration. Well, that and what were described, either in journalese or the court papers, or both, as, respectively, "a Japanese samurai-type" and a "Japanese sabre-style infantry" sword. Rondeau is being charged with murder in the death of his uncle, Adolf Stegbauer, 69, and with the reckless homicide death of Franziska Stegbauer, 77, Rondeau's grandmother, who tried to break up the fight, apparently without knowing the appropriate spells.

Plus I'm laboring under sleep deprivation brought on by a thirty-hour bout with computer glitchiness that turned into a full-fledged meltdown last night, though my NASAesque system redundancy seems to've saved the day, or stopped the bleeding. I'll let you know for sure after the full Nuke n' Pave on the internal hard drive.

I am, in fact, still transferring recent files--of which there are a lot, since I naturally was in the middle of a big project and had shit scattered everywhere--to their redundant redundancy location while typing with the other hand. But I couldn't bring myself to abandon Condimelda for one more day.

I'VE admitted, on these very internets, that my Poor Wife and I enjoy the PBS Lawrence Welk Show package, though just in case there's someone out there who could possibly misunderstand that, for "enjoy" read "very occasionally stare at in slack-jawed wonder for up to three minutes at a time, depending on how long ago we've eaten." It's a sort of perilous exercise in teevee anthropology for us, except it's the rare anthropologist who can't explain a single fucking thing about the strange alien culture he's immersed himself in.

But that's it; you consider, even briefly, that the elements in your very marrow are the product of the life and death cycles of not one, not two, but three stars, of a vastness of Spacetime beyond Vast, beyond even Rod Serling's or Gene Roddenberry's imaginations; that the remarkable, if not miraculous, chain of events which preceded the first stirrings of mammalian evolution on this planet took 3.5 billion years, give or take a billion; that hominid evolution can be measured back more than 4 million years, and our own genus over 2 million; that the odds of a particular sperm implanting itself in a particular egg are roughly one in 225 billion, that human beings speak 5-10,000 different languages, depending on who's counting, that everyone living on this continent came from somewhere else, and that if a lorry driver in New York c. 1926 had made a left turn rather than a right your grandfather and grandmother would never had met. It is beyond all reason that we find ourselves here at this very moment, or that doing so we speak more or less the same variant of proto-Indo-European filtered through Greek, Latin, Norman French, High German, and Old Frisian, just for starters, enough at least for purposes of misunderstanding. So how is it you can turn on the teevee and find people who might as well be from Mars?

I mean, you would not watch this program. You would not wear clothing in colors normally reserved for the sugariest of children's breakfast cereals. You would not listen to this stuff unless you had been trapped within earshot by falling boulders or a collapsing ceiling, and then only until you had finished gnawing your own arm off, and you certainly wouldn't dance to it under any circumstances, particularly if it meant abandoning your walker and oxygen bottle. In short, nothing about the program makes sense under any conceivable mental framework. Even Gene Roddenberry's. And it was on teevee for thirty years.

Not to mention it was hosted by a guy who was born in North Dakota, but who, seventy years later, still spoke English as though he'd been raised by wolves in the Black Forest and rescued scant months ago.

And the PBS packages, being PBS, have to cover the old commercial breaks, which they accomplish by bringing back such of the "Welk Stars" as are still able to follow a teleprompter and can be spared from Branson that week. This is not a crack, by the way; America's Entertainment Destination for people who do not actually care for entertainment includes a 160-room Welk Resort Hotel, and those 160 rooms include free Wi-Fi. And these "Welk Stars" are uniformly nauseatingly chipper, and not just in the mode of the professional "entertainer", mind you; they relate the stories of their post-show lives which, without exception, mix grandchildren, golf, and either "performing" at a Welk Theatre in Branson or San Diego, or just keeping in touch with other members of the "Welk Family", plus your choice of crushed corn flake or Durkee's™ french-fried onion crust. I suppose it's possible there's some former Family Member somewhere who drinks to excess and spouts off about what a cheapskate and bluenose his old boss really was. Sure, none would ever make it on camera. But when you watch the ones who do, the ones whose pasted-on smiles show no sign of disappearing the second the red light goes off, and you bet anyone who ever possessed a negative thought in his life would have jumped out a window by his second rehearsal surrounded by these mutants.

And here's the thing: let us, arguendo, take Mormons as the Whitest People on the Planet. And if I asked you to name five, excepting any who've been arrested for polygamy or child abduction, you'd likely say, "Mitt Romney, Ken Jennings, and three Osmonds". Unless you're, like, a big fan of The Jets or somethin'. Anyway, that's four stiffs plus possibly the coolest guy on the planet who's never released an album. From the very heart of Waltz-Time, Church-Basement Potluck Supper America. So how, exactly, does one go about finding vast, free-range herds of these people who seem never to have experienced social intercourse with anyone different from themselves, or sexual intercourse with anyone at all? (Okay, sure, they appear to breed. I'm not convinced.)

WHICH brings us to Condolezza Rice, born November 14, 1954, Birmingham, AL, onetime classmate of one of the four African-American girls who'd die in that city's most notorious--but far from only--white supremacist terror bombing, and her article And not just golf, but golf at The Masters, Augusta, GA, where, forty-five years after the 16th Street Baptist Church met sixteen sticks of dynamite, Condi Rice still cannot play, now because she's a women, although she could caddie. Prior to 1990, that's 1990 A.D., C.E., 1990 eighteen years ago her skin color would have been enough.

And, y'know, that's between Secretary Rice and her conscience. I'm not an African-American woman, let alone one who grew up in the Jim Crow South. If Condi Rice and her mother chose that second week in April, 1968, to commiserate with Roberto De Vicenzo (whom she calls "Robert") for the possible language barrier that resulted in him signing an erroneous scorecard (how do they make "3"s in Argentina, anyway?) at a Whites Only club just 130 miles and a few anguished hours away from where they'd buried Dr. King, well, it was their business.

No, I never had to deal with Jim Crow. I do do a little writing, or typing, and I believe I can safely say that if this is indicative of how Condi's mind works we are extremely fortunate to have escaped the Bush II years as well as we did.

If you clicked the Wonkette link you've seen some samples, including:
As the time approached, my assistant Anne said, “They want to know who you want to follow.” Borrowing language from Anne’s generation, I said, “Duh?
Okay, but if she didn't understand you it's probably because you left off the be-otch.

Look, again: there are probably people in the audience at either Welk Theatre--and that's astonishing enough, really--who shout out requests for "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah", or "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?", or, for that matter, "Old Black Joe". But where do they come from? How does one of them become Secretary of State?

Think you can take more?

• I had decided that if Tiger did not win, I would champion the cause of Phil Mickelson (met him at the White House and he’s a really nice guy); Stewart Cink (met him in Atlanta and he’s a really nice guy); or Anthony Kim (haven’t met him but I like his swagger).

• Upon arrival, Augusta took my breath away with its physical beauty.

• A golfer hit his ball over the green and they needed a foot (a human foot) to hold down the rope and produce space for his chip. My foot was there and I happily stood on the rope.

• But you know that Tiger will be there to do it right the next time.

• In the end, it was Angel Cabrera and justice for Robert De Vicenzo.

Okay, back to trying to salvage a hard drive, secure in the knowledge that it could be much worse. I could be trying to salvage our international reputation now that Condi finished with it.


Anonymous said...

Here's sympathy for your ethnograffitic excursions into Welk Wonderland, plastic-clothing era. I too sat rapt, amazed at the tap dancing negro, I mean, Negro, alive n kickin well past the birth of Panthers Gray and Black; the apologetically-smiled JoAnn "Biceps" Castle pumping her old timey gay 90s moonlight bayin honky tonkin piano stylings; Joe Feeney Irish Tenor (I envisioned the name in full proudly embossed on his driver's license); the "hippie" guitarist who looked like a reject from a Ventures wannabe band; etc etc etc, ad consistent nauseam. More than enough postdoc material for any number of weirdly motivated kids specializing in Uncanny Specialized Subcultage, North America.

I mean, some sympathy. Talk about moving one's personal musical goalposts: after Welk (and much mind alterments) I revisited Guy Lumbago and his Broiled Canadians (or, Baked Alaskans, as we wiseguy teenagers called him, depending on whim at the time) only to discover the Bleeding Bourgeois Soul heretofore buried by the strict quarternotes of Guy's Businessman's Bounce. The premonitory "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" and the quintessential tango-de-la-cornbelt "Blue Mirage" lovingly remain a-lurk in my permanent cerebral iPod. And can I ever write about Lombardo without mentioning "The Little White Duck"?

If it took inuiry into the machinations of Welk (admittedly, via that wunnerful, wunnerful Stan Freberg deconstruction) to turn Guy hip, so be it.



Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Every time my husband and I see Welk we think that the U.S. is bombing Vietnam at the very moment the show originally aired. Makes me sick every time.

Steve Young. The Mormon for whom I would wear magic underwear.

Magic underwear? (sung like "magic helmet." and if you have to ask what that means, shame, shame on you.)

heydave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
heydave said...

I mean, you would not watch this program....Well, no, not now.

arghous said...

My Minnesota/South Dakota/North Dakota maternal grandfather played banjo and had a band that did pretty much the same circuit as the early Welk, until he (my grandfather) quit to go into the granary business.

I guess I should be thankful the infinite improbability drive doesn't really exist, lest I have more than a passing relationship to Condapolooza, or Baba Walters for that matter.

grouchomarxist said...

Oh, man, it's been a long, long time since I've laughed at anything as hard as I did at your meditation on all things Welkish.

We should all remember, though, during the heyday of the Lawrence Welk Show, in the vast rural spaces most of its fans inhabited, you'd be lucky to have two tv stations with a clear signal.

I mean, dammit, you shelled out the bucks for the idiot box, so you've gotta use it!

Even then, in the early and mid-1960s, I remember TLWS as something which mostly appealed to the more elderly set. And if you were trapped at your grandparents while they're tuned in to Larry and his Champagne Ladies, the bright colors, pathological chirpiness and (to a young child's taste) catchy tunes could be mildly entertaining.

The thing is, my grandparents' generation's long gone, but unless TLWS's fan base consists almost entirely of zombies or some other species of Undead, it has to have recruited new blood (however anemic) somewhere along the way. The only thing I can figure is it's the psychic equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, a sort of White soul food.

That, or all those PBS stations are playing an especially hideous trick on their contributors. (A hypothesis which I'm by no means prepared to rule out at this moment.)

Lenny Bruce could do a great Lawrence Welk, by the way. Just check out "The Interview" sometime.

Balding Conventioneer said...

An old musician's joke:

What's the difference between a moose and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra ?

The moose has the horns in front and the asshole in back.