Death, with Compound Interest
Give money me, take friendship whoso list,For friends are gone, come once adversity,When money yet remaineth safe in chest,That quickly can thee bring from misery;Fair face show friends when riches do abound;Come time of proof, farewell, they must away;Believe me well, they are not to be foundIf God but send thee once a lowering day.Gold never starts aside, but in distress,Finds ways enough to ease thine heaviness.--"Of Money" by Barnabe Googe
Cool, the American stands on two legs, favoring neither left nor right, his weight equally distributed. No contrapposto wuss, he declines to lean on stumps, cherry trees, walls, chaise longues or, god forbid, another man. In his mind at least, one or more babes could be seen draping themselves, melting, practically, all over his dry solidity. For a casual yet don't-mess-with-me equilibrium, his feet are set slightly wider than his hormone-bred, steroid-fortified shoulders.
His forebears stood at a sepia-tinted bar, draining liquor. Though sitting, he hasn't gone soft but is perched on a high stool, his height nearly that of a man standing. Even at rest, he is erect and ready for action, be it darts, dancing or a preemptive strike against some dark pest of an enemy.
Just east of Italy or south of Spain, men squat. In all of Asia, even Japan, they squat. That says it all, he reflects, turning off his credit card charged plasma screen. If ever evicted, he would never squat, he doesn't think. He imagines a squatting form in his foreclosure encroached, exurban cul-de-sac. With a running start, he would boot this collapsed, balled up, abject, defecating alien through the goddamn upright. You just can't have shit on the sidewalk.
And baseball catchers don't really squat, captain, since their feet aren't totally flat on the ground. How long have you been in this country?
Standing tall, the status/stature of a state depends on its wealth and asskicking power, one sprung from the other. Lacking either, it's just a one-legged pretender on the global stage, leaning on a patron. Missing both, it's nothing but a basket case, immobile flesh plopped on woven faggots.
Power requires symbols, a throne or a staff, etc. While plebeians crowded benches, the big man had his own chair, hence chairman, a head that schemes, tastes and barks orders. Tongueless, the middle class is a stomach that churns and digests. Upset, it aches and threatens to fart. The lower class is a sullen or shuffling rectum. "Would you like some freedom fries with that?"
As a symbol of money-generated power, the skyscraper was the obvious choice, with the biggest and baddest flaunting the tallest and longest, pricking heavens. No confusion of tongues here, we all speak Globish. Ramrod straight, free of decorative, barbaric frills, it's just straight ahead shock and awesome, y'all. Better yet, make it two towers, two legs, two pillars, down there, downtown, in the Finance District, where all capital real or hallucinated are diced, bundled and swapped, with a proper commission for me! me! me!
Minoru Yamasaki's career began with the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis. A hellish, Utopian prototype, it was made up of 33 11-story buildings containing 2,870 apartments. Its elevators paused only at the first, fourth, seventh and tenth floors. On March 16, 1972, after 18 years of use, it was demolished by controlled demolition on live television. Yamasaki's other famous buildings include the Century Plaza Towers in Los Angeles, the Picasso Tower in Madrid and the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, but his magnum opus was undoubtably America's twin legs in lower Manhattan, white and visible even in New Jersey. Erected in 1972, they came down on September 11, 2001. "Minoru" must mean "controlled demolition on live television." The architect blustered, "World trade means world peace [...] The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through cooperation, his ability to find greatness."
Yamasaki died in 1986, long before the double amputation, castration witnessed by the entire world as well as its hapless victim. What happened on September 11, 2001 was worse than the 1975 embassy evacuation from Saigon, since it took place on American soil, in the greatest American city, inflicted by American instruments--Bush, Cheney, American and United Airlines--on American assets with the greatest and most visible symbolic power. It was worse than Pearl Harbor, which had occurred away from the Mainland, in a territory that only became a state 18 years later. Further, Pearl Harbor wasn't shown live on television. By retaliating against a wrong enemy, Iraq, America confirmed its impotence. By humiliating its “detainees” in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, it betrayed its pettiness and sadism. By legalizing torture, it trumpeted to the world that it no longer even pretended to be moral.
The Twin Towers surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest in the world. Conceived during the roaring twenties, an era of jivey speculation and easy money similar to our last twenty years, the Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression. As excavation began in January of 1930, it was far from clear what the country was going through. Although the stock market had crashed on October 29, 1929, Lou Levin recorded in November, “Happy days are here again, / The skies above are clear again / Let us sing a song of cheer again / Happy days are here again.” This became the campaign jingle for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who famously declared during his 1932 inaugural address, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
With its destruction of America's major rivals, World War II not only restored but greatly increased this country's prosperity and political clout, but with its oil running low and its industries gone, not even a global bloodbath will save it now. That doesn't mean it won't try.
With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly
with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour
with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling
Stone-cutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no grain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the the maid's hand
and stoppeth the spinner's cunning. Pietro Lombardo
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin' not by usura
nor was "La Callunia" painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura St. Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man's courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.
Usury: A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard to the possibilities of production. (Hence the failure of the Medici bank.)
Linh Dinh was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1963, came to the U.S. in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two collections of stories, Fake House (Seven Stories Press 2000) and Blood and Soap (Seven Stories Press 2004), and the novel Love...
Carl Jung and his student Joseph Campbell both warned of the dangers of the Western obsession with the overdeveloped, dark, male side of the collective unconscious, as well as our demonization of the feminine, the anima. Since then, our society has grown sicker and sicker, until at last, we have reached a psychotic world where we see our shadow lurking around every corner. Now that our erect phallic skyscrapers have now been exposed as naked and susceptible to dark heroes/terrorists of any and every stripe who value only the destructive, violent side of the animus, we build our bunkers below ground, thicker and wider; our guided missiles, more targeted, more potent. Those who rob, plunder, rape, and kill are heroicized. Meanwhile, we demonize and fetishize the feminine, the anima, casting her at best, as seductress and whore, at worst, mere holes, receptacles for our most violent fantasies that are carried out with glee by, and applause for, our dark heroes. Many have called Jung's theories bunk, but it makes a hell of a lot of sense to me right now. Villain or hero? Predator or prey? We'll keep picking our poison until we poison ourselves to death.
- Linh Dinh
A news item, today:
"People readily see faces and traits in cars, and a new study suggests that they prefer cars to appear dominant, masculine and angry."
Bizarre! But then... I suppose that makes "sense," too. One of the rites of passage in this culture is getting your driver's license. At that time, you're required to trade in all those silly childhood toys -- choo-choo trains, friendly plastic toy cars, and girly bikes, all with colorful, painted, exaggerated smiley faces -- for weapons of mass destruction.
I am 26, and I have yet to give up my choo-choo trains.
- Linh Dinh
Here's Robert Walser, writing in 1917 about the automobile:
For the children of poor folk the country road in summer is like a playroom. Where else can they go, seeing that the gardens are selfishly closed to them? Woe to the automobiles blustering by, as they ride coldly and maliciously into the children's games, into the child's heaven, so that small innocent human beings are in danger of being crushed to a pulp. The terrible thought that a child actually can be run over by such a clumsy triumphal car, I dare not think it, otherwise my wrath will seduce me to coarse expressions, with which it is well known nothing much ever gets done."
To people sitting in a blustering dust-churning automobile I always present my austere and angry face, and they do not deserve a better one. Then they believe that I am a spy, a plainclothes policeman, delegated by high officials and authorities to spy on the traffic, to note down the numbers of vehicles, and later to report them. I always then look darkly at the wheels, at the car as a whole, but never at its occupants, whom I despise, and this in no way personally, but purely on principle; for I do not understand, and I never shall understand, how it can be a pleasure to hurtle past all the images and objects which our beautiful earth displays, as if one had gone mad and had to accelerate for fear of misery and despair. In fact, I love repose and all that reposes. I love thrift and moderation and am in my inmost self, in God's name, unfriendly toward any agitation and haste. More than what is true I need not say. And because of these words the driving of automobiles will certainly not be discontinued, nor its evil air-polluting smell, which nobody for sure particularly loves or esteems. It would be unnatural if someone's nostrils were to love and inhale with relish that which for all correct nostrils, at times, depending perhaps on the mood one is in, outrages and evokes revulsion. Enough, and no harm meant. And now walk on. Oh, it is heavenly and good and in simplicity most ancient to walk on foot, provided of course one's shoes or boots are in order.
[from "The Walk," as translated from the German by Christopher Middleton]