A number of concerned citizens and perturbed politicos have complained that the work of art outside the majestic new Memphis Public library's entrance, a piece which supposedly represents the wisdom of the ages, contains the old (but still potentially harmful) communist battle cry, "Workers of the world, unite." It's etched in the stone walkway adjacent to a carving of that childhood fave cum druggie icon the Cat in the Hat.
This excerpt from Marx's atheistic screed has been duly criticized by a number of local patriots via scalding letters to the press. It has also raised the hackles of such would-be commie-busters as City Councilman Brent Taylor and County Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel, a proud suburban mother who has been unjustly dubbed the Virgin Mary by leftists sympathetic to the Communist cause.
Realizing the political jeopardy in which they were placing themselves by taking a stand on this hot-button issue that so directly affects the day to day lives of so many Memphians, and without the slightest regard for the ease and cost-efficency of the publicity such a stand would bring, the two moral leaders have denounced the art as "bad stuff" and proposed that the words be be removed with a sand blaster. Other proposals included the addition of more New Testament quotes or the creation of an additional artwork pointing out the manifold evils of Communism. The quote caused such a brouhaha that it caught the eye of many national media outlets including that long time Communist scandal sheet The New York Times.
Some pink-leaning observers have claimed that this is a perfect example censorship, oppression and hysteria in this newly conservative post 9/11 era, where, according to our nations top legals, dissent is tantamount to treason.
But the simple fact is, if you look closely at our new public artwork and at the library itself, alarms immediately go off and it becomes quite clear that the quote "Workers of the world unite" should be among the least of our worries. There is a vast array of potentially hazardous iconography hidden in the monolithic sculpture, including snippets of pagan lore and oblique references to the irresponsible theory that mankind (only a notch below the angels) once swung from long and limber tails.
There is a large picture of a hand with its two center fingers and thumb drawn in toward the center of the palm, the universal sign representing both heavy metal music and its evil inventor, the Christian Devil. There is another equally disturbing representation of a hand adorned with the kind of arcane symbology that suggests the occult. As if all the red propaganda and witchcraft wasn't disturbing enough, the art bears quotations by homosexuals (both suspected and known) and at least one very graphic depiction of a male sexual organ (fortunately not engorged).
Friends, it's no accident that these images grace the library's main entrance. They are not mere decoration. They are clear indicators of the dangerous geophysical and neopolitical pornographies housed like welfare babies within the walls of this tax-supported institution. Our library system may try to position itself as a benevolent entity dedicated to the judicious accumulation of human knowledge, but further investigation reveals it to be a filthy Gomorrah packed with dangerous ideas and dirty pictures.
Outside the library is the quote from the Communist Manifesto. Inside there is an entire book by Adolph Hitler. And that's just the beginning.
To see evidence of the ongoing plot to weaken our national morals one need look no further than the entrance to the new library's children's book section. A fake forest has been erected there. Trees with yellow, green, and red "candy-colored" trunks guard a golden path to the obviously satanic Harry Potter series.
The secret commie meaning of this art installation is two-fold. First, the brilliant, unnatural colors are obviously an effort on behalf of the designers to simulate the effects of a way-out "trip" on pot or perhaps on the drug known as LSD. The communists know that it will be easier to control our children's thoughts once they are hooked on these addictive mind-altering drugs.
Don't believe it? Peruse the shelves and you'll find The Practitioner's Guide to Psychoactive Drugs and a number of Terrence McKenna's blasphemous texts which credit psylocybin mushrooms with miracles of creation that should be rightfully ascribed to God Almighty. And if dabbling with drugs leads to any scrapes with the law, F.D. Rosenthal's Marijuana, the Law and You: A Guide To Minimizing Legal Consequences should prove to be a useful resource. It is, as one might suspect, also available.
And anyone who stayed awake through freshman English knows that in literature the "forest" always represents something else: a place of discovery, magic and sexual transformation. Long story short, it's where kids go to fornicate against their parents' wishes. The collected works of William Shakespeare (a possible warlock and homosexual) are filled to bursting with lurid arboreal references. Therefore the library's colorful, deceptively innocent "forest" must be chopped down immediately, before our children get any deeper into Satan's woods.
While on the topic of Satan it may be appropriate to point out that there are a number of texts on Satan worship and the occult in our library, including a selection of works by the demonic conjurer Aleister Crowley. Crowley practiced a type of black art which incorporated a number of perverse sex acts. Those who wish to learn more about sex before attempting any of Crowley's studied suggestions may wish to peruse the library's extensive collection of sex-related books and videos. Younger readers who may not be ready for the Kama Sutra can always turn to Carole Marsh's practical text, Sex Stuff for Kids 7-17.
Before leaving the topic of sex, magik, and satanism it must be mentioned that the Dewey decimal number 666 denotes texts which are devoted to an insidiously innocuous art form widely associated with the strictly forbidden creation of "graven images." Is it at all surprising that when searching through section 666 one of the first listings you come across is a book titled The Magic of Ceramics? No indeed. No indeed.
Topping the list of blasphemous texts is a pair of false Bibles. The Roof Framer's Bible obviously insinuates that God is a tar-paper shingle while The Investor's Bible clearly leads one to worship Allen Greenspan. It's unconscionable. It's wrong.
There are, just as one might expect in this communist stronghold, many books about communism in both theory and practice. Too many to list here. Former Soviet prime minister Nikita Kruschev claimed that the fundamental goals of Marx and Lenin would not be relinquished "till shrimp learn to whistle." You won't hear any shrimp whistling at the new library, not by a long shot.
Finally, while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Koran, Americans are now all too aware of how it can be interpreted by evil men with evil plans. Can we really afford to have this book sharing shelf space with Tadeusz Urbanski's Chemistry and Technology of Explosives? Can we? I think not.
Bring on the torches. Let the burning begin.
Chris Davis penned a version of this satire for the Memphis Flyer, where he is a staff writer.
Let's begin by repeating all the known quantities and by doing so in the simplest of all possible terms. The Civil War isn't over. It lives on in the hearts and minds of Southerners whose ancestors gave their lives fighting for the "Stars and Bars" and everything for which it currently stands: a fiction, an idealized past imbued with the kind of passionate Gone With the Wind romanticism that is ever the legacy of failed causes.
The African-American community, whose first significant taste of citizenship came not with the Emancipation Proclamation but rather the civil rights movement of the 1960s, is likewise still fighting the Battle of Bull Run. To them the Confederate flag also represents heritage, but a heritage of hardship, oppression, and slavery; a heritage that no amount of equal-opportunity legislation can temper or erase. The issue has been compounded by the number of hateful, often violent, white supremacist groups who have taken up the Rebel banner and effectively branded it as their own.
The battle lines around the flag have been drawn -- hate versus heritage -- with one side fighting to keep the flag, the other attempting to ban it. Oddly enough, at least in this writer's opinion, the opposing sides on this hot-button issue are both actually working against the fulfillment of their agendas. But there is a solution which will weed out the hatemongers and either allow the Confederate flag to continue flying proudly with general public approval or cause it to fall into the dustbin of irrelevant (yes) pop culture.
The problem is that no one who is taking part in this conflict seems to understand the nature of language and symbols. The opposing sides are fighting like a family over a disputed inheritance, with deeply divisive and ultimately negative results. To understand a symbol one has to know that once it has been brought into the world it takes on certain physical, almost Newtonian, properties that are not entirely unlike those ascribed to matter and energy. Language -- of which symbols like flags and insignia are an important subset -- has both weight and mass. It can even, in a certain sense, create its own gravity. Consider how drawn we are, as a culture, to buzzwords, catchphrases, and the like, and you will see that this theory is not so far-fetched. Notice how we "rally round the flag" like little patriotic satellites. Much like matter and energy, such symbols cannot be destroyed, but the terms of their meaning and relevance can be changed.
Placing a ban on the public display of the Confederate flag creates a common cause for its supporters, whether they be on the hate-group or the heritage-minded side of the fence. If you ban the flag, suddenly the two disparate support groups are no longer so very disparate; they are on the same team. History has proven that few actions can galvanize a group to action more than the legal suppression of a beloved symbol. If the flag is banned from public display its influence will be amplified and its general use limited to those who seek to energize their racist causes. Any misty-eyed nostalgia associated with the flag will be changed to vital, contemporary concern. Such is the nature of symbols. Note the history of the swastika -- an image which is banned in Germany -- and its continued use by neo-Nazis around the globe.
So if we don't ban the Confederate flag, how then should we deal with the issue? The solution is simple really, though it will require the cooperation of the African-American community. They must stop protesting the flag and let it wave freely. But this is just the beginning; step two requires a bit more chutzpah. African-American role models -- athletes, musicians, politicians, ministers, and corporate leaders -- must begin the transformation of the flag's image by absorbing it into their culture. Imagine Spike Lee at a Knicks game sporting a warmup suit proudly emblazoned with the Rebel flag. Imagine O.D.B. with it tattooed on his chest. Imagine the African-American community taking the flag's fundamental meaning -- that of rebellion -- and with it creating an all-out fashion revolt against small-mindedness and hate.
In the '80s and '90s, many gays began calling themselves "queer," thereby turning a formerly derogatory label into an empowering brand. They began sporting the word on T-shirts with the whimsical image of a $3 bill. An even more potent statement could be made by incorporating the Confederate flag into black iconography. Those white supporters who now cling to the banner out of a sense of heritage rather than hate should have no problem with this, since their beloved emblem will no longer be an inert reminder of past defeat but rather a vital, relevant symbol for defiance and progress. It will again be what it once was, a glorious rallying point for Americans who feel unduly oppressed. Once the flag has been captured and fully incorporated into black culture to the point of ubiquity it will naturally be relinquished by the hate groups who want nothing to do with the signs and symbols of their enemies. Besides opposing forces can't ride into battle sporting the same flag, now can they?
Let's fix this problem once and for all. Steal this flag.
Przybyszewski. Go ahead, say it out loud. Let the consonants flow off your tongue. Roll the vowels and savor the Slavic goodness that is my name. Just doesn't seem to work, does it? You hardly know where to begin.
Now, ask me about my name. Ask how long it took for me to learn that name in grade school. Ask me how to pronounce it. Don't believe me when I first give you the pronunciation, but ask me to say it over and over again until you try it yourself. Now -- and this is critical -- try to say the name. Butcher it. Next, ask me how a word spelled P-r-z-y-b-y-s-z-e-w-s-k-i can be pronounced "Shub-er-shef-ski." Finally, make up a nickname for me so you don't have to use my name. Be creative. Come up with something like, say, "Alphabet."
You now have experienced every single friggin' introduction I have ever had. Meet the person, say the name, laugh politely at the stupid jokes, patiently explain the correct pronunciation. Perform on command when asked to spell it and then say it and then spell it again like some spelling bee gone horribly wrong. Finally, give a small, sad smile as the person gives out yet another nickname.
You might think I am going to go off on a tirade about how awful my name is. That couldn't be further from the truth. I am actually quite fond of my name. I don't care that it's unique. I don't care if it's identifying. It's my name and since it's my name, I like it. Simple enough. You would imagine, in a civilized world, that others would realize that my name is my name and not a third butt cheek nailed to the center of my forehead (read: not a reason to treat me like a freak).
But no one ever does. There is always shock, there are always jokes and cute comments that are as well used -- and reused -- as a Trojan in the White House. Worse, there never seems to be a consideration that my first name, Chris, is perfectly serviceable. Chris is easy, right? Lots of people are named after the demoted saint of travelers. Unfortunately, the obtuseness of my surname far outweighs how ordinary and safe my first name is. Instead of noticing that my driver's license actually has two names, a first and last, most people will instead dig into their sack of incredibly witty nicknames, ignore my suggestion that they call me, "Chris, just Chris," and in an instant, I am not Chris Przybyszewski, proud owner of a third-generation Polish name that tells a story. Instead, I have a nickname.
And nicknames, in my opinion, suck. I am sure it has to do with my personal experience. In high school, it was Shoobie. That rhymes with Scooby, but without the intelligence and sophistication. How's that for dignity, especially when teachers begin to call you that as well? In college, it was Shiva. You know, Shiva, the eight-armed Hindu god of creation and destruction. Shiva also happens to be the Hebrew word for a seven-day mourning period for the recently deceased. To be fair, the Gentiles that gave me that name had no idea of the multicultural implications. I didn't either. To be even more fair, they didn't stop calling me that after they (or I) found out. But let me tell you, there is nothing like offending two entire races of people every time you are introduced to someone new.
But it's not really about how silly the names are (and they are silly). It has a lot more to do with the substitution of some nonsensical phoneme that somehow makes me more easily identifiable. These simpler identities are easier for people to deal with than Przybyszewski; simpler to say and simpler to wrap one's mind around. But that simplicity also carries a dark side.
A name is an identification, a way people think about you, a way to get around socially. A simpler moniker means a simpler identity in the eyes of the real world. Instead of who I really am, I am a Shoobie, a Shiva -- a one-dimensional character with no real presence, a lexical curiosity. Words are powerful things. And unique words, like someone's name, can forever change the way a person thinks or feels. Jesus is Jesus and Elvis is Elvis. Sure there are others who share those names, but their identification is inevitably referenced back to the original. In my case, I'm not a Shoobie (whatever that is) and I am certainly not a Hindu deity and I would at least like to think that I am not a mourning period. What I am, who I am is my name. So, if you plan on addressing me, please figure out my name. Even if you can't get Przybyszewski (which is understandable), you can just call me Chris. I won't mind.
At some point in time between the Rolling Stones and Limp Bizkit, it stopped being cool to be a groupie. In the 1970's and '80's scantily clad women could hold their heads up high -- well maybe not high- but up -- and admit to being "with the band." Maybe Motley Crue ended things with their over-the top sexual antics. Personally, I think grunge rock killed the blow-a-roadie-to-get-backstage era. Going to great lengths for the "privilege" of having sex with a wealthy but unwashed man-child wearing a thrift-store flannel just didn't have the same cachet.
In fact, the whole groupie phenomenon makes little sense to me. It's illogical to think that an otherwise attractive girl would humiliate herself in order to sleep with the kind of guy that she laughed at in high school. Which is why another writer and I decided to investigate.
While planning to go to The Bloodhound Gang show, Mary Cashiola and I learned that the aforementioned band updates their groupie exploits in a journal on their Web page, sometimes in lurid detail. They get a crew member to pass out backstage passes to girls at the show that they'd like to get to know better, and then they, well, get to know those girls better.
Shocked, offended, inspired, Mary and I mused that wouldn't it be funny to get such a pass, get backstage, flirt a little, and then do absolutely nothing? You know, to avenge all of our sisters who had been maligned on the Web site. Of course, we never thought we would actually go through with it.
The Bloodhound Gang, the Johnny-come-latelys (pardon the pun) of frat boy/ junior high rock hold few surprises. It's not like we expected a band whose most recent hit included the line: "Baby you and me ain't nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel," to espouse social change in their live show. But after a couple of hours of the band paying audience members $20 to urinate on themselves or to eat 25 peanut-butter-and-banana Big Macs- we were ready to leave when the show was over.
Then it happened.
A grubby looking guy in his early twenties approached us.
"Hey, do you girls want a poster?"
"Come on, just take a poster. Take a poster and come backstage after the show."
The crew member was thrusting a pair of backstage passes insistently towards us, oblivious to the guy behind us yelling "I want a poster." Amused, we took the passes -- as well as the posters, which soon found their way into a nearby garbage can.
After summoning our resolve with some brain-freezing liquid courage in Wet Willie's daiquiri bar, we strolled into the alley behind the club where, just as we expected, the tour buses were parked. We knocked on the door of the first bus and a boy named Cheezeball ushered us aboard.
There were about 10 other young women already on the bus being inspected by the boys in the band.
"Let's see if she has boobies," suggested the band's bassist holding up the arm of one young lady. (Bloodhound's current album is called Hooray for Boobies. )
Meanwhile another girl was regaling the others, and disgusting us, with details about the time she slept with David Allen Coe.
Eventually Mary and I were alone on the bus with Jonathan, a roadie, and Q-Ball ("Q" to his friends) the D.J. As we sat there talking and enjoying the endless stream of alcohol such buses boast, the boobie-inspecting bassist came back with a girl that looked like she gotten lost on the way to amateur night at Platinum Plus.
He approached Mary and I and asked us if we would make him a promise.
"Depends on what it is," we told him skeptically.
"Will you promise me that you won't have sex with this girl?"
We gave him our word.
"You see, Allison, I told you that you wouldn't have to have sex with any girls if you came back here with me."
With her mind apparently at ease, he and Allison disappeared to the back of the bus. As the evening was taking on an X-rated tone, Mary and I suggested that we all go to a late night disco - pronto.
Once inside the club we could sense that these young men were growing impatient with us, maybe because they told us so. Nevertheless, we stretched things out until the club closed (something we had never before been there late enough to experience) and then walked with the boys back to the bus. Ever the gentlemen, they held the door to the bus open and waited for us to board.
Instead, we thanked them for a fun evening, gave some weak side-hugs and bade them good night. At this, Jonathan, dropped his pants right there in front of us and began to urinate, leaving the pants and boxers around his ankles long enough after the deed was done for Mary and I to realize exactly what a chilly evening can do to a man.
So we're not groupies. We just couldn't do it. But for decades thousands of girls proudly succeeded where we failed. What happened since then to make groupieness uncool?
Back in the days before AIDS, when diseases were non-deadly (but nevertheless funky), young women bragged about celebrity sexual conquests. Pamela Des Barres even wrote a decently selling tell-all detailing her encounters with everyone from Waylon Jennings to Jim Morrison.
I guess it's the respect factor. Prior to the hair-metal bad boys, rock stars appreciated their groupies. Though they weren't girls they'd take home to meet mama, they were friendly souls offering a service to lonely musicians out on the road. The Clara Barton's of the tour bus, if you will. In those days women like groupie-extraordinaire Bebe Buell could have a child with Steven Tyler (the little girl we all know as Liv) and then go on to raise the kid with Todd Rundgren. Groupies had some clout.
But it seems that when the levels of groupie degradation started to rise, and groupies willingly complied with each demeaning, degrading, humiliating, candy-bar sexual request, the mystique, glamour, and romanticism of the groupie died with Guns N' Roses.
Oh well, at least Mary and I got the last laugh.