Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Hip When You Slip

When I was a kid, a friend of mine had a book called Minerva the Dragon - it could have been Minerva the Dinosaur, I don't recall exactly - and he enjoyed it so much that he never finished it. He didn't want it to end. He said that he only wanted to read the last chapter on his deathbed. I wonder if kids still talk about literature and deathbeds and books so fantastic that they don't want to finish them.

Not that Minerva was literature. It was a pretty trashy kids book, from what I remember, but it must have been pretty terrific, too. That's John Barth's advice to writers - you can make it erudite, or witty, or self-referential or verbose, but first of all: make it terrific.

And I don't even know if my friend remembers the book. I have a vague memory of bringing it up once, not too long ago, and of him being as incredulous as I about this 11-year-old who made the decision to not allow a conclusion to be forced on one of the best experiences he'd had. Surely that same impulse is what makes the what-might-have-been more charged than the what-ended-up-happening. The romantic lure of unrequited love. The glamour of an unsolved murder. The pause occasioned by a did-that-happen-the-way-I-remember.

On the weekend I was talking to another friend and we chatted about a dream I'd had once, and had told him about. In this dream, I was had an itch in my eye or was crying or was pulling out a contact lens - whatever - but what happened when I felt around my eye was strange. I felt something solid there, and pulled out a dry, crumbling autumn leaf. And pulling one loosed more. And soon I was pulling handfuls of autumn leaves from my eyes.

When my friend mentioned this dream maybe, ah, seven or eight years ago, I had no recollection of it. It was my dream but I'd forgotten about it and he'd remembered. He'd remembered it because the image of someone dragging a stream of burnt-orange leaves from their eye sockets was so dramatic (he's an actor, but that's not what I mean by dramatic).

Ever since he told me my dream, I've remembered it, too. That image is so striking that I had the same experience he must have had when I first told it to him. But I don't remember the dream itself, just his retelling of my telling of it.

He also remembers another dream I had, where I was torn apart by feral children who feasted on my limbs. I do actually recall that fairly vivid dream, along with the peculiar feeling of calm and acceptance I felt when I realised that my death would at least provide nutrition to some underprivileged kids. True fact.

I guess we sometimes remember other people's dreams more vividly than they do. After all, most dreams serve a point, and when they've done their work we move on and let them go. But another person's dreams, being not our own, can open up a window onto all those subliminated fears and desires that gave them birth. Then again, there can be nothing more boring than listening to someone else's dreams, too.

Meet Mingering Mike, if you haven't already.

"Between 1968 and 1977 Mingering Mike recorded over fifty albums, managed thirty-five of his own record labels, and produced, directed and starred in nine of his own motion pictures. In 1972 alone he released fifteen LPs and over twenty singles, and his traveling revue played for sold out crowds the world over."

Except for the fact that Mike didn't exist - or, not in a strict sense. Mike was a lonely teen who dreamed of being a famous soul singer and created a huge number of records under his imagined persona. The albums were made of cardboard, with labels and grooves drawn on, in full colour sleeves and featuring details of all aspects of production.

Take Mingering Mike's official soundtrack to the movie "Hot Rodd" (1973).

Ramit Records #110974 (1973)

Hot Rodd (Takes Revenge)

Baby Look My Way (Love Scene)

Rumble In The Streets

It’s Hip When You Slip

Welcome To Our Party

Something In Green

Epitah (Before & After)

Man’s Only Hope (Power)

It’s A Boom

Man’s Only Dream

Talkin’ About Freedom

Suddenly A Message

Train Ride (Urgent)

Hot Rodd’s End

It opens with what's obviously the theme tune: "Hot Rodd (Takes Revenge)". Those brackets. What do they mean? "Mike's" imitation of the blaxploitation soundtrack style is already terrific, in Barth's sense. He follows up with the tantalising "Baby Look My Way (Love Scene)". Later, it's tracks like "It’s A Boom", "Suddenly A Message" and the twinned "Man’s Only Hope (Power)" and "Man's Only Dream" that flesh out another person's, well, dreams. Even if these dreams only seem so significant to me, who didn't dream them.

Maybe it's the scope. Along with Mingering Mike, various other personae made up his bedroom-doodling-recording-studio world - Rambling Ralph, Joseph War, The Big D and more. This kid had big dreams, the kind of dreams made for breaking. He wrote more than four thousand songs, and sent off some to be recorded - along with the small fee requested - before realising that the ads he was responding to were money-making scams.

As part of the Increase Your Uncertainty exhibition at ACCA, there are a series of forums which take place regularly and have been developed by the wonderful duo A Constructed World (the brains behind the same exhibition). This Sunday's 3pm forum is on Failure and I was asked to be a part of it since failure, if not my middle name, is at least something I'm fascinated by. If the notion of failure, the problems of success, the perhaps illusory distinction between the two, the social function of that distinction, the artistic challenges to that function, the dangers of such challenges and the messy edges of all of these things are of any interest, drop by and add your thoughts.
If you don't make it, though, that's ok too.

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