Showing posts with label Walker Percy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Walker Percy. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Music in the ruins

Long ago and far away -- when I wasn't yet who I would become but sure that I was what I'd always be -- the soundtrack of my and my friends' lives was a three-track tape.




Two of these things were much like each other on the AM radio dial around Baton Rouge, La. --
WLCS and WIBR. They were the stations of our Top-40 selves. They played the hits; we tuned in; they fought like dogs to attract the bigger share of us.

WFMF was for our hippie selves. Sometimes, you feel like a freak . . . sometimes, you don't.

But it was
WLCS and WIBR which ruled the airwaves. On AM. One ruling from 910, high over downtown Baton Rouge; the other counterattacking at 1300, nestled amid the sugarcane fields of Port Allen, just across the Mississippi River.

It was kind of like the Cold War, only in a sleepy Southern capital and with burgeoning arsenals of records, T-shirts and bumper stickers instead of hydrogen bombs.

"We will bury you!" thundered Joe London and B.Z. "You'll never make it past the Prize Patrol," smirked Chucker and Scotty Drake.

AND THE YOUTH of Red Stick lined up behind their leaders, pledging allegiance to one radio ideology or another -- that of the Big Win 910 or its mortal enemy, Radio 13.

Some non-aligned parties looked on from afar, ganging a bong . . . er,
banging a gong over at 'FMF -- Loose Radio -- but they still had their Top-40 leanings, left and right side of the dial.

Mutually Assured Top-40 Destruction brought a certain stability to teen-age society. Had for decades. We thought it would last forever, and the biggest worry in the world would continue to be that your future children of the groove might someday defect to Them, whichever station was Them to your Us.

WE WERE wrong. Just like we were about being forever young, eternally slim and always having a full head of hair.

Today in Baton Rouge, the only thing to be heard at
AM 91 or Radio 13 is . . . nothing. Maybe some static. Maybe -- after the sun goes down and the tree frogs begin their bayou serenade -- you'll hear a station from far away riding in on the Ionosphere Trail.

High above downtown, somebody else inhabits Suite 2420 of One American Place, if that's still what they call that particular high-rise that once was the home of

Over in the Port Allen canefield, a ways down Lafton Lane, the old WIBR is a ghost studio with a busted satellite dish and dead towers. A vine runs across the peeling paint of a fading sign.

IT REMINDS me of a Walker Percy novel. Specifically, Love in the Ruins, the tale of a time near the end of the world. Well . . . at least our particular one.
At first glance all seems normal hereabouts. But a sharp eye might notice one or two things amiss. For one thing, the inner lanes of the interstate, the ones ordinarily used for passing, are in disrepair. The tar strips are broken. A lichen grows in the oil stain. Young mimosas sprout on the shoulders.

For another thing, there is something wrong with the motel. The roof tiles are broken. The swimming pool is an opaque jade green, a bad color for pools. A large turtle suns himself on the diving board, which is broken and slanted into the water. Two cars are parked in the near lot, a rusty Cadillac and an Impala convertible with vines sprouting through its rotting top.

The cars and the shopping center were burnt out during the Christmas riot five years ago. The motel, though not burned, was abandoned and its room inhabited first by lovers, then by bums, and finally by the native denizens of the swamp, dirt daubers, moccasins, screech owls, and raccoons.

n recent months the vines have begun to sprout in earnest. Possum grape festoons Rexall Drugs yonder in the plaza. Scuppernong all but conceals the A & P supermarket. Poison ivy has captured the speaker posts in the drive-in movie, making a perfect geometrical forest of short cylindrical trees.

Beyond the glass wall of the motel dining room still hangs the Rotary banner:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

But the banner is rent, top to bottom, like the temple veil.

The vines began to sprout in earnest a couple of months ago. People do not like to talk about it. For some reason they’d much rather talk about the atrocities that have been occurring ever more often: entire fam
ilies murdered in their beds for no good reason. “The work of a madman!” people exclaim.
PRETTY MUCH, that's radio today. Any kind of common culture today . . . ruins. Covered in vines, surrounded by weeds.

How did it get this way?

The work of a madman!

Madmen, actually. Perfectly sensible-looking, upper-crust ladies and gentlemen in board rooms across the land -- cultured folk prone to fits of business-school jargon about reimbursement packages, shareholder value, efficiencies of scale and "right-sizing." All of them bat-s*** crazy. All of them weapons of mass unemployment.

They are veritable neutron bombs that eliminate the heart and soul and local voices of broadcasting while leaving bricks and mortar relatively intact, ruins to be consumed by flora as tempis fugits and young people grow into old ones.

My memories remain young. Sometimes, 30-something years ago seems like 30-something minutes ago.

I drive north on La. 1. I turn left at a red light. I drive down the road, between the sweet fields of south Louisiana, thinking sweet thoughts about lost youth. I hang another left, a
sharp left, into the gravel parking lot.

And step into the ruins of Radio 13.

Of me.

Of us.

I step into silence where once there was music, and I cannot go home anymore.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

'Tolerance' is a one-way street

When certain activists and "progressives" prattle on and on about how "compassionate" they are, and how committed to "justice" they are, and how ever-so-tolerant they are . . . you know bigotry and hatred lie just around the corner.

A few years ago, a guy from Miami decided to volunteer in India for the Missionaries of Charity -- the order founded by the late Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and just a step away from sainthood in the Catholic Church. Apparently, Cuban emigré Hemley Gonzalez didn't like what he saw of the sisters' operations there; he founded a group he calls "STOP The Missionaries of Charity."

From what I can gather at the group's Facebook page, Gonzalez thinks the Missionaries don't do enough for the poor and sick. He thinks destitute Indians who could be saved are, instead, dying in the sisters' care.

He and like-minded advocates of "tolerance" think the poor of India must be saved from "proselytizing fanatics" who believe in redemptive suffering.

IT'S FAIR ENOUGH to raise questions about the dealings and practices of the Missionaries of Charity after Mother Teresa's death almost 14 years ago. But that's not what this bunch of bigots is about.

When you're posting pictures of a beloved Catholic nun -- one who may yet become a recognized saint in the church -- with a Hitler mustache drawn on her face, that's not "compassion." That's not "concern for the poor." That's not "tolerance."

And that certainly is not about love of anyone.

What it is . . . is hate. Bigotry. Defamation.

Hemley Gonzalez and his fellow travelers aren't about love of the poor. They're about hatred of the Catholic Church, religious charities in general and perhaps God Himself.

It's not like he's shy about it:

The idea that religious charities are doing amazing work is a fallacy. They often care for others to convert them to their dogma first and their compassion comes second if ever at all.
YOU CERTAINLY can't say that Gonzalez isn't all about unencumbered tenderness (unless, of course, you happen to have a dogma he and his find offensive -- then you get done up as Hitler or get nasty slogans thrown at you). And you certainly can't say he and his aren't all about talking about alleviating suffering.

According to his Facebook profile, Gonzalez' "personal interests" involve "Achieving the end of suffering for all sentient beings." With a smiley emoticon for good measure.

Well, there's one sure way to end suffering -- one secular, utopian fanatics have been seizing upon for ages. Walker Percy nailed it in his final novel, The Thanatos Syndrome. Speaking is an old Catholic priest -- and a recovering drunk and part-time firewatcher -- Father Simon Rinaldo Smith:
"But they, the doctors, were good fellows and they had their reasons.

"The reasons were quite plausible.

"I observed some of you.

"But do you know what you are doing?

"I observe a benevolent feeling here.

"There is also tenderness.

"At the bedside of some children this morning I observed you shed tears. On television.

"Do you know where tenderness leads?"


"Tenderness leads to the gas chamber." . . .

"Never in the history of the world have there been so many civilized tenderhearted souls as have lived in this century.

"Never in the history of the world have so many people been killed.

"More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together."


"My brothers, let me tell you where tenderness leads."

A longer pause.

"To the gas chambers! On with the jets!"

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Must-see TV

Before we all repair to Lost Cove, Tenn., to await the apocalypse our culture is working itself up to -- because, of course, the center did not hold -- we can take a moment to watch this on our local public-television station when it comes out later in the year.

Because Walker Percy wasn't just a hell of a writer (and one of the last residents of my home state to make any damn sense), he was a prophet.

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The (almost) work of a madman!

Here we have yet another Associated Press dispatch from some average American place full of average Americans recounting yet another American atrocity or near atrocity.

Fortunately, this one -- in South Carolina -- was of the "near" variety.

It's easy for folks to say "The work of a madman!" -- as in
Walker Percy's dystopian novel, "Love in the Ruins" and then change the subject. One has to wonder, though, how many atrocities -- and near atrocities -- have to occur before we stop, scratch our collective head and ask, "What the hell is going on here? What gives?"

And now,
the latest AP filing from yet another American anteroom of Hell. What gives?

A high school senior collected enough supplies to carry out a bomb attack on his school and detailed the plot in a hate-filled diary that included maps of the building and admiring notations about the Columbine killers, authorities said Sunday.

Ryan Schallenberger, 18, was arrested Saturday after his parents called police when 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate was delivered to their home in Chesterfield and they discovered the journal, said the town's police chief, Randall Lear.

The teen planned to make several bombs and had all the supplies needed to kill dozens at Chesterfield High School, depending on where the devices were placed and whether they included shrapnel, Lear said. Ammonium nitrate was used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people.

"The only thing left was delivering the bombs," the police chief said.

Schallenberger kept a journal for more than a year that detailed his plans for a suicide attack and included maps of the school, police said. The writings did not include a specific time for the attack or the intended targets.

‘He also left an audio tape to be played after he died explaining why he wanted to bomb his school. Lear wouldn't detail what was on the tape except to say Schallenberger was an angry young man.

"He seemed to hate the world. He hated people different from him — the rich boys with good-looking girlfriends," Lear said.

Friday, February 15, 2008

'The work of a madman!'

So long, it's been good to know 'ya.

Words to live by as the disintegration of our culture and our country continues apace as atrocities become so frequent as to lose their shock value. Pearl . . . West Paducah . . . Columbine . . . Red Lake . . . Lancaster County . . . Virginia Tech . . . Omaha . . . Lane Bryant in Chicago . . . and now Northern Illinois University.

This latest gun rampage, by a former NIU grad student, claimed five students' lives before the shooter killed himself. Another young male gone berzerk in the deadliest of fashions.

Another routine atrocity in another American town.

ABOVE is some of the early MSNBC coverage of this latest deadly mayhem. I know all this coverage all starts to look alike and meld into one big, surreal blob as time -- and tragedy -- go by, but I urge you to give it a look for one important reason. On MSNBC's air Thursday evening, someone named the beast.

Someone -- a criminal profiler -- finally told us what's going on. It starts at 3:35 into the clip, with Dan Abrams' interviewing the profiler, Pat Brown.

"Usually these men are young and they're kind of involved in the anti-life kind of culture of young people," she said. "That's why we always have the guy turning up in black . . . usually obsessed with killing."

So far, a pretty good mirror of much of our popular culture. I'd call it the popular culture of a society in its death throes.

But I digress. Back to Brown, the expert on criminals and what makes them tick:

"And it's a very cultural thing," she explained. "If you look back in time, you have kamikaze pilots who killed themselves. And now we have in some cultures suicide bombers; here we have . . . what do you do to get the glory when life is not going well . . . you become a school shooter."

Abrams wonders why we are no longer shocked by our ongoing atrocities.

"It's become the cool thing to do," Brown said. "And it's all over the Net. You can actually go to sites now, and you can talk about how you can be a Columbine guy yourself.

"And so when you decide you want to go out with a blaze of glory, you follow the pattern. You know you're going to get famous doing that."

Kamikazes. Suicide bombers. American young men wanting to do another Columbine. Or now, Virginia Tech.

Death cults, basically. Nihilism run amok. School shooters -- and mall shooters like Robert Hawkins this past December in Omaha -- are our suicide bombers. Terrorists, all.

And they don't come out of nowhere.

IT'S NOT LIKE we weren't warned. The novelist Walker Percy foresaw our times back in 1971, when he wrote "Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World."

Percy, a minor prophet at least, set his novel in 1983. It actually took us until now to get close enough to Percy's dystopia for a keen observer to think "Whoa!"

At first glace all seems normal hereabouts. But a sharp eye might notice one of two things amiss. For one thing, the inner lanes of the Interstate, the ones ordinarily used for passing, are in disrepair. The tar strips are broken. A lichen grows in the oil stain. Young mimosas sprout on the shoulders.

The author describes a landscape where all is falling apart, including society and politics.

Political parties have careened off toward ideological extremes. The Republicans have become the Knotheads, looking for all the world like the fondest reactionary dreams of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

The Democrats have become the "Lefts," or, in our real-life vernacular, the Party of Kos.

The country is disintegrating, and the Catholic Church has split into three parts: the Dutch Schismatics, the American Catholics (who play the Star-Spangled Banner at the elevation of the Body and Blood) and the remnant Roman Catholics -- a scattered and dispirited bunch.

And everybody is overcome with angst of one sort or another.

The vines began to sprout in earnest a couple of months ago. People do not like to talk about it. For some reason they'd much rather talk about the atrocities that have been occurring ever more often: entire families murdered in their beds for no good reason. "The work of a madman!" people exclaim. . . .

The center did not hold.

However, the Gross National Product continues to rise.

There are Left states and Knothead states, Left towns and Knothead towns but no center towns (for example, my old hometown over yonder is Knothead, Fedville behind me is Left, and Paradise Estates where I live now does not belong to the center -- there is no center -- but is that rare thing, a pleasant place where Knothead and Left -- but not black -- dwell side by side in peace), Left networks and Knothead networks, Left movies and Knothead movies. The most popular Left films are dirty movies from Sweden. All-time Knothead favorites, on the other hand, include The Sound of Music, Flubber, and the Ice Capades of 1981, clean movies all.

I've stopped going to movies. It is hard to say which is more unendurable, the sentimental blasphemy of Knothead movies like The Sound of Music or sitting in a theater with strangers watching other strangers engage in sexual intercourse and sodomy on the giant 3-D Pan-a-Vision screen.

BUT ENOUGH about that. Let's talk about the latest atrocity, instead -- at Northern Illinois, right?

"The work of a madman!"