JESUS LOVES KINKY FRIEDMAN…
As the last strains of Charles Gounod’s belly (sic) music from Faust faded away in the background, my gaze fell upon a CD recording of some kinky stuff sitting on my shelf. I was in Saudi Arabia when I first got the message from Heebie-jeebie songmeister Kinky Friedman that they don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore. That such an esoteric subject matter could be transmogrified into strains of Jewish country & western music was a revelation to someone like myself who nominally manifests massive amounts of irreverence for most ordinary human institutions as a matter of course.
For a person raised on the Goon Show, Monty Python, and the Firesign Theatre, stumbling across Kinky via a friend’s audio-tape, as I followed Lawrence’s footsteps across the Great Empty Quarter, was about as profound a source of much bemused inner reflectivity as discovering that Betty Jo Biolosky’s knickers contained different equipment than mine did in Kindergarten! Later on I learned, to my absolute shock, horror, disgust, disapprobation, dismay, consternation, apprehension, anxiety, panic, sadness, depression, and gross perturbment (did I overlook anything here?) that Kinky was also one of Dubya’s favs. Yah, dasright! Dubya Bush, the guy who has managed to hoodwink the American public into authorising him (via the legislature) to blow 2 trillion American bucks on personal grudges, apparently thinks the Kinkster is kool, too! The fact that the Dubster shares a penchant for Kinky’s truly iconoclastic tastes was not just slightly upsetting, it truly caused me to rock back a moment and anxiously reevaluate my previously held outlooks. I was forced to analyse my formerly secure self-perceptions of secular pop-culture, antidisestablishmentarianistic disdain, since surely the arch architect of our present disastrous foreign policy couldn’t possibly have anything in common with superciliously Bohemian moi? Not hardly? Ha? Hmmmm?
Alas, ‘tis true, although I am still hard pressed to be able to come up with a plausible explanation (to my further chagrin, I note that Dubya and I were born only 17 days apart; fortunately he’s a Cancer and I’m a Gemini). Just another of life’s little disappointments, I suppose. I eventually recovered from this momentary fall from grace and am now firmly seated back in the saddle of anarchic intellectual thought processing, and once again all is left-of-right in my world view. For a moment, though, my entire personal identity took a psychic pounding!
One of my chief artistic delights in life has always been revolutionary propaganda, since I have for most of my life been, in a certain sense, a ‘cultural anarchy’ fellow-traveler. A lifetime of experience with and awareness of the fact that utter truth and sincerity are no longer (even vestigially) recognisable remnants of human patterns of interaction on this planet rather astutely prepared me to discover the wonderful ironies of institutionalized patterns of deception that are conceptionalised, formularized, and promulgated in present American society. Clearly, in today’s America, profiteering is the largest and most well established religion to be found within the broad commercial spectrum of the United States’ social-economy. Given that fact, it stand to reason that absolute truth is an embarrassingly unacceptable and morally antithetical contraindication to the process of gaining wealth that institutional America worships above all other religious values. That being the case, it stands to unassailable reason that all facts of life as we Americans know and understand them must be…um, how shall we put it?...delicately ‘adjusted’ to meet and fully conform to that expectation? That is to say, whatever truths we may have once shared must constantly be remanufactured and commercially processed to conform to today’s highly relative standards of exacting valuation, in order that our population may continue to remain rampantly uncritical consumers of mass quantities of manufactured goods that we not only don’t need, but when viewed as an aggregate economic and philosophical vector, are complete anathema to our optimal health, welfare, and personal fulfillment as living carbon-based organisms. Yup. It’s the old artificial commercial variation on nature’s twisty trick of turning ordinary garden-variety carbon into a highly valued diamond. Or, shit into Shinola, if you will.
However, at the risk of very easily getting side-tracked on yet another tangential intellectual excursion off the main path of my current thoughtful regard, I’ll steer carefully back to the main track of this dialectic streamliner I’ve booked passage on: if adjusting truth to the level of relativity required to convince people that shit smells like Channel #5 (or that black is white, right is wrong, etc., in fine, time-honored Orwellian fashion), then propaganda—that complex art by which such feats of bullshitery are precisely accomplished—is in itself an intrinsically fascinating subject of study for the up-and-coming young cultural anarchist (or even an old practicing iconoclast like myself).
If one assumes for the sake of this argument that 90% of any given population are abysmally and irretrievably stupid (one of my favorite and most basic personal hypothetical assumptions), it follows that since supremely intelligent and artful logic is not required to sell urine-covered shit as liquid gold to the average person, a modest degree of visual artistry appears just as adequate for these purposes. After all, due to the fact that a picture is now worth 10,000 words (itself consequent to the fact that reading is on the endangered qualities list and televised media viewing has supplanted reading as the primary learning tool in America), visual propaganda that has a high level of ‘eye candy’ appeal offers almost unlimited opportunities to achieve an outcome In the collective uni-brain-celled socialization process of the Hoi Poloi that is equal to or which contains greater impact potential than the most compelling logical argument process of traditional yore. Thus, returning to my original sentiment, I am and have always been a great fan of propaganda art. More specifically, of Chinese Revolutionary propaganda art (i.e. I refer to the ‘Chinese Cultural Revolution’ of Mao Zhedong).
A number of years ago, while still resident in the Peoples’ Republic of Berzerkley, I was going with a young Chinese woman who was completing her medical residency at the same hospital I worked in. Aside from the fact that she was a strikingly beautiful woman, possessed of all the requisite soft bumps, smooth curves, and lush, moist valleys found on the typical female of the species, she also had a brain. Gasp! Sorry to disappoint all of my misogynist buddies with this revelation, but yes, she was about as brilliant as anyone I knew at that time. She was also a former Young Maoist cadre who had originally come to America as what is known as a ’paper daughter’. [For those of you who are unmindful of the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the early 20th Century, these racist legislative proscriptions were passed by the American Congress to bar entry to people of East Asian ethnicity to America—most specifically to those of Chinese ancestry. This was principally the result of WASP resentment stemming from the profound economic impact made by the floods of cheap Chinese labor that helped California create its Gold Rush era economy (and therefrom enable capitalist industrialists like Crocker, Hearst, Carnegie, Stanford, et al, to make millions of dollars of obscene profit).]
At any rate, she had no family in the United States by direct relation, so her family in China resorted to a common loophole in the Chinese Exclusion Acts legislation that allowed close relatives outside the United States (i.e. father, son, mother, daughter) to join family that was already in the US at the time the acts went into effect. Thus Mai-Ling (we shall hypothetically call her) was given the family name of an unrelated Chinese family in California and an application for an entry visa was filed with the US Government for admittance on that basis. This was what we call being a ‘paper son’, or ‘paper daughter’…that is, a relation on paper only, with no authentic and verifiable family association at all.
At any rate, as a paper daughter, Mai-Ling eventually gained immigrant status and settled in New York, with her ‘adopted’ family. Once there, she immediately demonstrated possession of a startling intellect and displayed great potential for academic success in just about anything she studied. Having gotten straight-A’s in high school (natch!), she applied for a college in NYC that offered a pre-med study program. Meanwhile, she was seduced into becoming an American Young Maoist by a radical young Chinese friend, in which organisation she soon demonstrated her brilliance in espousing the radical leftist cause of American-based Chinese Communists. No Red Guard in Communist China was ever as fervently dedicated to the Chairman and his Cultural Revolution as was ‘made in China’ Mai-Ling. I still have pictures showing her wearing her faded old green ‘Mao hat’ and holding up her Little Red Book of ‘Quotations from the Chairman’, along with the hundreds of others at a rally in New York’s Chinatown!
Eventually, Mail-Ling graduated and entered med school in Massachusetts, where she became less politically passionate (by necessity—can you imagine a medical student shouting out revolutionary slogans during a class in medical economics at Peter Bent Brigham University Hospital?), With her revolutionary ardor increasingly dampened by the ‘system’ that grinds us all down into unprotesting little proletarian cogs in the great American economic machine, she studied to become a doc. By the time she made it to Berkeley to do her medical residency, her leftist passions had cooled down by an order or magnitude, and that is when I met her.
Fading Maoist sentiments notwithstanding, however, her mind was still as crystalline clear and hard-faceted as a diamond, and by my reckoning, I was as hooked on her formidable assets (no pun intended, although she had an ass that could virtually make me cry to gaze upon it, so perfectly heart-shaped and firm it was….oooogh!), as any young, semi-Bohemian, pseudo intellectual, cultural anarchist could possibly be. In my mind, she was the sort of mythical Chinese heroine that so typically characterized Cultural Revolutionary opera of that era in China (i.e. 'The White-haired Girl’, etc.) and her philosophical interests in revolutionary Chinese medicine (viz. The barefoot doctor tradition begun by Mao in China) so paralleled her spectacular abilities in conventional western medicine that by my standards she was worthy of my most profound respect and admiration (and believe me, I didn’t admire many in those days).
I had (and still have) a fairly active imagination and a creative streak a mile wide, by any reckoning, and her combination of superior qualities (a sharply inquiring intellect combined with a body that could bring a man to tears) captivated and consumed me for most of the time we were together. Our conversations were on par with the sparing of the Greek Gods on Mt. Olympus (at least that’s how I saw it) and our sex was entirely off the charts in its stupendous, unending, shuddering explosions of mutually catalysed explosive passion. Riding her moist, gripping femaleness at such moments was like mounting a wild stallion without a saddle and plummeting off a cliff into the great sucking oblivion of ultimate chaos. Fucking her mind, on the other hand, was even more startling and about as close to a mescaline high (I had one time experienced) as I imagined lysergic acid diethylamide could possibly be. At such moments we were so high on each other that synthetic stimulation of the ‘substance-sort’ was laughably unnecessary (a demonstration of the fact that once you have fully synergized on each other’s spiritual core energy, the artificial stimulation commonly sought in drugs becomes absolutely redundant and perhaps even absurd). Needless to say, aside from a few tokes of a joint now and then, and one inadvertent experience with 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, when we were together I never needed anything else to reach out to that great supernova of hyper-sensitive sensation that lies beyond the near reaches of the ordinary human senses.
But Mai-Ling’s link to this subject is another tangential vector off the main topic, since I began by discussing the importance to me of propaganda as a visual art form. As a student of East Asian studies in Berkeley, I had been fascinated by the peoples of that region of the world and even more so by the cataclysmic political and cultural upheavals that characterised the rise of Chinese Communism, when the Kuomintang Nationalists lost China to Mao’s radical Marxist guerrillas. The fact that China hewed to a core of ‘purer’ Communist philosophy than that embodied remnants of post-Leninist socialism (that Stalin had brought into being) was a source of particular interest for me. Accordingly, given that return to the original matrix of archetypal Marxist-Leninist philosophy, the artistic traditions of ancient China took on an entirely new substance during the whole term of the Cultural Revolution. The ancient Confucian artistic forms yielded to what we now regard as ‘Revolutionary Art’, most of it produced under the overall aegis of the People’s Republic Ministry of Propaganda and deliberately produced to further the new cultural and political hegemony under Mao’s reign.
Art from this period is almost uniformly characterized by highly stylized expressions of political fervor that lent themselves most effectively to the ubiquitous poster art styles of that period. Wood block prints and lithographs of courageous Peoples Liberation Army soldiers, highly glorified proletarian worker-heroines, and scenes of grossly politicised economic productivity, are all fairly typical of the art in reference. Viewed either as individual works or as parts of an entire artistic milieu, the effect of these beautiful and colorful poster prints is both immediate and impressive on first sight. Healthy, happy, rosy-cheeked children, strong, capable wives and mothers, and reliance on a basic style of super-heroic poses that verge on the ludicrous, all typify the propaganda art of this period. Of course the stylized and superhuman poses of the ever-ubiquitous Chairman himself constituted the most commonly depicted sentimental element expressed throughout the range of these works.
Even if you were not a simple Chinese peasant in China, it was easy to come under the emotional influence of these overly embellished and every-present images that stem from revolutionary China under Mao. Since I was living in Berkeley—across the San Francisco Bay from several of the Chinese Peoples’ Republic authorised cultural outlets—I frequently made trips to the City (SFO) to prowl through the wide range of books and graphic arts imported from the PRC (Communist China). In particular, collections of the sort of revolutionary poster art in reference caught my eye and I was usually lucky to be able to make it out of any given store with less than a few hundred dollars worth of printed matter under my arm. One of these, a book consisting of colored poster plates showing a progressive peoples agricultural collective in Szechuan Province, I thought particularly nifty and presented it to my paramour, Mai-Ling, suitably inscribed with some highly alliterative hand-written remarks about 'overcoming adversity and relentlessly persevering towards the common good'. To my great surprise, Mail-Ling took it all rather casually and didn’t seem to be very appreciative of either the book or the spirit represented by it. That was my first clue that the oppressive American economic machine that digests us all and spits out dutiful materialistic consumers had done their worst to her and her formerly admirable anti-establishment passions. Mai-Ling, the former Red Guard cadre had become a born again capitalist!
Long story short, she had indeed become absorbed into the great yawning maw of American capitalistic materialism, but at the time I hadn’t reflected much on the fact that it was her chosen career of American medicine that was the chief instrument of her undoing. Naturally, had I been thinking the process through logically, I would have more quickly concluded that you don’t play the snake oil game to that extent required to graduate from the American medical establishment expecting to retain whatever sense of vionary social awarenesses you previously possessed. Doctors in today’s culture make lousy revolutionaries of course, although in the previous century a background in medicine might have constituted prime culture media (a la Petri dish) in which to cultivate a profoundly revolutionary sense of ethical justice among the bourgeoise. As a result, my book of Chinese revolutionary poster art ended up being rather casually tossed somewhere in a dark corner of her bookshelf. Abashed and not a little irritated, I eventually retrieved it for my own enjoyment, given her apparent loss of ‘faith’ in the cause.
So how does Kinky Friedman, that iconic Hebrew songster of Country & Western music and candidate for the governorship of Texas, tie into poster art of the Peoples’ Republic of China’s ‘cultural revolution’? Hopefully none of you will ask that question too persistently, since otherwise that trashes entirely any chance I might have to being able to blather on vapidly about stuff that probably holds little interest for anyone who doesn’t share my intrinsic passion for brain f***ing, anal-retentive cultural dissections (or story-talking tales of former loves and hot shit passions, now warmed over on some weak flame of recollection’s Bunsen-burner).
I am told, however, that if Jesus loves anybody, it would have to include such radically amusing and outrageously satirical bards as is the Kinkster, whom I have already sadly related is highly valued by both my arch-nemesis (Dubya) and myself! Be well, and don’t forget to hold that Little Red Book high (as long as it doesn’t contain quotations from Chairman Dubya!) on your way to the next level of universal social awareness (whatever the hell THAT is!)!
Mahalo for listening, Kalikiano