The Week in Death: Dec 3-9 :1/2
QUOTE OF THE DAY
``We continue to share with our remotest ancestors the most tangled
and evasive attitudes about death, despite the great distance we have
come in understanding some of the profound aspects of biology. We have
as much distaste for talking about personal death as for thinking
about it; it is an indelicacy, like talking in mixed company about
venereal disease or abortion in the old days.''
``I mean, the people who worry about being remembered are guys like
Reagan, Bush. . . . I don't care.'' --Frank Zappa
``...We remember such mass murderers as Howard Unruh in Camden, N.J.,
in 1949 and Charles Whitman in the tower at the University of Texas in
1966 because they were relatively exceptional. The clumsy weapons of
their times required sharpshooters for such jobs, as well as the time
and opportunity to reload. Today's arsenal demands no particular
skill or vantage or even much of an impetus. Any nitwit can do it,
erasing people like zapping TV channels with a remote. The lack of
difficulty suggests a lack of consequences, which is one reason there
are so many killings among teenagers. Sociopaths are by definition not
much concerned with consequences. For them, a semiautomatic weapon is
like a magic wand: there is barely a breath between the desire and the
cataclysmic effect. ''
--Luc Sante, in response to the murder of 5 and the wounding of
18 others on the Long Island Rail Road last week.
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FRANK ZAPPA (52), musician. Zappa's disgust for slipshod thinking
fueled a career of attacking convention, expressed in lyrics that were
iconoclastic, often scatological, and frequently scathing -- thank
heaven he was funny, or that stuff woulda got real old real quick. His
outrage against idiocy led him to take on TIPPER GORE and her Parents
Music Resource Center, which wanted to affix rating labels to recorded
music. He likened the measure to ``decapitation to cure dandruff,''
and his response to claims that popular music has a terrifying
influence was withering: ``I wrote a song about dental floss, but did
anyone's teeth get cleaner?'' Another foray into politics was in 1990,
when VACLAV HAVEL appointed him Czechoslovakia's representative to the
West on matters of trade, culture, and tourism. (Tourism?!?)
He put out 60-plus recordings over 25 years. Unfortunately, he was best
known for one-off novelty singles like ``Yellow Snow,'' ``Dancin'
Fool,'' and the album ``Hot Rats,'' because knowledge thereof
``separated the real cool music guys from the pack.'' Yes, our
readership includes aging ex-hippies (don't worry, they're mostly
reformed). Zappa's 1988 disk ``Jazz from Hell'' won that year's Grammy
for Best Rock Instrumental. His band, the Mothers of Invention (later,
simply called Zappa), was a breeding ground for innovative artists,
including ADRIAN BELEW, STEVE VAI, and the late, very lamented LOWELL
GEORGE. He also produced CAPTAIN BEEFHEART's ``Trout Mask Replica,''
one of those seminal albums that nobody listens to except bands
looking for an influence because they don't have any ideas of their
own to get famous with.
Zappa was one of the few rockers with an understanding of music
theory. He'd already won recognition as a composer, but we'll
bet anyone a sawbuck that within two decades, someone will write
a dissertation that proclaims Zappa a major link between
whatever happened before him and wherever music goes in the
titan of 20th century composition unheralded in his lifetime
because of his grounding in proletarian musical idioms, Zappa
bridged the gap between the logical formalism that was the last
link to classical romanticism and the current blah blah
He was a brilliant guitarist, fascinated with stop/starts and
precision playing, which got annoying after 15 or 20 years; he
was also pretty anal retentive when it came to composition and
performance (shut up and play with feeling). Zappa grew up in
Baltimore, as did filmmaker JOHN WATERS -- we think we're
beginning to sense a pattern here...
From the Apparently Endless Stream Of Studies On Mortality Department
(AESOSOMD): Researchers at UC San Francisco have mutated the daf-2
gene in Caenorhabditis elegans (``Dammit, Jim, I'm just a country
doctor, but I can tell you right now that's a worm.''), thereby
doubling their lifespans. The mutation in daf-2 somehow affects the
daf-16 gene which somehow makes the little slimies live longer. Humans
ain't got neither gene. Sorry.
Meanwhile, some Swedes have compiled data that suggest that a
50-year-old man experiencing a lot of stress and lacking close friends
or family is 3 times more likely to die by age 57 than a 50-year-old
guy with emotional support, whether he's stressed out or not. Just
great. As if TWIDMAN doesn't have to write a column while maintaining a
real job and paying bills and trying to survive on the mean streets of
New York, now we have all this ADDITIONALpressure to find some FRIENDS.
Oh, JESU, where will it all END?
(The Week in Death is by Brian Santo, [B.SANTO@genie.geis.com].)