ask palinode #11: clash of the tired hooers

Oooookay. Time for another installment of that, whatchacallit, thing, where people want to know stuff and I tell them. I forget what it's called. Hold on, I'm going to go stare at the cat until I remember.

Okay, got it now. Thanks, cat.


I have finger puppets of Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare and Charles Darwin, but they're not talking to each other right now. And they look kind of pissed off. I think they may have had a fight while I was gone. What do you think happened?


Saviabella, without a doubt those are the most miserable world-weary finger puppets I've ever seen - and you haven't even taken the tags off yet. I should report you for this, Ms. Savia. The cops will come and then, as Adrian Mole likes to say, you'll get done for sure. How'd you like them apples, Savia? To get done by a bunch of cops showing up at your door?

Don't answer that.

It's well-known that finger puppets, just like the rest of us, enjoy prog rock. Your puppets have slipped into a state of gloom because their prog rock needs are not being addresssed, which has resulted in a state of underprogment. Initial symptoms manifest as listlessness, which progresses to neuralgia, fraying, and a matted look, as if a cat had got ahold of them and dragged them under the chaise longue.

Just as different basement-dwelling teens from the seventies and eighties preferred different prog rock bands, so do different finger puppets. The trick is matching the puppet to the correct gang of long-haired coke-snorting four-chord-loving rock snobs that have made life so miserable for most of us.

Puppet #1: Charles Darwin

Capsule bio: A gentleman scientist from nineteenth century England. Sailed on a boat called the Beagle. Looked at big birds and scary lizards on rocky wastelands in the Pacific. Discovered that the path to atheism ran through the ovipositor of a wasp.

Best match: Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells. This is the classiest piece of progressive rock out there, and to judge by by Darwin's white beard, kindly expression and elegant but well-worn coat, he likes his prog as a background air to the motions of his mind.

2nd choice: Yes, The Yes Album. Charles Darwin enjoys the complex harmonies, even if he finds Jon Anderson's high-pitched vocals a little disturbing. He also draws quiet inspiration from the first part of "Starship Trooper".

Puppet #2: William Shakespeare

Capsule bio: Led a life of wretched disappointment. Married a woman many years his senior who may have been his father's mistress. Son Hamnet died young, probably from silly name. Ground out an existence in the theatre, died respectably well-off and left his secondbest bed to his wife. Wrote some plays concerning kings, magicians, and a guy with a donkey's head.

Best match: Jethro Tull, Minstrel in the Gallery. Shakespeare likes his prog rock fried in the fat of folk, and Tull's folk influences and flutework glisten on Minstrel. Jethro Tull kind of seem like they come out of the sixteenth century. From under a pile of horse shit.

2nd choice: Rush, A Farewell to Kings. One word: madrigal.

Puppet #3: Virginia Woolf.

Capsule bio: Miserable depressed writer from the twentieth century who wrote a number of books, each one less accessible than the last. Despised the world and everyone in it, herself included. Had a fatal passion for collecting river rocks.

Best match: Emerson Lake & Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery. OMG. Any way you cut it, "Karn Evil 9" is a thirty-minute masterpiece of rock so prog that you'll need a medic afterwards. When Keith Emerson sings "Soon the gypsy queen in a glaze of vaseline/ Will perform on guillotine/ What a scene! what a scene!" halfway through "Karn Evil 9 (First Impressions)," you know you're in the presence of sheer. Genius. This is what Septimus Smith was singing when he leaped to his death.

2nd choice: King Crimson, In The Court of the Crimson King. No particular reason, but if Virginia Woolf were going to get into 1970s art-rock, she should start here.

Puppet #4: Sigmund Freud.

Capsule bio: Born Sigismund Schlomo Freud. Enjoyed cigars, maids, talking about sex with Viennese housewives. Thought about infant sexuality and personality formation for years until he realized that the human race carried within itself a deathward impulse. Smoked his jaw off.

Best match: Pink Floyd, The Wall. Don't tell me you didn't see this one a mile away. I think Freud contributed backup vocals on "Young Lust". His campaign against dark sarcasm in the classroom does not need to be explored here. He did, however, feel that children needed some education, even it amounted to thought control.

2nd choice: Kraftwerk, The Man-Machine. Although Freud was not interested in the cyborgian themes of the album, dismissing it as yet another example of the death drive in action, he loved the vocoder. Because at the end of his life, Freud's musical career was cut short by cancer in his jaw. He could have cut a few singles with a vocoder and some session musicians. I'm not saying it would have been an epic body of work, but it would have found its niche.