That Toddling TDC

For today’s Daily Create, I pushed play and got
Chicago (That Toddling Town)

It has quite a history for a song I never even heard of. There’s even a James Brown version:

which sounds entirely different. I also located sheet music, which has some of the lyrics Brown used. The version I listened to was instrumental though.

page from sheet music for Cicago (That Toddlin Town)

The chorus references Billy Sunday, who appears to have quite a story of his own, in an oblique jab at Prohibition. A lot of history in one little click.

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Walk the Nightmare Alley Blues

I watched the 2021 version of Nightmare Alley the other day, and decided it needed the Walk of Life treatment:

I think it works, but really only if you know the context. There’s a level of psychological horror here, as he recognizes that he’s willingly walking into degradation and death. The carnival geek is a sort of man/beast, a man who was supposedly raised in the wild as an animal. That’s the story told to the carnival-goers. Really he’s an alcoholic who’s manipulated into a subhuman existence through his addiction. This is explained early in the story:

I kind of wished that had picked a different actor for the lead role, but maybe he wasn’t available:

I decided to further test the Walk of Life theory with the 1990 classic Miami Blues:

It works here as well, and the scene is less in need of explanation. A few of the cuts conveniently fall in line with the beat of the song, so it looks like it belongs.

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Get into the car | We’ll be the passenger

I had planned to try to blog these elements together, but instead made this audio mashup. I’m guessing it’s even less comprehensible than if I tried to connect the ideas in text, but on the bright side it has Iggy Pop.

The bomb lurks in the back history of The Passenger. That, and the idea of language as a virus mentioned previously, brought the Home of the Brave version of “Sharkey’s Night” to mind. I ran that into the passage from p. 116 relating the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and followed that with J. Frank Parnell’s brief soliloquy on madness and the neutron bomb from Repo Man. He speaks of split personality, which relates to Alicia’s hallucination conversations in the novel. I ran some soundtrack music from the movie underneath the book passage as connective tissue. That goes into one of said conversations, discussing passengers and death, with an instrumental Iggy backing track, perhaps for ironic effect. Or unironic, as the case may be. The Ice T/Body Count rendition of “Institutionalized” may be unnecessary, but I just discovered it. I used a karaoke version underneath the next passage, in which The Kid may be telling us how to understand the novel. I see a theme of elemental forces – fire, water, earth, air – throughout the book, so Ned Beatty’s speech from Network comes next, with more Repo Man/Pop backing. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely instrumental, but maybe the competing voices fit metaphorically. Another brief clip, and then it closes out with Iggy’s “The Passenger,” appropriately. Or not. Pop’s lyrics were influenced by Jim Morrison’s poetry in The Lords and the New Creatures, which may be another rabbit hole to descend sometime.

Speaking of which, there are some lines in the first passage, “Like an immense bladder, they would say. Like some sea thing” that for whatever reason made me look up Leviathan: “…often an embodiment of chaos and threatening to eat the damned after their life.” O what a tangled web…

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Trollin’, trollin’, trollin’

Cormac McCarthy's face superimposed on a Leslie Neilsen still from Airplane, with the line "And dont call me Shirley" from The Passenger attached.
Who’s trolling who? I was reading more of The Passenger this morning, and on page 195 one of the hallucinatory ‘horts spouted the classic line from Airplane. So you know what I had to do.

The face swap doesn’t quite work, I think because the lighting doesn’t match. Maybe I should try different images?

There’s still a mismatch. He does look completely serious though.

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Firefly, can you see me? || Shine on, glowing, brief and brightly

I’m not sure where I’m going with any of this. Maybe nowhere. Maybe this is a relevant quote:

“To the seasoned traveler a destination is at best a rumor.” (p. 56)

Continuing my musings on McCarthy’s latest novel, I’m wondering what to make of the title, The Passenger. The word is referenced in a couple of passages early in the novel. Here, a pair of unidentified agents say a passenger was missing from the sunken aircraft that Western investigated. This makes for a mystery because there was no indication that anyone had entered or exited the plane, except for the fact that there were items and equipment missing.

There seems to be a passenger missing. A passenger. Yes. Missing. Yes. They watched him. He'd no idea what they wanted. Do you have any identification? he said. We showed you our identification. Maybe I could see them again. They looked at each other and then leaned and produced the badges and held them out. You can write down the numbers ifyou like. That's okay. You can write them down. We dont mind. I dont have to write them down. They werent sure what he meant. They flipped the badges up and folded them away. Mr Western? Yes. How many passengers were in the aircraft? Seven. Seven. Yes. You mean plus the pilot and copilot. Yes. Nine bodies. Yes. Well apparently there should have been eight passengers. Somebody missed the flight. We dont think so. There were eight passengers on the manifest. What manifest is that? The manifest for the flight. Why would there be a manifest? Why wouldnt there be? It was a private aircraft.

Here Alicia is conversing with the ringleader of her cohort of hallucinations, asking where they came from and how they got there.

Somehow I doubt the intention here is to remind us of Monty Python, but there it is.

“I’m a passenger… I must be something else. But maybe not” says a figment of the imagination. Or a manifestation of the subconscious. In the Kekulé Problem McCarthy asks, “Why is the unconscious so loathe to speak to us? Why the images, metaphors, pictures? Why the dreams, for that matter.” and later answers, “The unconscious is just not used to giving verbal instructions and is not happy doing so.” Note the Kid’s exasperation with Alicia’s questions. Maybe this represents the tension between the subconscious and the rational, creativity and insight pushing to break through the rules and regulations.

The following page gives us this passage:

When you carry a child in your arms it will turn its head to see where it’s going. Not sure why. It’s going there anyway. You just need to grab your best hold, that’s all. You think there’s these rules about who gets to ride the bus and who gets to be here and who gets to be there. How did you get here? Well, she just rode in on her lunarcycle. I see you looking for tracks in the carpet but if we can be here at all we can leave tracks. Or not. The real issue is that every line is a broken line. You retrace your steps and nothing is familiar. So you turn around to come back only now you’ve got the same problem going the other way. Every worldline is discrete and the caesura for a void that is bottomless. Every step traverses death.
(p. 56)

Of course I had to look up caesura. The pause between lines of poetry, the space between words. But “worldline” is not a typo there. Words and worlds. I don’t know what to make of that, or the rest of the Kid’s constant wordplay, but it opens up worlds of contemplation. The passage stuck out to me because back in the real world, in the next chapter, Bobby is also looking for tracks:

He picked up a piece of parchmentcolored driftwood in the shape of a pale homunculus and held it up and turned it in his hand. Late in the day with the light failing he put ashore in a small cove and beached the boat and climbed out and turned and saw almost immediately the tracks in the sand. Just above the this dark rim of a wrack. They looked to have been partly filled in by the wind, but that wasn’t it. Something had been dragged over them. He walked out to the edge of the palmettos and here the tracks came back and went down the beach. Clean tracks. The rubber ribs of wetsuit bootees. He stood looking out over the gray water. He looked at the sun and studied the island. Would the wildlife include rattlesnakes? Eastern diamondbacks. Eight feet long. Atrocious or adamantine he couldnt remember. He picked up a piece of driftwood and broke it to length across his knee and followed the tracks into the woods. (p. 60)

McCarthy makes up compound words here and there, like parchmentcolored. I may need to ponder this. I also had to look up homunculus, although I’m still not sure how to understand it as a shape. The use of wrack has poetic depth as well. Atrocious or adamantine, what could we make of that? How many layers of meaning are lurking in here? Superficially, he appears to be looking for someone else who has been involved with the plane, whether that be the passenger or an interloper. Someone who has flippers, not unlike the Thalidomide Kid. Certainly that’s not who it is, but as Kekulé showed us, one thing can be something else. Trying to think through all this will probably break my brain like a piece of driftwood.

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“Paradise is exactly like where you are right now”

I thought of this song when I was reading The Kekulé Problem the other day. In it, McCarthy recalls,

I suggested once in conversation at the Santa Fe Institute that language had acted very much like a parasitic invasion and David Krakauer—our president—said that the same idea had occurred to him. Which pleased me a good deal because David is very smart.

Allegedly, the virus quote originated in William Burroughs’ The Ticket That Exploded, although I could not locate the verbiage in a search of the text. McCarthy doesn’t deal with Burroughs though. He’s rather discussing relationships between language and the subconscious, and language and humanity.

…once you have language everything else follows pretty quickly. The simple understanding that one thing can be another thing is at the root of all things of our doing.

The Open Culture essay on The Kekulé Problem quotes GK Chesterton: “Art is the signature of man.” Art, like language, is symbolic representation and metaphor. One thing being another. I’d also say it’s a mirror, in that what we see in it is determined by what we bring to it, and so it shows us ourselves.

I read Kekulé hoping it would help me grapple with The Passenger. The jacket flap explains it as a “novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.” On the surface, it appears to be two interleaved tales, one of a young woman’s hallucinations and suicide, and one of her brother working as a salvage diver in New Orleans. But it’s something more as well. There’s a scene at a funeral where the protagonist muses on the scientists who built the bomb and the aesthetics of horror, with this sentence:

I just had to make a triple troll quote out of that. #MakeArtDammit! I attributed it to Hemingway and used a photo of Ellroy, contrasting the quote to their deceptively simple prose and economy of language.

Anderson’s song connects back to the book with serendipitous lyrics:

Is exactly like
Where you are right now
Only much much (It’s a shipwreck,)
Better. (It’s a job.)

The job involves a shipwreck and a sunken plane. I don’t think paradise enters into it, although it appears to be what they like doing. Finding these connections is something I like doing. And it gives me impetus to blog a bit, and maybe get that book club thing going with Jim again.

“Singin’ la la la la la la la la”

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Keep on walking

So I made a few more Walk of Life edits:

That worked nicely, I think. It almost seems appropriate, so I figured I should try a different track:

That’s probably longer than it needs to be, or maybe it just seems that way. I think it would have been a lot stronger if I was able to edit the cuts to align with the music. But at this point I was also thinking that I only know old movies. So let’s look at something more recent:

I haven’t actually seen Wolf Warrior, although it is in my “watch later” list, so I have no idea how the music relates to the story. But maybe that doesn’t matter.

Here I just stripped the sound entirely. In retrospect, I should have cut the parts where people’s lips are moving. Maybe I’ll redo it. So I had to try one more:

I’m guessing Alex would not have approved.


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The Notorious W.O.L.

Yesterday a conversation popped up in my Twitter stream

which introduced me to the Walk of Life Project. The hypothesis stated on the site is that the Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” is the perfect ending song for any movie. And it has a lengthy list of examples for evidence. I don’t want this experiment to fall victim to the replicability crisis, so I felt a responsibility to test the hypothesis myself.

I think this kinda works. I should have edited the video a bit more to align cuts and beats. Maybe that extra step is the difference between an artist and a hack like me.

The track does have versatility. I think it works better when there’s a shift in mood that goes along with the flow of the music, like in the project’s edit of The Birds.

I remembered that Notorious ended with a walk scene

I had to play around a bit with where the music should start. I thought it might be good to have the initial guitar strum align with the locking of the car door. Sebastian then goes on a walk of death, so I suppose it only works in an ironic sense. But who doesn’t like a happy ending? This is now a ds106 assignment so everyone can test the hypothesis. Science!

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Some people like listening to video and podcast recordings of talks, and some prefer transcripts. Unfortunately they’re not always available. One thing I’ve done in the past is upload to Youtube and let them generate a transcript. The quality is questionable though, since they don’t do punctuation or distinguish among speakers. Today I found an open web tool that does.

I tried it out with the latest episode of Gettin’ Air, and got these results. Much better than what Youtube does. We still get some misinterpretations, and it doesn’t quite pick out the transitions between speakers, but hey, it don’t cost nothin’.

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Casting shadows

Today’s TDC asked us to make shadow art. Naturally my first thought was of The Shadow, but I didn’t want to just find an illustration on the web. Then it occurred to me to make audio art, of sorts. I went to the Internet Archive to find “The Shadow knows…” and his maniacal laugh. I wanted to add a beat to it so I looked up DJ Shadow and found Rocket Fuel ft. De La Soul. Then I added a little whisper and made a bumper out of it. I did some minor playing around in Audacity to put it all together.

I may be able to put it to use. I can’t imagine it will make my sporadic radio sets sound any more amateurish.

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