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Last night my Japanese class finally got around to doing dinner, with an added complication: a friend of the teacher’s, Naomi, who fell off a plane from Tōkyō a few weeks ago and hasn’t picked up much more English than “U2” and “Guinness” so far. It must have been a strange experience for her, being in a Japanese restaurant in Dublin, unable to read the menus, while a bunch of 外人 mangle her language…

I’ve been asked to provide a picture of myself, for a “yearbook” for the upcoming Rush Stalker Tour, and it’s raised the whole question of self-image all over again. Psychologists, professional and amateur, all seem to stress the importance of a healthy self-image, the idea of being a “whole person”, comfortable with every aspect of one’s being. Well, what if one’s external appearance bears no resemblance to the internal mental image one carries? The result is someone who prefers to spend his time behind a camera, referring to himself in the third person.

What the hell is he talking about? To cut a long story short, I don’t look in mirrors deliberately, and I’m never satisfied with any pictures of myself. I took my camera to work today, a colleague pointed it at me, and I was frankly shocked by the results. I’ll try again in a couple of days, straight after a shave, and I’ll feed the results through one or more of the “artistic” filters in Adobe Photoshop to strip away the “reality” and leave the “impression”. (Yes, I know…)

I’m going through a bunch of old videotapes, of “important” movies I recorded, and settled on Robert Altman’s Nashville. Where M*A*S*H was centred on an army field hospital, and Gosford Park around an English country mansion, Nashville sprawls across the entire city. From the Grand Ol’ Opry, to the freeways, where a sofa falling off a car roof causes a pile-up that soon turns into a street party, to a complex of recording studios, where an addled BBC journalist (Geraldine Chaplin) tries to interview Henry Gibson’s stuck-up Country patriarch, then hooks up with Lily Tomlin’s laid-back gospel group and deaf-mute kids, while the strolling voice of unreason spews from a political party truck, dumping random streams of rhetoric on an unheeding, preoccupied populace, the story loops and twists back on itself like a rattlesnake on quaaludes. Well, it was the 70’s, but this is practically a historical document from way back when, one where everyone talks at once while a bluegrass band thumps out America The Beautiful in the foreground.

A key funny moment, for me: on a Sunday, while the other characters are showing their faces at their respective churches, the journalist walks among the cars in a scrapyard, recording her thoughts for the article she will pen on her return.

I’m wandering in a graveyard; the dead here have no crosses, nor tombstones, nor wreathes to sing of their past glories, but lie in rotting decay, rusting heaps, their innards ripped out by greedy vulture hands; their vast vacant skeletons sadly sighing to the sky. The rust in their bodies is the colour of dried blood. Dried blood! I’m reminded of… of an elephant’s secret burial ground… these cars are trying to communicate! Cars! Are you trying to tell me something?

I think Adrian Belew did a good job of speaking a car’s mind, years ago: Dig Me, but don’t… Bury Me.

Written by brian t

June 1, 2004 at 10:23 pm

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