August 19, 2016

"When future historians write about us... we will undoubtedly stand alone among nations and be known forevermore as 'THOSE WHO CHOSE CHEESE.'"

"Our mental health has been in a semi-wretched condition for quite some time now. One of the reasons for this distress, aside from CHOOSING CHEESE as a way of life, is the fact that we have (against some incredibly stiff competition) emerged victorious as the biggest bunch of liars on the face of the planet. No society has managed to invest more time and energy in the perpetuation of the fiction that it is moral, sane, and wholesome than our current crop of Modern Americans. This same delusion is the Mysterious Force behind our national desire to avoid behaving in any way that might be construed as INTELLIGENT. Modern Americans behave as if intelligence were some sort of hideous deformity. To cosmeticize it, many otherwise normal citizens attempt a peculiar type of self-inflicted homemade mental nose-job (designed to lower the recipient's socio-intellectual profile to the point where the ability to communicate on the most mongolian level provides the necessary certification to become ONE OF THE GUYS). Let's face it... nobody wants to hang out with someone who is smarter than they are. This is not FUN."

From an essay for Newsweek magazine, written by Frank Zappa, that became liner notes on the album "You Are What You Is" after Newsweek rejected it as too "idiosyncratic," and that I became aware of when it was quoted in the movie "Eat That Question," which I saw last night. I took notes so I could remember a few bloggable things, and my note for this just says "Cheese as a way of life." You can find the whole essay here.

I feel powerfully motivated to censor the word "mongolian" from that passage or cut it short before getting to that, but instead I'll embed this incredibly politically incorrect song — also featured in the movie (we're told it was a big hit in Norway) — "Bobby Brown Goes Down":



(Lyrics here, in case you don't believe your ears or don't want to trouble yourself with listening.)

65 comments:

Paul Snively said...

Love me some Frank, but c'mon. Would anyone be a bigger critic of the modern technocratic state than a living Frank Zappa? My bet is he'd nod knowingly, with a deep chuckle, at Michael Crichton's "thintelligence" line in "Jurassic Park" (the book—I don't remember if the line made it into the film).

Sydney said...

Jeez, and those lyrics are from 1979. No wonder Tipper got all upset about song lyrics.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

That's not even close to the "dirtiest" song he wrote. You should look into the triple album Joe's Garage rock opera that he wrote as a response to Tripper Gore and the PMRC.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe%27s_Garage

Psota said...

Kind of ties in with the whole "WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?" thing.

narciso said...

how about when he mocked christianity, that was very edgy, I won't cite the lyrics,

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Speaking of future historians, I took some commenter's advice and I'm presently listening to the audiobook of 1491. It's a bit iffy, to say the least.

I think I'm on the third disc, now, and the words slave, slavery, or enslaved have yet to be used. I think at one point the guy described the people working on some huge Incan highway project as "conscripted."

The narrator is pretty good, but he pronounced "a/k/a" as "aykay."

Anyway, I read Frank Zappa's autobiography a ways back but all I remember is him having a confrontation with John Wayne and him griping about having to deal with union musicians in Europe.

Annie C said...

If you don't already know the words to Dynamo Hum, look them up. Better yet, listen to the song. Incomparable.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Without looking, may I guess that intelligence is equated to "ideas and attitudes with which I agree/that I find acceptable?"

Close?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Oh, Modern Americans are stupid, liars, etc, sure. Just, as a question - whom should we be more like--what society or nation at what point in time should we emulate?

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Whatever. Different planet.

Will Cate said...

The album that song originally appears on, 1979's "Sheik Yerbouti," is a particularly fine piece of work. Freed from his legal entanglements with Warner Brothers, the double-LP, which combines live and studio material, is one of my favorites.

bagoh20 said...

"whom should we be more like--what society or nation at what point in time should we emulate?"

America - July 24, 1969.

Will Cate said...

Great Dylan parody at about the 1:20 mark of this track

Sheik Yerbouti - Flakes

Amexpat said...

The song has been popular for decades here in Norway. I remember being introduced to it by some students here around 1980. They didn't understated all the terms, but they like the attitude. It's now often played on regular FM radio, I think more for the melody than the lyrics.

bagoh20 said...

"Don't eat that yellow snow" was a particularly intellectual piece of wisdom, and "My balls feel like a pair of maracas. Oh God, I probably have the Ghono-ca-ca-ca-cas." was an incredibly example of medical acumen.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Why does it, Why does it, Why does it huuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrt whhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeennnnnn I peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Bill Peschel said...

"You Are What You Is" helped define my life in the early '80s. While he opposed organized religion, some of what he wrote aligns with the ideal form of Christianity:

Do what you want to
Do what you will
Just don't mess up
Your neighbor's thrill
And when you pay the bill
Kindly leave a little tip
To help the next poor sucker
On his one-way trip

I miss Frank.

Temujin said...

Taking Zappa out of his era is tough. He was, even in his day, someone who seemed to make a lot of people smile, and even more of them uncomfortable, including other musicians of the time. But he managed to plug his way into my brain permanently. I find I still quote lines from "Absolutely Free" or "We're Only in it For the Money", and of course, no one knows what the hell I'm talking about.

Brown shoes don't make it.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

bagoh20 said...America - July 24, 1969.

We had about half a million troops in Vietnam in '69 and suffered about 11k killed there that year.

narciso said...

I'll give him props about Havel appointing him, but that's about it,

Roughcoat said...

A supposed genius wrote this. Must have been having an off day. One of many. Juvenile and snarky, as always. Trite, cliched observations, unoriginal and unimaginative. Mediocre writing. The use of all-caps and italics to emphasize his points is indicative of a poor stylist.

bagoh20 said...

"We had about half a million troops in Vietnam in '69 and suffered about 11k killed there that year."

And yet we still could walk on the moon and chew gum at the same time.

Ignorance is Bliss said...


When future historians write about us...
My comment on the Oliver Sacks post:

The rhetorical technique I most loathe is the appeal to authority when the authority is unavailable for comment. This usually takes the form of future generations will look back and say..., or something along those lines.

I assume the blog theme of the day is quotes using the rhetorical technique Ignorance is Bliss most loathes. It's nice to be such a central figure in this blog. Where do I go to garner my cut of the Amazon portal commissions?

sunsong said...

I love Frank Zappa! But as an artist, not for President :-)

Freeman Hunt said...

Everything in this post leads me to believe that some jocks kicked Zappa around in school. Am I wrong?

Annie C said...

I knew I had met my one and only when I said, "I might be moving to Montana soon" and he answered, "Just to raise me up a crop of .. dental floss."

buwaya said...

"The use of all-caps and italics to emphasize his points is indicative of a poor stylist."

Guilty. The only reason I don't use italics here is I don't know how.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

bagoh20 said...And yet we still could walk on the moon and chew gum at the same time.

Fair enough; I guess the question is: would someone of Zappa's mindset consider the America of mid 1969 to have been comprised of intelligent people? My strong suspicion is that the answer is "no."

Ann Althouse said...

"That's not even close to the "dirtiest" song he wrote."

I didn't say it was "dirty" and I didn't mean to imply that. It's politically incorrect because of the way it talks about gay people.

I'm not looking for the dirtiest Frank Zappa song.

tim maguire said...

I hate that "beam me up Scotty" crap. Nearly always, it means, "why don't they recognize my genius and support all the things I like?" But I'll make an exception for Zappa.

Ann Althouse said...

"Speaking of future historians, I took some commenter's advice and I'm presently listening to the audiobook of 1491. It's a bit iffy, to say the least."

I have that audiobook! Never got very far in it though. It does seem iffy.

I like the voice of that reader and it seemed to be the kind of book I could use to fall asleep, but I didn't like it for that purpose.

Michael McClain said...

Guess that cheese was Suzy Creamcheese.

Ann Althouse said...

"If you don't already know the words to Dynamo Hum, look them up."

That's one of the featured songs in the movie.

Ann Althouse said...

"Great Dylan parody at about the 1:20 mark of this track"

Thanks!

traditionalguy said...

Zappa was more from the early 1960s using a great sense of humor with absolutely no filter. Then we were hit by the mid 60s by a tsunami of Drugs and LBJ's Asian Land War of Attrition, which masked his type of talent. But he was a very good talent.

Ann Althouse said...

"The song has been popular for decades here in Norway. I remember being introduced to it by some students here around 1980. They didn't understated all the terms, but they like the attitude. It's now often played on regular FM radio, I think more for the melody than the lyrics."

Yes, that's what Zappa says in the movie. That it's danced to like a slow dance. He seemed to find that pretty funny.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

And now "Eve of Destruction" is in my head; put it in yours, too.

[Probably the lines "you're old enough to kill/but not for votin'" and "you may leave for four days in space/but when you return it's the same old place" did it.]

Since I'm a nice guy here's the long version of Time Has Come Today too.

buwaya said...

Zappa never seemed to have gotten anywhere in Asia, or at least not when I was paying attention. They didn't get the joke I guess.

MadisonMan said...

I was up on the square at lunch time, so of course my lunch consisted of cheese orphans from Fromagination.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I didn't say it was "dirty" and I didn't mean to imply that. It's politically incorrect because of the way it talks about gay people.

By any meaningful standard it is "dirty." That is one of the great things about it. Zappa's intention was to shock the "squares." He was a free speech radical.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=frank+zappa+congressional+hearing&view=detail&mid=AEB704E4F67A8FC376D8AEB704E4F67A8FC376D8&FORM=VIRE

These days he would have been referred to as a "free speech fetishist."

Virgil Hilts said...

Pamela Des Barres and/or her great book “I’m with the Band” get mentioned occasionally on this blog and its posts. Among Pamela’s many adventures was being the regular babysitter for Zappa’s kids.

tim in vermont said...

How did his dental floss farm turn out?
I have always wondered about that...

mezzrow said...

Frank was an effective storyteller. I feel like I really know Bobby now.

Clyde said...

Frank's been dead for almost 23 years, and things have just gotten worse as America is on the express train to Idiocracy.

rightguy2 said...

Bobby Brown and Dynamo Hum are examples of Zappa's work that I found unbelievably tedious : half funny knob jokes delivered by a smirking, overly self-satisfied FZ. On the contrary, many of his instrumental compositions are sublime and will probably known and played a century+ from now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZ29gn5P68M

mezzrow said...

Ann, I can't believe you haven't gotten to "Honey Don't You Want a Man Like Me."

It's like the seventies never ended. The glory of nut and bolt night at the local watering hole. Brings it all back. Clearly could not be written in the era of the cell phone.

With spanish subtitles! This is the 80's version - raise your hand when you hear the tell...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0Bw6MgaXOc



Carol said...

America - July 24, 1969.

Yeah I remember that. The culmination of a very sciency era since Sputnik. I wanted to get down with that but my miserable science grades got in the way.

And do tell, what is "iffy" about 1491? I'm 25% of the way through according to my Kindle app.

I read another book from the library, Wampum, about the advent of Indian reservation gambling. Written by a lawyer from Anchorage who says tribal sovereignty is a crock of shit that some New Deal lawyer pulled out of his ass. Very interesting!

BN said...

"When future historians write about us... we will... be known... as THOSE WHO CHOSE CHEESE."

No. We'll be known as those who chose dirty words and finger painting as our highest forms of art ("so transgressive!"), as we killed our babies and pissed it all away.

Ben Calvin said...

Zappa's first record Freak Out, was released in 1966, a few months before the Velevet Undergound's first release (both on Verve). Neither of these sold well at all, but both are very significant in changing the way modern pop records could sound. You can argue that their influence has been as long lasting as that of the Beatles Sargent Peppers or the Beach Boys Pet Sounds.

That's the Zappa achievement I hold in highest regard. His early records were very experimental, mixing influences from Varese and Cage with Doo Wop and protest songs.

His later indulgence in increasingly scatelogical, somphmoric, humor doesn't do a lot for me. He seemed like he always had to tell you he was the smartest guy in the room.

He remained a fabulous musician thought his life, but even in his instrumental work he could have used a severely rigorous editor, whether it came from within himself, or by allowing someone else to serve in that capacity.

Fernandinande said...

Won't someone think of Crusin' with Ruben and the Jets?
Cheap thrills all over the seat
Cheap thrills, your kind of lovin' can't be beat
Cheap thrills up and down my spine
I need it, I need it, 'cause it feels so fine, now.

tpceltus said...

Trivia: About 10 years ago, a NY restauranteur was asked who has favorite customers were. He said Ralph Lauren and the late Frank Kappa…said they were consistently the most gracious of his customers.

Bob said...

He encountered political correctness far earlier than most others did, because of his choice of material, and his absolutist belief in free speech - - he was to music what Lenny Bruce or George Carlin were to comedy.

Fernandinande said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
Speaking of future historians, I took some commenter's advice and I'm presently listening to the audiobook of 1491. It's a bit iffy, to say the least.


I wondered about some of the book's omissions but I thought it provided a fair amount of evidence that at least some Amerindian societies were large and complex. And that the Amerindians were often already mostly wiped out by various diseases before contact with Europeans because the diseases traveled faster than the Europeans.

I think I'm on the third disc, now, and the words slave, slavery, or enslaved have yet to be used. I think at one point the guy described the people working on some huge Incan highway project as "conscripted."

Yeah, I noticed that reading it - the index has one entry for "slave*": [European] Slave trade. Searching the books.google.com version had 9 mentions, all apparently about European slavery.

Fernandinande said...

Re. "1491", "Human sacrifice" is in the index (3 pgs worth), and "Occasionally the victims were slaves and criminals, but mainly they were prisoners of war," so the Triple Alliance had to take over the world to get a continuous stream of prisoners to sacrifice, thereby generating or freeing chalchihuatl for Huitzilopochtli in order to keep the universe from collapsing.

FullMoon said...

Taranto interviews Adams:

Dilbert Explains Donald Trump
The cartoonist figured out the Republican’s persuasion skills before the pundits did. And he still thinks Trump can win.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Fernandinande said...
Won't someone think of Crusin' with Ruben and the Jets?

***************

I've never forgotten the band members on the album cover snatting their fingers:

Snat! Snat!!

http://crow202.org/2009/Ruben_And_The_Jets.jpg

William said...

What with the hair and the attitude, he looks half naked without any tats even though he is, in fact, half naked. Sad that he did not live long enough to adorn his body with Russian prison tattoos........He was a visionary and a seer. This song is in many ways prophetic of Bobby Brown's tragic relationship with Whitney Houston. If only they had chose cheese.

mikee said...

Zappa also provided my teen years with the very sound advice "Don't you eat that yellow snow."

The man was right.

BN said...

"The man was right."

Did you actually test it to make sure?

Just take my word on this one: don't play tag on the freeway.

BTW, do you like my new car?

mockturtle said...

Hell, Laslo writes better.

Quaestor said...

Zappa was either an under-appreciated genius, or just another guy whose reach exceeded his grasp.

One notable downside of being an obtuse satirist is getting taken seriously ever.

Robert Cook said...

"Zappa was either an under-appreciated genius, or just another guy whose reach exceeded his grasp."

Certainly the latter. He produced some work worth listening to--a very small percentage of his total output--and that only in his first few years with the original Mothers.

Smilin' Jack said...

Modern Americans behave as if intelligence were some sort of hideous deformity. To cosmeticize it, many otherwise normal citizens attempt a peculiar type of self-inflicted homemade mental nose-job (designed to lower the recipient's socio-intellectual profile to the point where the ability to communicate on the most mongolian level provides the necessary certification to become ONE OF THE GUYS)."


I feel powerfully motivated to censor the word "mongolian" from that passage...


And there it is.

chuck said...

I got picked up by one of Zappa's drummers while hitchhiking through California back in the late 60's. He kept me entertained telling band stories. At that time he was working as a salesman selling clothing taggers, said that was better than working full time for the band because he could chose when to play and had more freedom in what he wore.