Thursday, 23 February 2017

...and Ten Things Which America Does Just Fine

Art. Before anyone starts, I'm not referring to Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko - both of whom are probably more interesting in terms of art history than what they actually painted; and I'm definitely not talking about Andy bloody Warhol. After many years of study I've concluded that fine art should be divided into two main categories, specifically landscape art, and everything which isn't landscape art. Even a century later, the first and foremost of these two categories is still dominated by the work of Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, and others of the Hudson River School - if you ask me, which admittedly you didn't, which is why I'm telling you. José María Velasco should probably also be included here on the grounds of his having been the greatest landscape artist of all time. He was Mexican of course, but it's the same continental land mass. Landscape doesn't really get any better than the three aforementioned so far as I'm concerned. Some of that European stuff was okay, but hanging one next to a Bierstadt is like having the Venga Boys open for Led Zeppelin, quite frankly.

I've failed to take any non-landscape based art into account in this argument because it's mostly shite and doesn't matter.

Dangerous Arseholes. Sadly this isn't really a boast, but it cannot be denied that we lead the world in the field of dangerous arseholes, and despite stiff competition from the United Kingdom, Russia and the Islamic State, we've recently leapt ahead quite some way. Many of the world's leading trigger-happy fundamentalist shitheads now regard us with awe and envy, having found themselves suddenly seeming about as dangerous as characters from Harry Potter. I'm not sure why this should be, particularly as we have a constitution which is supposed to prevent the sort of situation in which we now find ourselves. Part of the problem may result from people who've never been under any pressure to grow up or to think adult thoughts. We seem to have a few of those, and once they get into any kind of position of authority, it's always trouble. Whilst I'm sure the Republican party was founded on at least some honourable principles - providing we don't look too hard at how capitalism actually works, and is actually shown to work by the last two centuries of history - it seems very difficult to find a Republican who appears significantly informed by those principles, whatever they are or were. Mostly Republicans just seem to be guys who like money and authority, because authority is the thing which means they get to keep their money. Online Republicans tend to spend a lot of time going on about freedom, freedom from government interference, freedom from taxation, being oneself, being an individual, being a rugged cowboy out on the lonesome trail answering to no man, no how, no siree; and yet in person, send a man in uniform into the room and they can't bend over backwards fast enough to kiss his ass, call him a real American hero, and loudly address him as Sir, Yes Sir! Also, for lovers of freedom, they sure have a lot to say about what the rest of us get up to in the privacy of our own homes. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some kind of organised opposition to this tendency, but instead there's the Democrat party which stands for the same thing whilst feeling a bit guilty about it. Almost all of our dangerous arseholes conform to some quality detailed here, with minor variations being in ratios of gun ownership and fear of anything different to oneself.

Healthy Geographical Distance from the Following: Timothy Griffiths, Shaun Robert, Theresa May, David Yeomans, Nigel Farage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Clarkson, James Delingpole, Razorlight, Boris Johnson, James Whitaker, Hugh Grant, Harry Potter, that pair of fucking twats who opened up a café specialising in cornflakes in Hackney or wherever it was, Hamilton Bohannon*, Tony Wakeford, Chris Evans, Steven Moffat, David Gibson, Bob of Bulkington near Coventry, anyone who ever won or was nominated for the Turner Prize, Radiohead, Paul Mercer, Miriam Rahim, Tunstall Asaf, Juliet Prouse, Dennis Landers, Franklin from The Sun, Jimmy Savile, Billie Piper, Richard Callaghan, Supergrass, The One Show, Margaret Thatcher, General Pinochet, Marcus Brigstocke, Dennis Cattell, Marian Galton, Ludwig the mechanical cartoon egg thing from the seventies, Jamie Oliver, James Nesbitt, Stephen Frost, Alexis Petridis, Alexander McCall Smith, Electric Light Orchestra, Hamilton Bohannon*, Hamilton Bohannon*, Hamilton Bohannon*, Matt Smith, Harley Richardson, The Archers, anyone who ever observed that the shipping forecast sounds a bit like poetry...

History. One of my favourite examples of online sneering is the Britsplanation of American history which runs that we don't have any because the country is only two-hundred years old, whilst simultaneously lambasting our supposed assumption of there having been nothing much to speak of before white people turned up. I've always found American history fascinating, particularly all the stuff predating Christopher Colombus colonising a completely different and much smaller landmass whilst simultaneously wiping out the sum total of its indigenous population; and while it would be an exaggeration to suggest that this interest is why I ended up in Texas, it is at least why my gaze was already trained upon this part of the globe. I never found English or European history particularly exciting, and most of it seems to have been heavy metal wrestling mascots fighting over different kinds of mud in the pissing rain, parallel to which Mexico was engaged in building an elegant, philosophically sophisticated, and criminally misunderstood civilisation; and the people here in the northern continental blob were no less worthy of note. The Tuzigoot ruins in Arizona, for example, are at least as impressive as anything built by the Normans, and they were at the northern end of a trade route stretching all the way down into South America without anyone having bothered to invent the wheel, but you know - wurgh wurgh wurgh two-hundred years old wurgh wurgh wurgh Egbert of Wessex Magna Carta boring churches blah blah blah...

Hope. My life in England was often about getting by, making do, holding out and hoping the check would come before the bailiffs as everything became steadily worse, wetter, harder, and an ever more steely shade of battleship grey. English society had become, in my experience, a treadmill designed to keep me alive and generating just enough money to pay for the things which it told me had to be paid. Under circumstances other than those in which I happily find myself, America would probably be the same, but it feels like a country which is at least trying. We have our problems, not least being dangerous arseholes, but it at least feels like this place has the potential for improvement, like it wants the best for its people on some level, even when the actions fail to match the words. It is a land in which we still have possibilities beyond the crushing promise of the future being the present but with more security checkpoints. I thought this was just me until a couple of similarly transplanted online individuals expressed more or less the same sentiment on facebook, and one of them was Wreckless Eric so fuck you.

Kiss. One thing about America is that we do big and stupid really well, as I'm sure even our harshest critics would agree. Of course, it's important to remember that sometimes big and stupid is good - great even, and for evidence of this one need listen no further than the recorded oeuvre of Kiss. Whatever argument you may wish to draw against the excellence of Kiss vanishes as unto dew upon a summer's morn once you actually listen to Kiss. No-one really understands how this works. It just does.

Mexican Food. You really need to be here to appreciate Mexican food, either in Mexico itself or a little way from the border. That stuff you eat in London in some overpriced glass box named Zapata and served by an eighteen-year old wearing luminous orange tights and with the beard of W.G. Grace - it isn't Mexican food. It's probably just salad with a shake of Tabasco sauce, which is something else, and will remain something else regardless of how many traditional Aztec rocker-stamp animals are printed down the margin on the menu. Mexican food isn't about slopping four gallons of sour cream and guacamole over a bag of Doritos. I've seen counter arguments amounting to huh - can't see what's so difficult about chopping up a few tomatoes, but you really have to eat the genuine article to appreciate the difference. I don't even know what informs this difference given that the ingredients are all fairly straightforward, and yet what you eat over here in the Mexican equivalent of a greasy spoon - formica tables, plastic forks, radio tuned to some horrible Tejano station - makes most allegedly Mexican food I've eaten in England seem fussy, ridiculous, overpriced, and most likely prepared by someone who never actually ate Mexican food. You'll just have to trust me on this one. I don't understand it either.

Nature. I grew up on a farm in Warwickshire, in the very bosom of nature, you might say, and I grew up as part of a generation which spent most of its time outside in wellies. I saw rabbits and foxes, but not very often. I don't recall seeing frogs until I moved to London in my late twenties. I never saw a snake, and the only badgers I have ever encountered have been the lifeless two-dimensional kind found at the side of major roads. I've had this sort of conversation with overly defensive English people on a number of occasions. I'll mention the millions of bats I watched swarming from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin at sunset, and Timothy will be reminded of the bat he once saw at a Happy Eater just outside Daventry and will thus dominate the rest of the conversation with discourse on the same. 'Of course, they're mostly pipistrelle bats around our way,' he'll inform me at pornographic length, apparently having forgotten that I lived in England up until five years ago. 'Pippies, we call them.'

Anyway, I now encounter snakes, turtles, lizards, deer, possums, vultures, wild turkeys, roadrunners, coyotes, stick insects, and raccoons, and half of those on a near daily basis. Some of the snakes are of a kind which could kill me should I be bitten and unable to reach a hospital. I've encountered at least one turtle which could have bitten off my fingers had I got too close; so these days I even know which turtles are safe to pick up and how to do so without having them piss all over me - which they tend to do. I have more nature than I know what to do with. I have nature coming out of my ass, if you'll pardon the expression.

Proximity to Mexico. We're right next to Mexico, and England really isn't. If you don't believe me you can look it up on a map. Here in Texas we're so right next to Mexico that we can drive for about an hour and then look directly at it from across the other side of the river. Of course, this might change if our new President gets to build his wall, despite that it won't make much difference to immigration - if we're going to keep on pretending that that's really a problem for the sake of argument. Personally I'm hoping he'll get confused and build the wall along the top of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, thus making our part of America Mexico again. He can keep California though. I'm not too bothered about that one.

Sunshine. When I say America, I suppose I actually mean Texas - or Mexico Norteño as I like to think of it; and Texas has a lot of sunshine. That half a week of the English August during which it only rains in the morning doesn't really compare.

*: Names withheld because I can't be bothered to argue with the fuckers should any of them ever resurface from the netherworld of perception.

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