Friday, January 15, 2010

Okay. Quit. Mad. Stop.

Track Analysis:
Mégas Aléxandros (Oxus Rheuma and Thy Gordian Knuckles)

I’ve had a fascination with Alexander the Great for a long while. Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time has a lot to do with it. But then, at one time, Iron Maiden had a lot to do with everything. Rime of the Ancient Mariner resulted in my reading of Coleridge’s poem, Two Minutes To Midnight helped reinforce my nightly anti-toothbrushing stance as I demonstrated to my parents the activity’s sheer pointlessness in the face of our inevitable nuclear destruction, the detailed artwork of Aces High frustrated my art teacher as I saw fit to complete the entire year’s syllabus using nothing but black ballpoint pens and an exclusive plagarism of Derek Riggs, the first cassette of the double album Live After Death became my personal anthem for life, and songs such as Alexander the Great, Flight of Icarus, and Powerslave eventually had me signing up for Classical Studies in my final year of high school ...

Stupid shit caused me to fail it dismally, however. Most notably the desk graffiti, although sadly I can’t remember anywhere near enough of it. The initial statement was a simple ‘Dead people are cool’, which was slowly added to throughout the year by various students scribing into the wooden desk with compasses the reasons why this was so. ‘Because you can make them sleep in the wet patch’ is the only one I can properly recall.

It’s the only one I need to.

Which reminds me, in my copy of Aristophanes’ The Wasps/The Poet and the Women/The Frogs (purchased from a second-hand bookshop several years post-secondary education), halfway through the list of students who’d obviously been granted temporary study ownership of the book thoughout the 1980’s one of them (the most likely candidate being R J Thompson from the class of 1988) had defiantly written, ‘Let Time Be STILL!’

I would’ve bought the book just for that scribble had I not already done so (I only found this quote fairly recently) ...

Four words can have a lot of power.

Dead people are cool caused distraction and led to failure.

Let time be still!
continues to inspire me to this day.

As does an utterance from an older co-worker who (upon hearing my complaints with regards the frustratingly distant weekend) warned me,
“Don’t wish away life.” She was right. And I had shitty plans anyway; I can’t even remember what I did.

her name was Jan Browne.

And several years ago the words
Okay. Quit. Mad. Stop. had me forking over twenty seven hard-earned dollars for a small book of Kerouac’s poetry called Pomes All Sizes; the ratio used being incorporative only of wages versus physical size, an admittedly ridiculous scheme.

And to this day I couldn’t tell you what else that book of poetry really contains. But it doesn’t matter - I’d pay twenty seven dollars for those four words alone.

Of course it needn’t only be phrases harbouring of exactly four words, itself a ridiculous claim that can be disproven thusly - (and by humiliation), for when I first wanted to start writing a novel I went to borrow a book instructing me on how best to do so. Thankfully the first two words of the very first chapter were ‘Start writing’ and so, with a silent ‘fuck, yes’, I shut the book (which in retrospect sounded remarkably like one slapping his own forehead) and handed it back.

So ...

That’s the extended backstory to this song. Or perhaps the essence of it. Or at the very least its attempt to excuse itself, because (being that it’s an instrumental piece) the foundation from whence it was born was never going to be lived up to in any musical sense. And so the title of the track is far more interesting than the actual track itself, which was supposed to be ambitious, or at the very least rival its given name for dominance of character, but it does neither. And here (it could be argued for no other reason than for the sake of saving face) is where it succeeds, in so much as we get to witness an instrumental piece crumpling beneath the weight of words, albiet a hefty eight of them.

Further Notes:

Alexander the Great refused to drink the water offered to him during his campaign’s ‘death march’ to the Oxus River as he wished to suffer the hardships of rank and file.

The etymology of ‘Rheuma’ is this: [Middle English reume, from Old French, from Late Latin rheuma, from Greek, a flowing, rheum]. It’s no doubt incorrectly used as I’ve employed it here but the discovery of it’s Latin meaning whilst reading about rheumatology was far too convenient to pass up its usage thereas.

Rheumatology is important because it relates to ‘Thy Gordian Knuckles’, which describes the feeling of my hands on occasion due to Ankylosing Spondylitis - a rheumatic condition I’ve hosted for the last twenty or so years. This adapted phrase is derived from ‘The Gordian Knot’, which Alexander the Great cut with his sword, as legend had it that he who untied the knot would become the king of Asia. Today ‘cutting the Gordian knot’ is used as a metaphor for a stubborn problem that’s solved by a bold stroke (known as an Alexandrian solution).

I have no sword but, as evident from this post’s underlying theme, I remain forever hopeful of the pen proving mightier at any rate ...