Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'll have a cosmic muffin to go...

Budding Ventriloquist: Influences
Chapter 2: Deteriorata

See the end of this post the full introduction ("The Rationale") to this series.  I'm compulsive about making sure my rookery* of regular readers - new and tenured - know the premise.  I'm not just doing this for my health! No! There's important journalistic reasoning and rationale behind this.

I swear there is.
If there is a single recording that stands as a touchstone in art of parody, it is the National Lampoon's Deteriorata - a spoof of Les Crane's 1972 recording Desiderata. Crane's record is a recitation of a poem that, according to (the highly inaccurate and never to be used for serious research but in this case appears to be correct enough) Wikipedia:
...Exhorts the reader to "be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be", and to "keep peace with your soul". "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams," ... "it is still a beautiful world."
The "real" recording was one of those tunes on the radio that played on mainstream/Top 40 radio as a novelty/change-of-pace ditty. People thought was really cool the first week and wished it would go away afterwards. It won a Grammy for best spoken word in 1971, which might say more about the Grammys than it does about the poem.

Then, in 1972, Tony Hendra and The National Lampoon recorded Deteriorata for their Radio Dinner album.

It gave me words to live by.  It gave me a credo.  It gave me an ethos.

And when you get why this is so gosh darn funny, you'll get most of the jokes I make.

(Though the slide show from this version out on youtube is good, please read along instead. It will make you a better person. I promise.)

You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here.

Deteriorata. Deteriorata.

Go placidly amid the noise and waste,

And remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.
Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep.
Rotate your tires.
Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself,
And heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys.
Know what to kiss, and when.
Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do.
Wherever possible, put people on hold.
Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment,
and despite the changing fortunes of time,
There is always a big future in computer maintenance.

Remember The Pueblo.

Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate.
Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI.
Exercise caution in your daily affairs,
Especially with those persons closest to you - 
That lemon on your left, for instance.
Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet.
Fall not in love therefore. It will stick to your face.
Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan.
And let not the sands of time get in your lunch.
Hire people with hooks.
For a good time, call 606-4311. Ask for Ken.
Take heart in the bedeepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese.
And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot,
It could only be worse in Milwaukee.

You are a fluke of the universe.

You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore, make peace with your god,
Whatever you perceive him to be - hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal,
The world continues to deteriorate.
Give up!

Some trivia (again from that source of absolutely false information):
  • Les Crane himself admitted to preferring this version over his Grammy-winning recording of the original poem.
  • Voice-over talent Norman Rose read the "poem" and then-little known Melissa Manchester was a background singer on the chorus section of the song.
  • Christopher Guest** wrote the music.
Maybe for you to really appreciate how spot-on perfect it is, here is the original. Please, this time watch someone's interpretive slide show, too.  It is weirdly hilarious in it's placid seriousness that it's almost a parody in an of itself. (You might just OMG a few times.)

Have you decided whether your god is a "hairy thunderer" or "cosmic muffin" yet?

I haven't.

* A rookery is a group of albatross.

** Although perhaps best known as Nigel Tufnel in This is Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest more importantly was the voice of Flash Bazbo, Space Explorer. on the National Lampoon Radio Hour. More importantly to me, at least. I am trying to figure out whether the impact of Flash Bazbo on my karma is one chapter of the BV:Influences series or whether it should be a series all onto itself. 

And to think you have no idea who Flash Bazbo is. Geesh.
Yes. Save your emails. The National Lampoon Radio Hour gets it own chapter. Maybe more than one. Why would you even think that isn't in the offing?

The Rationale

I hear it all the time. The question the world wants answered. And it usually comes out this way:
"Dan. Can I call you 'Dan'? Dan, how did your mind get this way? Where did the buds of the Budding Ventriloquist come from?" 
Well, that's actually two questions. Three questions if you count the ingratiating 'Can I call you Dan' thing.

There's no one answer, of course. But sorting out the riddle leads to this series,Budding Ventriloquist: Influences. Intentionally, there's no particular order to who goes first, no attempt to be linear. A sense of humor that developed in a straight forward way is not a sense of humor at all. That is just not how it works. But , trying to figure it out is helping me get my writing jones back, and that's a good thing.

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