After the academia and “high brow” thoughts of Triple J’s essays, this week’s transcription of Triple J’s film A Fistful of Fists: A Documentary Collage is rather tough reading. It reminded me of reading something like David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (The Part About the Crimes) in that there’s some really horrible things to witness but their inclusion serves to prove a point and even to further the plot and fill in some gaps.
A Fistful of Fists is a collage of twenty-seven short films all about the joy of killing cures. The transcription is a print version of what is seen on the videos, sometimes in graphic detail.
1. The first is a Prelaunch announcement ad for PerFormulae during Super Bowl XXV. It calls to mind the Super Bowl ad for Apple computers, with the use of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and 2001 imagery. The first PerFormulae are Chunker, MegaChunker and PinnochiNose. The terrible tagline: Cuter Newer.
2. Next is a home video called Popsicles in which pencils are screwed into Curio exits. The cameraman is Jeremy-Niles Nelson (presumably the Niles from Belt’s group who will appear in a later clip). He is filming Doc Robbie as he demonstrates how to popsicle Scatty–a curio who blows kisses to the camera while also flipping off the camera. These two are real idiot characters: “immortalized forever on V to the H to the sweet-ass S.” Scatty is in pain but also wants to please–it’s face contorting from pain to smiles. The end of the clip has Niles and Robbie fighting over who will overload on Scatty.
3. This one made me laugh. It’s PlayChanger product placement on Beverly Hills 90210 (1993). In another twist on reality, Jared Leto is a main character in 90210. The loser kid is David (who was the loser kid on the show). David tries to do a skateboard trick but Jared Leto’s friends make fun of him. Then Jared Leto lightens up and they bond over GameChanger, the PerForumlae line. It’s a pretty genius parody of a 90210 bonding scene.
4. Shows the Garagenhauer R&D team making a Formula Trial. For this this formula they are turning the painsong into barks. Call it DogThroat? No, Barker.
5. This is a college workshop, a linguistics class about defining the proper use of the word overload. I loved the nod to David Foster Wallace by having the teacher (who I even considered might be Wallace) saying “And but so your answer….” He wonders, Do we used “Dave overloaded” or “Dave went into overload.” Is it elective or involuntary? What if you are in a state of wanting to overload but are physically prevented from doing so. Did you “overload” or not?
6. Called The Best. In this home video a boy tapes a cure to a wall just out of reach of their cat, Frankenstein. We know from the instruction manual that cats want to catch Curios, and that cures should never be left alone with a cat. Adam is on screen while his sister Rachel is filming. The cure is called Percy. Percy whistles “Yellow Submarine.” Frankenstein sees Percy taped up and begins hissing, jumping, spitting, wanting to get Percy. Percy is bicycling its legs trying to get away, then going limp like it’s about to painsong. Its “the best.” Perfect tension! You want something to happen, but if it does happen its over.
In the process they wake up their little sister Paula who pets Percy then crushes it. Rachel starts crying. Adam says,” don’t cry it’s only a cure.” Rachel says” it was my turn.”
7. The next is an R&D film from Graham&Swords. Their “Chameleon Trials.” to test out a Formula that make a cure turn the color of the object touching it. The scientists look on as each subject dies…over and over.
8. The Story of Spidge Part 1 from an HBO film. We lean what spidge actually means and where it comes from.
There’s an interview with a man named Woof. He and Burnsy were responsible for discovering spidge. These two guys were trying to find a way to get high. They tried to get high by ingesting PreFromulae but it didn’t work. They thought that maybe the grieving chemicals that cures release when the dact would get them high. So they swallowed a recently dead one (it was gross) but it didn’t do anything. But when Woof pooped he saw the cure’s spine in his poop–you can’t digest it. They thought the chemicals might be in the bones. So they ground up some bones and snorted them, smoked them, put them in cookies and it was excellent.
They started a company called Burnsy&Woof. They were going to make the perfect spidge pipes and were eventually bought out by Graham&Swords. They had their brand logo done by Jizzbrain.
Now, I’m guessing, since the metal band that Woof is talking about is pretty much Metallica, that Jizzbrain is probably Pushead the artist who dis a lot of early artwork for Metallica. Woof explains
Metal band makes a classy black-and-white video for a song with a couple slow like acoustic parts in it [Metallica’s “One”] and they go number one, heavy rotation, platinum times ten and still every kid at their concert just knows he’s the only person in all the world who really understands their music, even while he’s thinking it from row nine million at a football stadium he paid fifty fucken 1991 dollars to be at even while all the fuckers who ever picked on him at school, razzing him over his haircut and boot and acne or whatever, they’re down in front of the stage high-fiving each other and like … aw man
Then we learn that Burnsy died in a mosh pit saving some eccentrically dressed probably gay kid who was getting kicked.
I think Burnsy went into that mosh pit that night partly because it was full of a bunch of fratboy-type jerks who were turning our beloved subculture…into a kind of mainstream date-rapey, baseball-cap-wearing travesty of bullying jock-type aggression–rather than the joyful celebratory-type aggression it once was. I’m saying he want to to reclaim it, you know.
As a fan of the subculture around the same time, I can totally relate to everything he’s saying here.
Turns out “spidge” was something Burnsy used to say for thingy or whatchamacallit: “Ladle me out a bowl of that spidge.” When he introduced other to it others, “You should try this spidge I have with me.” It just caught on.
9. Cuddlefarmer Harvest. A school boy is beaten up for his cures. A girl makes him feel better by showing him her hobunk which destroys his remaining cure. They walk off arm in arm.
10. A clip from 1992 shows soldiers handing out curios to citizens, presumably in Yemen (as the war was in Yemen). One of the soldiers names is Clybourn (which is the name of the woman whose spade Belt destroyed). They hand out “demons” to the locals and try to teach them to take care of them not to just kill them on the spot. One does and they tell him he can’t have another one (although they relent and give him another).
11. Called The Afterbirth of Rock n Roll. It’s the closing credits of 20/20 with a promo for Barbara Walters talking to Fondjane Henry next week. In the video we see The P.A.L. (PerFormulae Abuse Labs) Brothers Donny Mark and Greg Biscuits. They like to stack ’em and abuse ’em. In this video they use BullyKing and Screamer in megadoses. When dosed like this they get Bitchy Elvis.
12. More from The Story of Spidge this time a girl who dissects and removes the spines (in great detail) from Curios. She grinds up just the spines and makes the purest spidge. Most people use all the bones which dilutes it, since the good stuff is in the spines. She makes a lot of money doing this. People think it’s disgusting, but they are hypocrites. She is also vegetarian saying it is disgusting to eat meat.
13. A clip called “Sacrament” from Come Again!? with Philip Daley Alejandro. This is a sensationalist talk show about a cult figure who says that overloading is like a sacrament–teaching the beauty of selflessness. Alejandro is having none of that.
14. This is the first of several “Yachts Joints.” This one called Flick&Look:a Yachts Joint. This is game to see who can hold out the longest from killing their cure after flicking it and making it painsong. The Yachts are of course Chaz Jr, Chaz, 3-J. Lyle and Bryce. 3-J wins.
15. The opening of Inhuman Self Denial. This one is about Basho the longest lived cure (aside from Belt’s) and the monk who owns it. He is The One Who Sees Basho. People from all around the world come to see Basho as well but it takes all of the monks to hold back the crowd from trying to overload on Basho.
16 Yachts Joint 2 is Charity Party. The Yachts surprise a teacher by giving him a cure that is trapped in he teacher’s door handle singing painsong. The teacher looks around and quickly destroys it. The Yachts burst out snd shout surprise. They never gave a hoot about World War II until this teacher’s class. This is their way of saying thanks.
17. The next clip is a Public Service Announcement from PAVIOSI [Parents Against Violence In Our Schools Initiative]. Fondajane alluded to these PSAs in her speech to the art participants. In this one, a boy is picked on and is about to get revenge. But his friend gives him his cure and lets him overload instead. It’s an easy way to prevent violence in school.
18. The next one was also mentioned earlier. And Now, For What You Thought was The First Time Ever is the 20/20 segment that Belt and his father watched. It enraged Clyde and Belt was sure he recognized Niles from his Belinda Carlisle shirt. At the Carl Sandberg Middle School Talent Show, Niles shows off all the adorable things his cure can do and by the end he kills it in front of the horrified crowd.
19. This is the first part of the Silver-Medaling US National Science Fair Entry featuring Maya Mehta. In this first part she nervously introduces herself and her methodology. She is very shy and wants to study shyness in cures. Are cures too shy to rear-eject in front of people? She wants to see if she can film cures rear-ejecting at night.
She has four cures: Mick & Keith and Paul & John. She thinks that they associate the camera with her, so when she put the camera in their nest, they were too shy to rear eject in front of it. She has more work to do.
She is also clearly accident prone and at the end of the clip she loses her balance. In the next clip she has her arm in a sling.
20. The next Yachts Joint is another Charity Party, this one called: Charity Party II: Charity Parties. They leave a cure tied in a urinal for a man to drown. They do another one in the girls’ bathroom. A girl happily kills it but when the Yachts jump out she is annoyed that they are in the girls room: “What the fuck, you guys? You’re not supposed to be in–oh, hey Triple J.” The final one is in Triple-J’s house, a gift to Oliver.
21. Part two of the Silver-Medaling video. This is a pretty funny/adorable sequence of the cures hiding their rear ejections. The cures who had never seen a video camera before had no problem rear-ejecting in front of a camcorder at night–victory for science!
She puts the camera in with the cures who were shy of the camera and after several days they finally started rear-ejecting. Keith grabbed Mick to cover him while he rear-ejected. The funnier one is Paul who rear-ejects in his sleep right onto John’s abdomen. He is so embarrassed that he puts it behind John’s rear and then sleeps near the other two. John is pissed. But sadly, John dacts after 8 days without a rear-ejection.
22. This clip is from a home cooking video from Timmy and Tommy Kamanski. They BBQ everything: they never heat without fire. Except this time they are going rogue because they are going to crock pot a cure to soften it for eventual BBQ. We already know that cures taste terrible, but maybe with some BBQ work they’ll be edible.
23. Schrödinger’s Curio is another home video from Robbie. This time he is filming his popsicle’d cures as an extra credit project for Dr. Martin. I was amused that, like in Triple J’s paper, much of the video is taken up with Robbie addressing his teacher–this time apologizing for bad behavior in class.
When he gets to the “academic” part, he is demonstrating the Observer Effect. He and his frat brother Micky McMichaels have their cures painsinging. He postulates that all cures will appear to be happy when they see someone watching them. But the ones that belong to Robbie will attempt it more intensely. The ones that belong to Mickey Double-M tried less hard and the ones that did not belong to either tries the least hard to look happy. This earned him some extra credit and an overload session.
25. The final Yachts Joint is called Charity Party III: Tree of Charity. The Yachts have tied up and made painsing a bunch of curios all over a playground. [I assume this is what they were planning to do when they met up with Belt that day?]. A large group of grade school children run onto the playground. The Yachts tells the kids that this is their last day of school present. All they have to do is repeat: “This Charity Party comes compliments of the Yachts.” They happily do and the next 10 minutes are slow-motion footage of the kids overloading to tune of Bach’s “Toccata an Fugue in F Minor.”
26. And Now, For What you Thought was The Second Time Ever is not from 20/20, it is from 60 Minutes. This clip is of security footage from Kim’s Liquor Food. The convenience store owner argues with a man about what he is going to pay for his New Coke and his Chick-o-Sticks. He offers a cure, which the owner seems willing accept. Then guys beat up the first guy and kill the cure. The first man is devastated.
27. The final clip is from the University of Chicago Graham&Swords Study dated January 23 & January 30, 1988.
This clip is immediately familiar. It is the camera-eye version of the earlier scenes with Belt and Lisette. The first scene is of the two of them playing footsie. The second one is when Belt tells Lisette that his mother is dying. He punches James who says “It’s okay, I knew you were a hitter.”
But the new information is from 47 minutes after Belt has left. James tries to comfort Lisette by letting her pet Zappy, his cure. Then he tells her he loves her. She is angry with him but then an offscreen voice who we would recognize as Bertrand says, “Wipe the oozey jizz from your pinkeyes, Dicksuck! She’s in love with Suspendersed. Everyone knows it.”
James tells Zappy he is almost as cute as Lisette. He strokes it harder until it starts to painsing. Lisette gets upset saying she doesn’t think it likes that. Why would you do that? Please stop!
I found this section really hard to read sometimes. Despite Triple-J’s assertion that cures are just robots, the detail of viscera and painsong was really hard to read in such detail. And yet this section did give a lot of interesting insights.
Insights into characters and scenes we had only heard about. Also into the origins of spidge.
It also shows that people of all ages are overloading–so it’s not regulated in any way. And in the one scene when the boy tells his sister its only a robot, he thinks she is upset because the robot is killed–but she isn’t. Children are inured to it, even though initially people were not.
Of course, the greatest revelation is the final scene with Lisette. Is there any way that Triple-J knows that that was Belt? Did he show him this on purpose? Also, if Lisette was against harming cures then, is she still? I had the idea that maybe she was the girl who could also talk to inans because of it. But that seems unlikely since she couldn’t back then (unless she could but didn’t admit it? That whole business about female objects?)
Either way, with about 300 pages left in the book, a lot can still happen. But I really liked the way these disparate ideas seem to be circulating and crossing back on each other.
Incidentally, I co-posted this on my own site which includes a “Soundtrack” for each post. All of the posts for Bubblegum will “feature” bubblegum pop songs. This week’s is The Banana Splits with “Tra La La (One Banana, Two Banana).“
This whole section was a slog for me. There was some humor in it, but I was relieved when I finished the section and saw that it was back to the Belt main storyline. I used to be about 100 pages ahead of the reading schedule and now I’m playing catch up because I really took my time reluctantly getting through this part.
I guess because the section was divided into bite sized chunks, i didn’t find it so bad, I can;t read transcripts of things (even things I enjoy like a “bonus” transcript of a film) because I find them tedious. I had to really respect Levin (and the later-announced author of said transcript) for making the transcript readable (however unpleasant). I was also fascinated at the utterly dispassionate way these atrocities were presented. I felt like it was leaving it up to us to decide who the monster is. But how many readers feel like Triple-J does at this point?
Your summarizing game is strong in this one, Paul. I was looking forward to seeing how you’d condense it all and having the summary here for reference, but you’ve really outdone yourself.
Oddly, although I didn’t find this section especially pleasant (other than where it’s funny), I also didn’t find it that awful a slog. I mean, the parade of horrors was relentless and I wasn’t sad to finish, but I was able to coast through it without too much trouble. The whole book has been like that, actually. It to me has so far been a satisfying book and a fairly long one, but not an especially hard one (but also not one I’d call simple or devoid of opportunity to read deeply and with a lot of satisfaction). It’s been hard to slow myself down to the pace of the schedule I set.
Thanks Daryl. I actually challenged myself to summarize without repeating or worse yet, saying more than the transcript. i also had t he luxury to editorialize, which the transcript doesn’t.
I haven’t found anything in this book to be hard or taxing really. I credit this to Levin’s writing style which, while it can ramble, never seems to ramble incoherently.
Yeah, the writing style both here and in The Instructions goes down very easily. My brain goes to Barth a fair amount when I think of Levin’s novels, and though I like Barth, he is so dang tedious at times, and except for little slightly overwrought forays into recursive thinking here and there, I don’t think Levin tends to become tedious even when writing expansively. Pynchon too is often just sort of hard to slog through in a way that Levin, for me at least, is not, and yet Levin’s books are no less rewarding to me for it.
I love that you know who Jizzbrain is, Paul! I know zippy-zap about that whole thing, so it was great to see here what Woof and his whole deal is actually about. The way he kept tiptoeing around the name of the band, I was wondering whether it was supposed to be one of those bands that Chad-Kyle was so excited about.
This was a delightful find for me. I am just about the same age as those guys and I can totally relate to your favorite band selling out. Levin’s mix of high art and low art (Metallica, pro wrestling) is pretty fantastic.
As soon as I cottoned on to it being Metallica, I didn’t even think of it being one of C-K’s bands, which i kind of like better actually .