Monday, October 1, 2007

Day 1: Mash Good!

So begins my immersion in Mash-dom as I enter the THIRTY-ONE DAY MONSTER MASH CHALLENGE, a self-imposed experiment in which I will listen to Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s the Monster Mash every day for the month of October, 2007, AD., and record whatever I am able to produce as a result of it.

Why do this?

Well, my experience has led me to believe that there is something compulsive built into the academic mindset—a mindset I am trying to feign. I’m partly trying to reconnect with that. I’m reminded of an older age of clerical pedagogy that required hand copying of canonical works. This led to such bizarre sentences as “there’s no Ecclesiastes like Gary’s Ecclesiastes.” (Evidentally, Gary had poise and remarcable penmanship).

I’ve even seen instructional manuals from as recent as the 1980s recommending that aspiring writers copy the great works of Western Literature (oddly all written by Great Men) out by hand so that one can get the feeling of having written a Great Work. I know Hunter S. Thompson claimed to have re-typed works by Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, and hand copying the works of Shakespeare was once quite common. (I heard comedian George Carlin explain that his maternal grandfather had done this.)

This old school self-publishing was about self-improvement and education by imitation. The subject is supposed internalize these external models. But I think there’s something more fundamental going on. I can remember hand writing the lyrics to all of the songs on the Beatles’ Red & Blue LPs when I was 11. I did it because I really liked the songs.

My ambition is to write one amazingly annoyingly catchy pop song and live off the resulting multimedia franchise until my great-grandchildren are all dead. That’s precisely what Bobby “Boris” Pickett did and there is something that has always fascinated me about the curious notion of being able to base an entire career on just one thing—the true one-trick pony. The Vaudeville stage was made up of act after act who would essentially hone a single five to ten minute routine into its perfect form over their entire careers.

The challenge is not about the Monster Mash. It doesn’t need commentary. As the Igor says, mash good! My important work is an exercise in purpose-driven purposelessness. It’s a spiritual journey through specific culturally-ubiquitous media to arrive at… well, we shall see…

Which is why, each day for the entire month of October, I will listen to the Monster Mash at least twice every day, and record my observations. I’ll try to get out and get into increasingly bizarre circumstances so that the Mash has the potential of altering my perception of the world. I’ll turn over lyrics in my mind and unpack, deconstruct, disenfranchise, and do violence to it, until I get somewhere. Bear with me!

This will be the first time I've ever attempted to do this when it is seasonally appropriate. Depending on how it goes, in December, I can begin my month long observance of the same basic experiment with Christmas Don't Be Late, I will expect to have learned a great deal about human endurance. January, I could do No Scrubs by TLC.

LISTENING CONTEXT: 3:00-3:15 PM EST, my apartment, on purpose

Peripheral. I put it on four times while I was doing mundane school work. It was not profound. I was struck by how tame it sounds-—how profoundly non-threatening, for a song about Monsters, mashing. It is kinda-goofy, and Leon Russell plays the piano.

I had intended to wake up to the Monster Mash this morning, but I forgot when I was setting my alarm that the first track on that Halloween CD is The Who’s version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” That was loud.

Go FURTHER: for starters, take a look at the official webpage of the late Bobby “Boris” Pickett. He made a career out of the Monster Mash, and much of it is evident here.

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