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The Man

By Charles M. Hagen

REMEMBER the big bands of the thirties? Remember the first time you saw them (it must have been in some old movie, but you really can't be sure, because all you can tell is that the image is there- you don't know how it got there, maybe the idea was in the third sissel seed from the left on the top slice of that crabmeat on dark that you ate last night before you took your Hist 153 exam this morning, maybe Jesus Christ himself/herself visited you last night whilst you were unaware, but anyway it's there)? Well, cast a glance over the festive scene: rows of bandsmen on little perches behind what looks like chariots without wheels, but with macabre sequins pasted all over the front; up front a handsome guy with lots of teeth falling out the edges of his mouth, and with wavy hair rolling jerkily over his skull, all bathed in grease, or maybe it was marcelled. (Remember marcelled hair? The French hairdresser who invented it is dead now. Hairdressers shouldn't have to die; they never even live.) Or maybe in your particular band it's a chick up front with more teeth and those dumpy little clumps of hair hanging tenuously over her forehead and a long gown that reaches the floor and is daring because holy wow it doesn't even cover her shoulders but it's got the same sequins in its warp that cover the chariot/music stands behind her. But male or female these are the singers, and you identify with them, or you yearn for them, or you yearn to be in a world in which you would yearn for them.

But look closer. You've missed something. Look, over there on the right. See the little fat man there? He's got just as many teeth as the singer, and he's trying just as hard to let them all out of his mouth so they can fly away, but you know, you sense, you bone-marrow-feel that all his teeth are crooked, and would be yellow if this movie were in color which it's not. But that man is THE MAN.

That man is what this piece is all about. He is the leader- he's the one who runs the band. He is proof of the power of evil. He is a capitalist, the prototypical entrepreneur, the Jack of Newbury of the music world, because all he has to do is sit there waving his little fairy wand and twisting his head around so the cameras can see his ugly misshapen flesh that is called, merely out of convention, a face. He just sits there doing nothing while those horn players my god there about to burst their lungs look their faces are getting all red their eyes are squeezed shut with the pain (or is it the ecstasy) and the singer is trying to make the song get across, to grab you in your soul and everyone is jumping up and down like crazy but that goddamn little man is just looking at you with his sickly plastic smile and beady little eyes and his arms methodically moving to some obscene rhythm that he thinks he hears but which isn't the one everyone else is hearing but he gets the money.

THAT MAN is the enemy. I've gotten a pretty good neo-revisionist view of history but deep down inside I know that all the explanations, rising gentry, angry aristocracy, outmoded government is just froth. There is now, and has always been, a conspiracy that causes all events in human life. Talk about Mao, Cromwell, Lenin, Sam Adams, but they were just the tools. Behind them a group of no more than twenty things ran everything. Things half spirit and half deformities: the head thing looks like Charles Laughton's hunchback only more so. Yessir it's all true! Conspiracy theories of history have always been tremendously popular for the simple fact that they're right. Bankers' ramps all over the place!

So go on and try to live and try to act. But keep your eye on the fat man in the corner, because he's the one going to get your ass if you don't watch out.

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