Friday, October 02, 2009

I Cut Like a Buffalo/Wild Pigs

I do love the old, weird America, as Greil Marcus calls it. At least, I think I do; I've never been. It's far too late to go to a Chautauqua, or see the big panoramas, or generally walk in the dreamtime that for America is so much more tantalizingly close than it was in Britain. It's as gone as King Arthur or Boudicca was. But it's qualitatively different. Here in the States, you're just one old-timer's lifetime worth of years away - maybe eighty years - from actually living in the Golden Age.

Luckily, there are always bright young Americans who miss it too and attempt to bring a little of it into their lives. I've seen a panorama in Los Angeles, albeit about one fiftieth the size of the ones in the myths. I've been to the Museum of Jurassic Technology to see the its cabinets of curiosities which recall, however faintly, the classic ones. I watched the X-Files religiously, and I use that word carefully, to see every myth, from the circus freak to UFOs, brought to life by Chris Carter's excellent and evocative scripts and his outstanding choices in cinematographers.

Another young old weird American is Jack White, who seems to have lived it both wisely and too well, in that it is not possible any longer to tell if he's acting or One Of Them. His new video for The Dead Weather's new single, I Cut Like a Buffalo, is soaked in it. I see a few comparison's to David Lynch already on the web; I think they're drawing water from the same well and similarities are both coincidental and to be expected.

It looks like Jack Dreams of Jeannie, but she's not your father's Jeannie. The bowler-hatted guy is BP Fallon, of course, which makes Jack's uncanny physical/sartorial resemblance to Marc Bolan all the weirder. It has a rather October feel, I think - the end of the year when the division between the living and the dead wears thin - the Third Man slogan is "not dead", but the video begins "you're dead". And Jack sure likes his redheads.

Here's a gif that pleases me. Hope the endless loop isn't as annoying as I think it's going to be.

Jack White and Sunny Becks
Of course, somewhere in the distance, the Old Weird England still carries on in its superannuated way. And Americans play with it. For example, is this Virtual Dime Museum article on the Wild Sewer Pigs of Hampstead for real? How the hell would I know?

Victorian England's answer to the mythical alligators that were said to have roamed free in the sewers of New York City were the feral pigs or "black swine" which were said to have lived in the sewers of Hampstead, London in the early 1850s.
The story seems to have originated with some London sewer workers, interviewed in 1851 by Henry Mayhew, who quoted them in his London Labour and the London Poor:There is a strange tale in existence among the sewer-workers, of a race of wild hogs inhabiting the sewers in the neighborhood of Hampstead. The story runs, that a sow in young, by some accident got down the sewer through an opening, and, wandering away from the spot, littered and reared her offspring in the drain, feeding on the offal and garbage washed into it continuously. Here, it is alleged, the breed multiplied exceedingly, and have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous.

David Lawrence Pike, in his book Subterranean Cities, notes that urban legends about wild creatures in the sewers are directly related to myths about the underworld. These exist in every culture, ranging from the Greek Tartarus to the Buddhist Naraka. The urban sewer is a particularly frightening symbol of a dark and dangerous underworld teeming just below the surface of the mundane, regulated everyday world.
I've been to Hampstead hundreds of times, and although I remember lots of magic mushrooms grew wild on Hampstead Heath…which may explain something, come to think of it…no one, but no one, mentioned Wild Sewer Pigs, or dilated on the connection between stories of sewer dwelling beasts and the myths of the underworld. Although I'm surprised the article doesn't connect them to the collective unconscious of C G Jung.

Well, now I have and I claim my Ph. D.

1 comment:

KaliDurga said...

I still love that wink...


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