Saturday, April 23, 2016

Kurt Vonnegut, George Carlin, Wal-Mart... and Prince?

Last night after a delightful dinner, Bill and I came home and I got ready for bed.  Before retiring for the night, I sat down to my desktop computer and read posts in one of my favorite Facebook groups, Stuttgart Vents.  Recently, the group had t-shirts made.  They are a big hit and I'm proud to say I own one myself, though I haven't worn it yet.

One of the group members proposed making another t-shirt.  He said we should all get black t-shirts that say "Fuck the hell off" with a big Wal-Mart happy face on it.  You'd have to be a member of Vents to understand the connection to "Fuck the hell off".  Our group is full of inside jokes and "Fuck the hell off" is one of them.   It would be kind of hard to explain it because it's one of those situations where you kind of had to be there.

But anyway, I was reminded of how a few years ago, Wal-Mart started using an asterisk for their logo.  I even blogged about it back in 2010.  So I asked the group if anyone else thought the asterisk looked like an asshole, commenting that the asshole motif seems especially appropriate since Wal-Mart figuratively fucks people up the rectum with their business practices.

My Venting friend didn't get the reference, so I went Googling and found this...

This is a photo of a page from Kurt Vonnegut's marvelous book, Breakfast of Champions.

Back in my teens, I was a real fan of Kurt Vonnegut's writing.  I mostly liked it because it was creative, imaginative, and funny.  He had an off color sense of humor and used ribald language, which I especially appreciated back then and still do now.  When I was sixteen, I read Slaughterhouse Five and thought it was a great book.  But in those days, I didn't know a whole lot about what that book was about.  I had little concept of war, even though I was born in the middle of one.  I knew nothing about PTSD, even though my father suffered from it.  I didn't know about schizophrenia or Nazi Germany or feeling like I was traveling through life with no say over what happened to me.  I just thought it was a cool book.

I really ought to re-read some of Vonnegut's books and explore some of the ones I haven't read.  I am sure I would get much more out of them today than I did in the 80s and 90s.  But anyway, it was Vonnegut's crude drawing of an asshole that was on my mind last night.  So I posted the above photo and wrote that anyone who could name the title and author of the book it came from gets "extra points".  Of course, either no one cared about my challenge, or people just didn't know.  My guess is that they didn't care.  Oh well.  

Over breakfast this morning, I was telling Bill about the Wal-Mart and Kurt Vonnegut connection.  He started talking about all the Vonnegut books he's read.  Then he moved on to other books that he loved.  I was an English major and Bill was an International Relations major, but he's so much better read than I am when it comes to literature.  He has a real appreciation for it and an understanding that eclipses mine.  I majored in English because I am compelled to write, not because I want to read... though I do love reading, too.  But with a few exceptions, I prefer non fiction, not novels.

And then I found myself thinking about George Carlin. 

As George Carlin reminded us back in the day, business people lull people to sleep with lots of promises... and then things can get pretty profane.

If you made it to the end of the lullaby, you might understand why I think it's especially appropriate that businesses like Target and Wal-Mart use bullseyes and asterisks in their logos.  Think about it.   And if you have time and aren't already familiar with this old routine by George Carlin about big business, I highly recommend watching the clip until the very end.  It may very well change how you see big business and the logos they use. 

But hell, I probably shouldn't complain.  Big box stores and huge online retailers are here to stay and they do provide jobs to many people.  And if their concept wasn't attractive and effective for a lot of people, they wouldn't be as successful as they are.  People like convenience and affordability.  I am as guilty as anyone for shopping at Amazon.  I can't climb a moral high horse about being a consumer.  

On the other hand, I am old enough to remember when you could go shopping and be on a personal level with business owners.  They were neighbors.  My parents ran a small retail business and knew many of their customers by name.  And when Wal-Mart came to town, they were lucky enough not to be too adversely affected by them because they offered some things Wal-Mart couldn't.  I'd be lying, though, if I said that my parents and other small business owners in our town didn't sweat a little bit over Wal-Mart.  The truth is, Wal-Mart did take some of their business.  Some small businesses couldn't survive Wal-Mart.

Isn't it weird that I managed to string Kurt Vonnegut, George Carlin, and Wal-Mart together?  That's just how my mind works.  I often find connections to things that seemingly shouldn't be connected.  I go off on tangents.  It can be frustrating to talk to me sometimes because I start finding obscure connections to things that other people can't see or don't understand.  That's one of many reasons why some people think I'm weird.  

Now that I've written that, I'm finding yet another seemingly unrelated connection to Prince.  Earlier this morning, I wrote about a song he wrote and later performed with The Muppets back in the 90s.  I didn't know it the first time I heard it, but that song was about people who are different and think in an unconventional way.  Many people think unconventional thinkers are odd, but a lot of times, unconventional thinkers simply see things that others don't see.  The most brilliant of them come up with new perspectives to share with everyone... as long as others are willing to listen and don't just dismiss them as freaks.

This isn't to say that I think I'm anything other than just a little bit weird.  I probably come up with this shit simply because I have nothing better to do than run a vacuum cleaner.  It's no wonder I don't have a job.  Are other people like me?  Do you come up with odd connections to things like this?  Feel free to leave me a comment if you like.  I'm here all week.


  1. I've never read a full-length work by Vonnegut. What would be a good novel for starting?

    1. Slaughterhouse Five is a good one. So is Breakfast of Champions.


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