Monday, November 14, 2016

Rock On

Rock On
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, ran down a steel walkway suspended high over an abandoned facotory floor.  He wore his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  The platform beneath him shook and groaned with each step,  threatening to give way at any moment.  Behind him was a beefy young man in jeans, sneakers, and a black AC/DC tee shirt.  Ahead of him ran the villain Death Medal -- a muscular man in a black military jacket reminiscent of the Third Reich SS, with silver skull buttons and a raft of medals over the left breast.  His head was a flaming skull.

The villain spun and fired a revolver.  Grandpa hit the deck.  Death Medal laughed.  "You cannot stop me, Grandpa Anarchy!" he exclaimed.  He pointed to the floor far below where fires in steel drums and stormtrooper soldiers ringed a platform on which sat a very small statue.  "With the Infinite Cat Buddha, I will unleash doom upon the earth!"

"Don't tempt fate, Death Medal!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "You're messing with forces you don't understand!"

"Oh, I understand them just fine," said the villain.  "And while you chase me through the upper platforms, my minions have prepared the ritual!"

"Not on my watch!" Grandpa exclaimed.  He leaped from the platform, grabbed a dangling rope, and slid down to the factory floor.  As his sidekick landed beside him, Grandpa charged into the center of the circle and snatched up the small statue.

A net sprung up around him and his sidekick.  In seconds the two were ensnared and suspended in the circle of light.

Death Medal golf clapped.  He stepped out onto a overhead crane hook and chain and slowly descended to the factory floor.  "Brilliant," he said.  "Once again you and your sidekick leap right into my trap.  Oh, that Infinite Cat Buddha?  I bought it at Archie McPhee's.  Don't tempt fate, you said.  Grandpa, it's a cat buddha!  Cheap plaster!"  The villian lifted the statue from Grandpa's hands and smashed it on the ground, grinding it beneath his hee.  The grinning skull appeared to be laughing.  Death Medal removed a small tin from his breast pocket and added, "That place is pretty amazing.  They even sell Supervillain Mints, can you imagine?"  He held up the tin.  "Mints designed just for me!  Sure, they're just sugar and peppermint oil, but the tin is quite stylish, don't you think?  Even a demonic villain with a flaming skull for a head can do with fresh breath, am I right?"  He opened the tin and tossed two mints down his throat.

"I'm going with an old standby tonight," the villain said.  "No magic statues.  I'm using the Illuminated Librum of Inscrutible Verse to bring about the end of the world."

"This, again?" Grandpa asked.  "That one never works!"

"It'll work tonight!" exclaimed the villain.  "I've worked out all the bugs!  And you have a ringside seat!  You and your sidekick in the stylish AC/DC tee shirt -- what was the name again?"

"It's Butt Rock Boy!" the young man exclaimed.  "And when I get out of here I'm gonna go 3-chord rock all over your ass!"

Death Medal looked as if he was raising his eyebrow.  This was quite a trick, given the perpetually-grinning skull that was his face.  "Really?" he asked.  "Butt Rock Boy?  That's your sidekick?"

"Hey, I don't name 'em," said Grandpa.  "They name themselves."

"What's wrong with being Butt Rock Boy?" the kid asked.

Death Medal seemed to roll his eyes.  Again, this was mostly an impression, although the glowing red dots in the cavernous eye sockets did move.  "Kid," he said, "the term 'butt rock' is a perjorative.  It describes overly-processed crap rock with unoriginal lyrics sung by vocalists who hide their lack of talent by singing in a raspy voice.  It's not something to be proud of.  You might as well call yourself Lame Rock Boy."

"Perjorative terms are often reclaimed by the downtrodden," the sidekick said.  "In the same way  that black rap artists reclaimed the N word, I reclaim the term Butt Rock."

Death Medal appeared to be laughing.  Of course, he always appeared to be laughing.  "Are you seriously claiming that Monday Night Football-watching, cheap beer-swilling wannabe UFC fighters who like Creed or Nickleback are an underpriveledged minority?"

"I'm merely trying to reclaim a term used to denigrate a certain demographic," the kid replied.  "And I note that you are making assumptions about what Butt Rock is when we haven't even agreed on a definition.  It's  true that for many people, the term refers specifically to post-grunge, nu-metal rock like Nickleback or Five Fingered Death Punch -- but some definitions include glam rock as a genre of Butt Rock.  I  prefer the definition set forth by Mark Lee in his 2015 article Towards A Grand Unified Theory of Butt Rock, in which he states:

Butt rock is not a single unified genre of music, nor does it have a static definition. Butt rock is always defined in opposition to the head rock of its time. 

Death Medal frowned.  "Head rock?" he said.  "I've never read this article."

"The point," said Butt Rock Boy, "is that if you assume a definition of Head Rock that is innovative, creative, and intellectually challenging, then you can define Butt Rock in opposition to it -- music that is derivative of what came before, that is base and pedestrian and does not challenge creatively or intellectually."

"Yes, okay, I can actually get behind that statement," said Death Medal.

"But not necessarily bad," the boy added.

Grandpa Anarchy struggled to free himself.  "Are we going to fight or what?"

"Hold your horses, Grandpa," said the villain.  "This is getting interesting."  He turned to the sidekick.  "The problem with your definition," said Death Medal, "is that what's innovative is entirely subjective -- some may think Rush or Emerson, Lake and Palmer are brilliantly innovative, others may think them boring and pretentious."

"Granted, but you have to start somewhere," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Let me challenge you a bit:  Let's assume Gary Glitter is Butt Rock...."

"That's easy," said Death Medal.  "He is.  And I'm sure we'd all like to  tar Gary Glitter with as many negative labels as possible -- to say nothing of straight up tar and feathering him."

"But some of the early pioneers of Glam Metal were truly innovative in their own way," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Would we have an AC/DC if not for Slade who came before them?"

"Hey, now," said Death Medal.  "Don't you be calling AC/DC butt rock.  That's straight up classic rock."

"They are the forefathers of butt rock," said Butt Rock Boy.  "Why do you think I wear this tee shirt?"

Anger seemed to flare in the villain's eye sockets.  "That's it!" he exclaimed.  "Your death, boy, will be slow and painful!"  He hefted a large tome, but almost immediately it was lifted from his hands by a giant white paw.   Death Medal spun.  Towering over him was a very serene and fat white cat in a monk's robe.  The creature was at least nine feet tall.

The burning skull gaped.  He uttered a single word: "What."

"That'd be Cat Buddha," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "Like I said:  you're messing with forces you don't understand."

The cat stared at the villain through half-lidded eyes.  It breathed out, then waved a paw.  A hole opened beneath Death Medal, and the villain was sucked down into the earth.

The cat swiped the net holding Grandpa and Butt Rock Boy, shredding it.  They tumbled to the ground.  Death Medal's minions turned and fled.

Grandpa stood and dusted himself off.  "Thanks, Cat Buddha," he said.  "You ask me, music has gone to hell ever since they started playing Jazz on the radio...."

"Namaste, Grandpa Anarchy," said the cat.  "Peace be with you."  It glared at Butt Rock Boy and added, "AC/DC?  Really?"

"Really," said Butt Rock Boy.

"Well, then," said the cat.  It faded from view.


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