For a while I wanted to provoke a nuclear war.
When I was in high school I was deathly afraid of it, having been propagandized by movies like 'The Day After' and 'Threads.' I was certain we were all facing imminent doom, and I told everybody so. They were largely apathetic, and good for them, for not responding to such shallow scare tactics. Even if these movies made a good point which I agreed with, they were still crudely manipulative. 'They' had decided that nuclear war was Bad, so the kids were going to be taught it was bad. But Ashy would rather have the world end than be tricked into doing something.
Naturally I researched the subject incessantly. I studied the expected fallout patterns from a major nuclear exchange; I learned the average blast, thermal, and immediate irradiation radii for the most common warhead yields, the expected number of immediate and cumulative deaths, half-lives of the primary by-products of uranium- and plutonium-based thermonuclear reaction, and so on. I also learned about historical near-misses, about the Doomsday Clock, getting an understanding of what sort of circumstances would lead to a nuclear exchange. Depressingly enough, the most sensible conclusion was that any conventional warfare between entities with nuclear capability would *always* lead to nuclear warfare, because nobody who had such weapons would sit back and let themselves be beaten if they had the option of using them.
I even did a laughable science project in my senior year; a trashy Apple II program which showed a blast radius map and quoted statistics at you about what you could expect in each zone. It was topical; more to the point it demonstrated obedience to the sanctioned concerns of the day, so somehow I made it to the state finals and was nearly awarded a scholarship on the basis of this piece of junk. (I didn't get the scholarship only because I didn't go to the school that was offering it to me.)
By the time I entered college I had become quite disenchanted with the world. When I was in high school I was content to be abused and mocked by nearly everybody else, because it was practically all I'd ever known. But something happened to me when I moved towards graduation. I got angrier. I had visions of a post-apocalyptic world under martial law enforced by cybernetically-controlled living dead, of a peace kept by placating mind-control broadcasts. I did a lot of dark, gruesome drawings and paintings of life in such a world, which became the cover art of the non-band Heavy Blimp that some friends of mine and I jerked around with during the summer between high school and college. Kevin and Jason and I had talked about getting together and playing some music and filming it with Jason's video camera, and I mistakenly thought that we were going to attempt to do real music.
It was pathetic. We were out on the wooden patio behind Jason's house. Kevin had a guitar which he noodled around on, impressing me far too much at the time. There was no drummer, there was no bassist. There wasn't even a microphone. I had to crouch down and yell into the mic of the cheap boom-box which was recording us. There was a bass guitar, but it was non-functional and was only present for the purpose of smashing at the end of the 'set.' Kevin played out of an amp; this was the most sophisticated piece of equipment on stage. As I beheld the sheer laughability of this endeavor, I became incredibly pissed off at Jason and jumped all over him. I'd only been a rock star for ten minutes and already I was a moody, simpering diva. He protested that it wasn't his fault that he didn't have a microphone. He suggested that I sing falsetto, rock opera-style. I didn't feel it was appropriate to change my singing to accommodate shitty equipment, and furthermore I couldn't hit high notes of the sort Jason was suggesting, so I got even more angry. We broke off and I sulked for about ten minutes until I got over it, and then with Jason on guitar I jumped into 'Ode to a Dive Bomber,' our only song.
'Ode' was little more than the result of an assignment in the English class that Jason and I shared. He had taken Keats' 'Ode to a Grecian Urn' and rewritten it in its entirety; in its clueless, bludgeoning appropriation it remains one of the most brilliant written works I've ever encountered; I say that unfacetiously, really. Really. I added a chorus in between the major sections and we were off. Having no range to speak of, I growled the lyrics into the boom box's tiny microphone slot as Jason fucked around on the guitar. We did one take; we weren't good enough to warrant any more. At the end of the set, Kevin ran up on stage and bashed the bass into the deck until it was shattered. His manic giggling floated behind the guitar as he showed the remains to the camera and stalked off.
Later I used Jason's tape recorder to cut the garbage into something like a track; I stuck a totally unrelated piece of guitar work in between the second and third sections and called it a 'solo.' I dumped it onto a recycled college information tape and glued a label to it; Heavy Blimp's first and only demo. Now and then I would play it for friends to impress them with the sheer awfulness of it. It became legendary in our small circles.
When the track begins, there is a brief moment, during the playing of a single guitar, when you could almost imagine someone knew what they were doing. Then there is an abrupt *pop* as the tape cuts into the middle of a note of a totally unrelated piece of guitar work, with a different tempo, different ambience, assorted background noises. And then it does it again, only somebody's singing now, or rather yelling. Yelling poorly. Yelling is not something you'd think would require skill, but its absence here is a compelling argument. There is no percussion at all, no rhythm section. It's a guy who's never sang before accompanied by a guy who can't play a guitar. Occasionally you can make out a word over the feedback and the backyard noises. Then there's a *pop*, a moment of incongruous guitar twaddling (Kevin), another *pop* and we have a guitar solo, clearly played inside a closed room rather than in the wispy acoustics of Jason's backyard. All too soon this burst of semi-competence is over and we're back to the nightmare third section, by far the weakest part of the lyrics, concluded by an adolescent monkey whining and yodeling into the mic. The guitar remains to torment you, and then there's nothing but point-blank thuds of wood against wood for a good twenty seconds, a clatter of junk, then Kevin's insane giggle. But it's not over. The guitar continues until you start to feel embarrassed. Then it suddenly stops.
The other thing I did that summer was build a fairly convincing prop of a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. This turned out to do more for my fame than Heavy Blimp did, as I took to running into people's dorm rooms and down hallways with it unexpectedly until everybody was twitchy.