You are quite safe here
January 26, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
The first time I heard “Paranoimia,” by Art of Noise, I was in a cafe in Tokyo. There was a video jukebox by the door. Since I loved the band, I chose this unknown song, curious to see what it was like.
I was floored. It wasn’t just the brilliant musicianship or the imagery; the Gestalt of the song hit me as hard as another song that I’ll write about someday. That afternoon in May of 1986, when I first heard “Paranoimina” and saw the video, I understood that it was prophetic. I knew I’d end up like Max Headroom.
There he is, all alone, boxed in, completely confused about what’s going on, unable to sleep. He’s got bars on his windows, and a disembodied female presence tells him that what he perceives isn’t what’s actually happening. She’s indifferent, saying what she has to say to make him do what she wants.
Max has insomnia, but he’s also dreaming. In other words he’s disassociating. A creature nearby is panting like an animal; a mush-mouthed weirdo in the background tries to explain Max’s state of mind, but it’s slurred and distorted; and a Greek chorus adds its poignant melodies to emphasize his complete separation from all that’s normal and sane.
However, the song is consummate funk. The horror is mitigated.
I listened to the tune at least twenty times in a row, plugging coin after coin into the jukebox. All my friends were nearly tearing out their hair. But I had to know what it meant. Why did “Paranoimia”—a mutated merging of the the words “paranoia” and “insomnia”—affect me so deeply? How did I instantly know that I’d someday be Max Headroom?
I can’t explain. But at the time, the notion terrified me. When I met Carmen in November of 1987, she knew and loved the song. She didn’t mind that I played it over and over and over again.
An extended-mix version was released, which I don’t like.
It’s nowhere near as portentous, having been stripped of all the elements that made the original such an indelible blend of light and dark.
Well, I have indeed ended up as Max Headroom. I’m alone, confused, and imprisoned in many ways. But it’s all right. I’m not afraid.
“Relax,” the aloof woman says at the beginning of the shorter version. “You’re quite safe here.”
Today I realized something…
On October 7, 2011—the day I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease—the last of my chronic rage fell away, and it never returned. Yes, Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity stole $40,000 from me and ruined my literary career. But I haven’t felt the homicidal fury that plagued me when the editor of Bass Player destroyed my career in music journalism.
For me, being Max Headroom is better than trying to fit myself into milieus that turn my stomach. Tim and I talk about this a lot. What happens is that when you attain a certain level of understanding, you automatically become alienated and alienating. You become Other. What you say, write, and do is threatening.
The nonexistent Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope once wrote something about chimpanzees that stuck in my head. He said that they were so dangerous to own because they’re hierarchical animals, and they always test the limits. They begin threatening you in subtle ways to see how you’ll react, but these are chimp messages that humans don’t perceive. So the owner doesn’t know that their beloved pet is building up to an attack. One day the ape will tear off your face without warning.
I’m a chimp, but the threatening-ritual has been reversed. I’ve been oblivious, while those around me have thought I was giving them subtle signals. The best way to put the usual reaction is, “You think you’re so smart!”
Actually, I never devote even a second of my time thinking about how smart or dumb I am. I just simply am. When I say, write, or do something, it isn’t calculated to get a reaction.
Amend that: The Ghosts Trilogy is calculated to get reactions, but not to Thomas Wictor the Now Ex-Writer. I want people to react to the books. They aren’t supposed to make readers think anything about me. The whole thing is an art project, as is this Website and these posts. I don’t want readers to think, “My, but that’s a smart man!”
That’s why there’s no comments section here, and that’s why I never check my stats. Mike Albee and Lura Dold promised to publicize my books, which would give me time to write more books. They lied, and the whole thing morphed into a pile of shit that collapsed in on itself.
This has happened so many times that it’s not a big deal. I jumped and was pushed out of music journalism, I resigned from military history, and now I resign from literature and the blogosphere. I’m not histrionically flouncing out; it’s just that none of it interests me anymore. Hundreds of people have sent me e-mails indicating that we’re on the same wavelength, but the ones in charge are…contraptions that I’ll never understand.
These contraptions, the ones with the power, are really twisted bastards with no taste. They aspire to nothing but fame and consuming fatty foods. It took me until today—literally, this day, January 26, 2014—to finally accept that for whatever reason, it’s not possible for me to function in any field that requires me to interact with others. What does that leave? Nothing.
But it’s great! I can’t tell you how free I am now.
“Trust me,” the aloof woman says at the end of “Paranoimia.”
I trust only five people on earth. Everyone else is Other. See what I did there? You thought you were turning me out, but by doing so you actually turned yourselves out. I judo-ed you. Rejecting me is all the proof I need that you’re Other. It’s your problem, not mine. I refuse to change for anyone or anything. There’s nothing you could offer that would induce me to give up clarity.
The year 2013 showed me what happens when I don’t exist in a state of clarity. Mike Albee and Lura Dold scammed me of $40,000, and the best book I’ve ever written was killed. It was an object lesson. I tried like crazy to avert what I already knew in 1986, that I’d end up where I am now. It happened anyway.
There’s no anger. There’s no loneliness. There’s no self-pity. Instead, there’s total freedom. I’ve arrived at last. To commemorate my arrival, I took the best self-portrait ever.
I used to hate photos of me. Then I figured out the secret: I have to take them. That’s when they work out.
Being Max Headroom is fine. I have nothing to worry about anymore. What I thought would be hell has turned out to be heaven. My greatest fear was in fact a blessing. Could I have avoided ending up where I am now? Easily. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Consummate funk mitigates. I realized today that I am quite safe here.
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