Monday, 13 September 2010

Lassoing, Laundering, Smoking

Contact sheets are interesting. Consider the relationship between The Marlboro Man, lassoing, and a washing machine, spewing, in this, an unconsciously made diptych (of two shop-window advertisements). It is almost as if the image of the Marlboro Man - lassoing - were carried over into the washing machine, spewing laundered money. There’s a definite formal relationship – compositional similarities - between the two: follow the flow of the towel and the lasso; the direction of the horse’s head and the towel; the faceless washing machine and the faceless cowboy. Yet neither image can be taken at face value.
The washing machine is the natural mother of the lasso. She gives birth to the idea with all her spin cycles. The umbilical cord is the baby. If I owned a lasso I’d store it in a washing machine – the natural womb for the coiled worm. Why not? In Westerns, you see lassos – carried, coiled-up – on horses. And it’s a good feeling, riding a washing machine (or spin dryer). 
It’s my birthday and I say to the guests: do you want to witness the birth of a lasso – cut the umbilical cord before we cut the cake? They say, yes, so we all gather in the utility room, where I mount the washing machine and ride the beast until the cycle finishes. Then I open the door of the Zanussi and pull out a little lasso- baby. But hold on. Coils prevent babies (and the pent lasso is non other than a coil). How would I, if quizzed, get out of that tangle?
In the movies, homebirths always brought the cry (and I don't know why?) for, ‘towels and hot water’. I’m thinking the Great Bob Mitchum – he starred in some unmemorable Westerns. I loved and hated him in ‘The Night Of The Hunter’, but I once saw him play a Country doctor - in 1950’s matinee - one afternoon when I was waiting for Countdown. He's delivering a baby, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. As the mother-to-be pushes, he pulls. On his cigarette and the baby, at the same time. But there was worse to come. Just after he’d pulled the baby out, he pulled the half-smoked cigarette out of his mouth and hands it to the new mum. The camera cuts to her puffing away – finishing Mitchum’s fag -, to the sound of her baby crying. Cut to new mum handing the cigarette back to Doctor Mitchum - who’s cradling the baby (all clean and white and not at all like the red-cabbage-reality of a newborn) – as the camera pans, amid clouds of smoke: the first recorded birth of a ‘passive smoker’? The term hadn’t even been invented. I wonder if the baby’s still alive? Must be 60 by now – if it made it that far. Be great if he grew up to be the Marlboro Man. Must Google. No, much better, grew up to be the Milky Bar Kid: he was whiter-than-white (laundered?), he was a Cowboy in embryo; he too, had a lasso. 

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