Notebook (primal history)

July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Maybe people did not want to think, and noise was one more opiate of the masses. The most egregious of moralists and most empathetic of novelists shared this explanation for the prevalence of noise – of idle wrangling on street corners, of shouting and weeping in theaters hot with melodrama, of brass bands and beer songs in parks and pavilions, of honky-tonk in taverns and ragtime in saloons, of large ‘torpedoes’ or smaller squibs set off in back alleys – among the diversions favoured by labourers, assembly-line workers, journeymen, farmboys. Their weekdays dulled by hunger and work, their voices suppressed by dynamos or tractor engines, they would ‘naturally’ prefer, in their free time, the liveliness of a collective noise to the hush of a library or the harmonies of barbershop quartets. Twenty-five hundred were in the stands at Crush Station, between Hillsboro and Waco, to watch a prearranged head-on collision of two old Texas locomotives pulling six freight cars each: ‘Nearer and nearer came the flying trains, the whistles making demoniac music.’ At impact the boilers of both locomotives exploded, sending shattered bolts, shrapnel, and splinters of oak flying a hundred yards away: a ‘success’, reported the Boilermaker’s Journal in 1896, equal to that of collisions staged outside Kansas City and Cleveland.”

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