May 10, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
In the last moments of the constitutional convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was heard by James Madison to say, “When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.”
I’m not sure this goes far enough.
I love a misfit crew; and in the ur-misfit crew story, what they’re bringing to the enterprise is not first their gifts, but rather, their deficits. That which hobbles them becomes, in the fullness of time, their superpower.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Founding Fathers, in the hour when their enterprise is at its gravest risk. If they were a properly constituted misfit crew, it is their eccentricities, rather than their prescience, that will stand between us and our darkest hour.
Every crew needs a rage monster, to tap into those feats man is only capable of when the frontal lobe is disengaged. George Washington was our Hulk. General Scott said of the battle of Monmouth, “He swore that day till the leaves shook on the trees. Charming! Delightful! Never have I enjoyed such swearing before or since. Sir, on that memorable day he swore like an angel from heaven!”
Thomas Jefferson was the Cyrano character — his eloquence, for all that we benefit from it, the flipside of a crippling social anxiety. He spoke aloud only when avoiding it was impossible. All that passion, all the unexpressed moments of improvisation, shoved back down into his consecrated throat, only to find expression in his writing.
Because of a personal aversion to water, Benjamin Franklin preferred to bathe in cold air. He sat naked in front of the open window each day. Brothers and sisters, he stank. But like the Gremlin Gizmo, he was deemed worth it.
General Charles Lee traveled with a pack of dogs and was always in their company. He commanded their devotion. This hobbled his social and political life in all the ways you might imagine, but his dogs were needed in the fray. General Charles Lee, Dog Man.
Alexander Hamilton was a master manipulator of the Walter White model. John Adams, a misanthrope of the Prince Namor type, habitually pressed into service despite himself. John Jay, on the other hand, was a bit more like the Doom Patrol. He loathed his powers, and had no desire to be a Justice. “Hail to the Chief” was written for James Madison because no one noticed when he entered a room — and this to me seems a matchless power.
The only natural revolutionary among them was Thomas Paine, a man devoured not only by his own revolution but by the one in France. He had a tireless desire to upend institutions, and died widely reviled as a “rabble-rouser.” But a misfit crew, in the end, is only as powerful as the ordinary citizens it can inspire, and inspiring the masses was Tom Paine’s jam.
Go ahead and wrap yourself in the Constitution as our republic crumbles. I get that. But I’m thinking it will be human frailty that saves us in the end.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACK LIPS PERFORMANCE CULT | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Mimi Lipson on TBD | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Anthony Miller on TBD | Jordan Ellenberg on BOUBAKI | Jenny Offill on TBD | Kio Stark on TBD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.