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How Long Can I Listen to The White Stripes Without Losing My Mind?

A playlist experiment teaches me why Jack White is so blue


Monday, 4:40 pm

I’ve been listening to the same playlist for two days straight. It is not a long playlist. There are six songs and the whole thing runs about sixteen minutes.

The White Stripes are my favorite band. If you say something is your favorite enough times over enough years you start to forget what that means. Like when you say a word repeatedly until it sounds like gibberish. You stop defending your choice and you just say it. It is fact.

When I was in high school I could listen to album after album of the White Stripes on repeat. Sometimes I worry that I may have ruined them the way I ruined Aerosmith for myself. I haven’t listened to the Stripes in any appreciable volume for a long time. Until a couple of days ago.

Every White Stripes album has a song whose title is some variation of “Little ____.” Like the band itself, the Little songs are remarkably variable. They don’t have much in common besides some of them taking a deconstructed approach to the band’s sound. A lot of White Stripes songs do that. What I’m saying is that after 40-some hours of listening, I have no answers.

The Little Suite: a playlist experiment

A while ago I put together a playlist of the Little songs ordered chronologically by album. I’m a sucker for symbols and literary semiotics, so these tracks have always fascinated me. A symbol is just meaningful repetition, you know. I like to think Jack White is into that kind of shit too, so it’s a shame no journalist has ever tried to pick his brain to the bottom of this titular habit.

God knows how many times the playlist has looped now. When I started I only had this slight notion of seeing how long I could go. Until what, I didn’t know.

I know now.

I wanted to see how long I could go without losing my fucking mind.


Sunday, 9:41 am

Last night I came home from work thoroughly exhausted. I wanted to do some reading or maybe play my recently reclaimed trumpet, but had the energy to do neither. I’d already listened to two new albums on the bus to and from work, and I would have liked to listen to more, but I’m for some reason incapable of seeing new music as a positive force that adds to my life; instead I think of it in terms of an endless torrent that I can’t possibly weather, a to-do list that I’ll never catch up with. So listening to new albums exhausts me. I hadn’t the patience.

Instead, I turned on and turned up a White Stripes playlist experiment I’d put together about a month ago. Around 7pm I fell asleep.

I hate naps. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a nap that didn’t annoyingly get cut short, make me fitfully angry, or feel like a thousand-year cryosleep. I don’t know what time it was when I woke up from my nap, but I distinctly remember thinking “fuck this song” (referring to “Little People”), giving up on the day, taking my meds, and going to bed fully clothed, boots and all.

I woke up this morning sweaty and fearful, experiencing the kind of stress that, for me, always follows a night’s rest unpreceded by any bedtime routine. What happened? Where am I? Who’s that singing?

The playlist was still going. I must not have turned off the repeat button from yesterday morning when I had my music on shuffle at work! I sat straight upright — it’s a small discovery, but I’ve always wondered if I could use the repeat function to listen to something through an entire night. Before I’d always run out of batteries or pulled out the earbuds in my sleep. But there it was, still piping into my ears! I was tickled.

I’ve spent the rest of the morning listening to what I’ve started calling The Little Suite, even keeping the party going in the shower by turning the speaker volume way up and putting my phone in the sink. Right now “Little Bird” is playing, and I couldn’t be happier.


Jack White and Stephen Colbert face off

Sunday, 10:15 am

It’s too late to try to go to church, but the idea crossed my mind. I went last week. It was fine. I joke often that if you’re raised Catholic it never really leaves you. In high school I was an indignant atheist, my first few years of college a sort of humanist/nihilist. Who knows now. Faith, if not religion, gets reframed for you when your life falls apart, which mine has done a handful of times.

Jack White is Catholic. There’s this great clip of him and Stephen Colbert trying to out-Catholic each other. It’s a personal favorite of mine. He was going to go into the seminary and become a priest, but decided on public school instead when he figured they wouldn’t allow a guitar amplifier in a seminary. I think Jack probably sees writing and performing as a religious enterprise. If interviews and his own testimony are to be believed, he’s constantly working and playing. At 16, there were two moments in the film It Might Get Loud that I believed captured everything important about playing guitar, about rock and roll, about all music maybe. The film opens with Jack White making an electric guitar out of a plank of wood, an empty coke bottle, an electromagnet, a piece of twine and a couple of nails. Later, he roughs out a little ditty about a spider in around a minute.

At the time I had a romantic idea that these things flowed from him naturally, thanks to a God-given talent. I understand now that these things come from years and years of practice and obsession and tedium. The trick to understanding this part of art is learning that years of practice are no less God-given than talent itself. That’s the part of Catholicism that’s been getting me through the day recently. It’s a religion about repetition and ceremony and painful prostration. So when life is shitty or repetitive I try to prostrate myself before it and hope it makes me stronger.

Does Jack still go to church? He’d stick out like a cockatoo in any church I can think of, but maybe the image isn’t totally impossible. He’s a certain kind of dour, and his style reflects that.

I don’t like mass very much at all, but it strikes me that maybe going would have been a fun part of this. I can see and hear it — the self-help intro of “Little Acorns” playing during the homily, then transitioning into the hellstorm of its second half; “Little Ghost,” a song about impossible, delusional love playing during the consecration, the holy terror of “Little Cream Soda” playing during communion. Fuck. I should have tried to go. I wonder if Father Peter digs the Stripes.


Sunday, 12:35 pm

I’m at my favorite coffee shop, feeling bouncy and energized by the municipally unfortunate 20-minute walk from my apartment (Rhode Island’s bus lines mostly run north-to-south, and Empire Tea and Coffee is west of my place). I think through music best when I’m walking, even better than sitting alone with my eyes closed.

I have yet to discover any significant thread running through The Little Suite. The White Stripes are not a storytelling band. Most of their work has nonsensical lyrics, or a folksy exhortation quality to it. They aren’t a concept album kind of band. So that theory is bunk.

I said hello to the barista and asked for my usual small mocha and buttered scone. She seemed to ask me something, and for the first time I was confronted with a problem that would continue to plague me. It’d been such a long streak — I couldn’t break it. “For here,” I said, and it seemed to work.

The Little songs are all a little raw and underwritten I guess. But aren’t all White Stripes songs that simple? Jack has said on multiple occasions that the initial concept of the band was to strip rock to its essential elements, no more, no less. Three pillars: voice, guitar, drums. He explains it in terms of his upholstering background. A table can’t stand on two legs, but doesn’t technically need any more than three. The back of a couch will flap about if only stapled in two places on the bottom, but any more than three staples is a waste of staples. Three is fine. That’s the whole idea.

Perhaps by virtue of the minimalist ensemble, the Stripes are able to be louder and meaner than any act from the 2000s. I’m not trying to spit on all the hardcore and metal variations out there by saying that, but listen to more than an hour or so of the White Stripes and tell me it isn’t true.

“Little People” is by far my least favorite of the Little songs, but it’s a track from their self-titled debut that perfectly captures why they exploded in popularity and remain important. Meg’s drums thunder out an annoyingly simple bass beat while Jack sings stupid fucking nonsense about “a little girl who says bing bing bong,” a “little boy with a spider in his hand, hel-lo!” This has got to be the dumbest punk shit since The Stooges’ “1969.”

There is zero skill involved in this song. I could play and sing every part of it, and not just today, but probably when I was thirteen or fourteen, too. It’s positively brutal to listen to. Sure there were other punk bands and blues bands and rock bands at the time, and I’m not here to say the White Twins were any better or worse than any of them, but there’s a raw power they had that was unassailable. It’s as if there’s no mental or physical filter the music is streaming through — it existed in their heads, probably for less than a millisecond, and now it exists in you, with nothing in between. That’s rock and roll, that’s punk. Cut the bassist, cut the brains, cut the chatter, cut the shit.

Every time the playlist comes back around I hear vividly something a friend told me in 2014: “Everybody loves Alt-J so much, thinks ‘Breezeblocks’ is so crazy good, as if it’s so fucking impressive and powerful to play sixteenth notes on a piano and a drumkit at the same time.” In “Little People” it’s quarter notes, and it’s a guitar instead of a piano, but it sounds pretty powerful to me.


Sunday, 2:23 pm

I’ve been to Empire enough times now that my thing for the barista is less of an attraction and more of a small crush. I really should’ve taken the earbuds out when I came back to the counter and ordered a breakfast wrap. She was definitely flirting a little then, but what could I do? I have a duty to the experiment. For a minute I had the idea to ask her if Bristol has a movie theater, because I still haven’t seen “La La Land” and I don’t want to trek to Middletown on an off day. Middletown sucks. My courage and “Little Room” were cresting when she clocked out and left. I probably would have freaked about having to choose between her and the music. Shit.

“Little Room” is an exceptional song. It’s a pretty clear ape of the classic Son House skit “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” in which Son melismates in his whistling baritone over his own badly paced clapping. “Little Room” uses the same template: Meg childishly slams down a sweaty 4/4 beat while Jack sings an aimless tune that devolves abruptly into a whiny, soupy scat. Both of these make my list of Perfect Songs, up there with “No Church In The Wild,” “Graceland,” “Peace Train,” “Slip It In,” et cetera.

Son House, the second Delta Blues hero and the first Delta Blues superstar, is Jack White’s personal favorite. By no fault of Jack’s, the band can’t possibly reach the depths of Son’s despair or spiritual resignation. No white person, no Millennial, no middle-class-or-higher person can ever sound like Son House, or any other early bluesman. Not that they can’t sometimes feel similarly, or have similar qualities. There’s a tragic anger, an immortal wisdom that exists in primordial American folk and blues that probably won’t exist ever again.

Delta Blues superstar Son House | Photo: Dick Waterman

Jack and Meg are white. Northern white, Midwest white, Detroit white. Alarmingly white, sheet-white, ghost-white. If you look at enough pictures of them the color seems less an ethnicity than a feature of their image, an icon, like the two of them are the literal stripes in the band’s name. Look, there are a century of affluent white rock artists who’ve just as shamelessly taken poor black music and made millions off of it. It’s not like the White Stripes aren’t allowed. They’re in a better moral position than white college kids playing folkified spirituals in Greenwich in the sixties, and if Osiris or Peter or whoever has any sort of global ethnic perspective then Jack and Meg are certainly far less damned than Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis.

They’ve always made no bones about who their influences are and about how much their music pales in comparison to the ancient blues greats (Or at least Jack has. He’s the mouthpiece, the wise man/wiseass. Meg has always had the good sense to sit back and deflect.). But the juxtaposition can’t be ignored. Megan Martha White and John Anthony Gillis were blighted Detroiters blighted by Detroit, yes, but they are still white. To be the band that brought back blues, even in their own sharp-edged punk version of it, is a little wrinkle I can’t get out of my head. The irony is, I wouldn’t care about any of this if my obsession with Jack White hadn’t introduced me to Son House and Charley Patton and Howlin’ Wolf. I’m the fool here, not them.

I just get the feeling that, as it happens a million times in a million places everywhere every day, someone heard about the White Stripes for the first time and said, “why does it always have to be white kids?”


Sunday, 4:57 pm

I feel, for the first time, trapped by the playlist. The encounter with the barista was inconvenient, but this is untenable.

I tried for a moment to watch some TV. As with all things, I’m late to the party and just started “Mr. Robot” last week, and I’m very excited to see where it goes, though I feel about the first episode what I’ve come to feel about far too many prestige dramas — when the first episode operates like a small feature film and the whole world gets turned upside down in that hour, where else do you possibly go? The answer is always some version of “just sit back and get comfortable while we parade all these fun new characters about for a few episodes.” I guess my real question is what the deal is going to be once I meet everybody, because no show is the same show it was in its first episode.

I tried, I tried, and then I stopped. Of course I can’t watch TV. This whole thing might be preposterous, but listening to music while watching television is madness, and is the kind of media sin that I haven’t ever and will not now stand for.

I’m trying to jump back into the music, but the switch has been flipped and can’t go back. The experiment has been turned on its head. This is no longer about one thing that I’m doing. This is about all the things I’m not doing and can’t do.

That matter-of-fact, holier-than-thou stentorian voice in the intro of “Little Acorns” is doing his bit about taking your problems and tackling them one at a time like a squirrel collecting acorns, and I’ve had about enough of his shit.


Photo: Dean Chalkley

Sunday, 7:42 pm

This has to be the first time I’ve ever had a panic attack in the bath. It has to be.

I thought maybe it’d help me calm down a bit if I took out the earbuds and used the bathroom sink amplifier trick again — if I quite literally “got out of my own head.” Figuring I might as well if I was going to be in here, I drew and slipped into, wincing, a very hot bath.

It was nice. For a moment I was in the pocket again, nodding to “Little Ghost,” a charming romp that moves along at a bouncy, square-danceable clip. It treads the border between the nonsense and folksiness I mentioned earlier. After dozens of listens, I can’t find any meaning behind it other than a literal fantasy story about a man falling in love with a ghost. That seems spare, but it’s high concept compared to the rest of the Suite.

“Little Cream Soda” started almost precisely when the knocking did. First knocking, then louder, persistent knocking, then banging, ten seconds on, five seconds off, thirty seconds on, ten seconds off.

Holy shit. It’s not for me. It can’t be for me, what am I doing wrong? Can they hear the music? It can’t be that loud, I could barely hear it over the tub filling up. More banging. What is going on out there? It has to be on someone else’s door. What did I do? Did my landlord not get my rent on time? Does he think that weed stench is coming from my room? That’s not fair, the whole building smells like that! Even if it is for me, what do I have to worry about? Doesn’t a man have the right to play his music at a respectable listening volume? Oh, it’s disturbing you, is it? You have no idea, pal.

This all screeched through my head as I sat stock still with my balls all the way up in my throat. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard “Little Cream Soda” or if you’ve ever had someone try to knock down your door while you were bathing, but I do not recommend the two at the same time. I can’t think of a more stressful or terrifying song to play while wondering if you’re in the shit.

Should I have toweled up and answered the door? Absolutely, of course, I know that. Even if it’s not for you, that’s what you do, that’s what you’re supposed to do. But I was afraid. Not of anything at all, really. Sometimes I just don’t want to see anyone. It’s a shame, though. This is the exact kind of gonzo music critic delinquency I’ve always dreamed of, and I played myself out of the landlord confrontation, the climax, the big payoff.

After I got out of the bath I peeked out my door, keeping the chain on because I’m a baby. Nobody, nothing, silence. Not that anyone would have been lingering there. It had been ten minutes since the banging stopped. But I still had no information, had seen no one, didn’t know my crime, or whether it had been for me at all, so the empty hallway was an eerie continuation of the whole dissociated event. “No one else could see this apparition.”

I was lying just now. I know what I was afraid of. Having to turn off the music.


Jack said that Meg’s drumming is the best part of the White Stripes | Photo: David Swanson

Sunday, 10:10 pm

Meg White is in no way a rockstar. She’s not a rockstar such that she is diametrically opposed to Jack White, a quintessential rockstar, a cartoon of a rockstar, a man who is every element of what every kid imagines every rockstar should be (minus the boozing).

Meg is quiet and extremely private. Jack has a big fucking mouth. Meg was an amateur when she kicked around on Jack’s drums the night they formed the band (Jack White is a drummer-turned-frontman, just like the legendary Steven Tyler). Jack had been playing in bands for years. Meg was still wearing t-shirts and jeans long after Jack started with the tailored suits and boots. Meg was ready to settle into a culinary career just as Jack was clamoring out of his upholstering career. Meg White is her given name — John Gillis took it from her, like countless other rockstars with assumed names. Meg grew up in an affluent neighborhood with one sister, Jack grew up house poor with nine siblings. Meg plays a direct and repetitive style of percussion, Jack can turn every bar into a solo. Meg sings sweetly and simply and infrequently, Jack sings nasally and loud. Meg has a demure, soft beauty. Jack is jagged, cruel-looking, devilish. Jack made a recording empire after their breakup, and Meg has silently retired.

Jack said once that Meg’s drumming is the best part of the White Stripes. I can’t decide whether Jack has a huge ego or none at all, but whether he was deferring or being genuine, he was right. I might pay to see Jack White, but if he had existed as he does now without ever having been famous in the White Stripes, would I care about his weird brand of nouveau-country honky tonk? I barely do now. Without Meg, Jack White is just John Gillis.


Monday, 12:36 am

I’ve been trying to get through “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s more blatantly fantastic short stories. It’s definitely my least favorite in a collection of his I received for Christmas. All of Fitzgerald’s stories have some connection to the themes of youth or mortality, and are always about rich people, but this one marries death to wealth in a tale about a family whose fortune is founded (literally and figuratively) on a mountain-sized flawless diamond. As I’m typing it out here it sounds pretty fascinating and weird, and if it’s weird it’s for me, but I just can’t get into it. The characters are deliberately inhuman, but I’m not in the mood for inhumanity.

I need connection. I need someone to talk to. Jack refuses to speak back to me in anything but verse. I’m on “Little Acorns” again. I looked it up. The voice is Mort Crim, small time old school news anchor, and, believe it or not, the inspiration for Ron Burgundy (red suit, white shirt), who mugged it up in Louisville, Philly, Chicago and, of course, Detroit (Red Wings, red and white). For some reason Jack got a hold of some old tapes and accidentally recorded a piano intro over one of a set of “morality tales” sponsored by K-Mart (red and white) that Crim did for radio at one time or another. Like all White Stripes stories, this is almost sickeningly mythical and yet concrete and detailed enough to be taken as truth. Also like most Stripes myths, there’s no deliberation or meaning involved whatsoever. Jack and Meg have no connection to the acorn story, they didn’t seek out Mort Crim, they didn’t have a plan for what the back half of the song would be until they heard the soundbite. The connections, the web of colors, they don’t exist, they’re only real in my head, they’re a ghost, and when I shook their hand I really shook a glove.

Mort Crim, left in 1974, was the inspiration for the ‘Anchorman’ Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell

Jack is telling me to “be like the squirrel, girl,” and to “take all my problems and pick ’em apart,” just like Braddock Washington picks his diamond apart to bribe God himself, promising a flawless white cathedral and jeweled sacrificial altar. My cathedral is white as well, and the priest and priestess can’t hear me. They’ve long since stopped talking to each other, and since I’m trying to get at them as a unit I can’t possibly expect them to get back to me individually.

I only have a page left of “Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” but I can’t finish it, not under these conditions. I throw it across the room and thrust myself to sleep in protest.


Monday, 11:05 am

This was a terrible idea.


Monday, 11:39 am

The banging was for me, it was my landlord, and it wasn’t for the music or for any problems with my rent. Apparently my bathtub leaks furiously when I take a bath. There are like five or six buckets under a stained patch of ceiling in the lobby. I left a note and a voicemail for my landlord apologizing and letting him know that he can call me if he needs to attack the problem from up on my end. I’ve never seen any leakage or buckets after my showering, so I guess it’s only baths.

I’m glad to know that the whole ordeal wasn’t for anything serious or damning (and that it wasn’t my fevered psyche), but it’s a bummer that my idealized rebellious version of the story has been ripped to shreds. The leak must be obnoxious for my landlord, I know that, but it has nothing to do with The White Stripes or The Little Suite. I’m hurting no one but myself.


Monday, 1:02 pm

If I thought yesterday’s interaction in Empire was a disaster, then today is a total catastrophe. I slammed down two bucks and definitely yelled “small black coffee” because the barista started and turned around wide-eyed. She smiled as she handed me the to-go cup (she knows I’m staying here; an invitation to leave?), but the damage has been done. This whole thing is making me a monster.

If there’s any collective meaning to these songs, it’s fame and responsibility and transformation. “Little People” is about Jack and Meg as small-timers, as children. They have a spider in their hands, a tiger on their bed, twenty-five cents, nothing on their minds. It is a simple song about simplicity. “Little Bird” is vaguely misogynistic, but perhaps it isn’t about a woman but about the audience, a group that, for the duration of the show, the Stripes have captivated and captive in a cage while Jack the would-be seminarian preaches to them. They finally have somebody to listen to them and they’re not letting go.

But being famous and being liked comes with an inherent responsibility; a celebrity has a duty to their fans to maintain an aura and a body of work that is worth being celebrated. No one signs up for this and no one deserves this, but it’s how the transaction works. Buying a record is not a one-time purchase but an investment, an advance payment on whatever comes next.

So then “Little Room” is Jack bemoaning his advancement to the “bigger room” of fame, a place he feels is cluttering what it means to play the music he loves. Something has changed and something has been lost — that’s a part of fame, too. If you’re lucky, whatever made you great in the very beginning doesn’t have anything to do with your obscurity, but as more often is the case, a loss of human connection and interest is the price for popularity. Jack wants back in the little room, but there’s no going back.

“Little Acorns” is a reach for help, a way to cope with all of this. Being a famous band is an otherworldly alien thing, but the banal advice to take things one moment at a time is a cliché because it works. I’m grasping at this point, but “Little Ghost” is maybe about how nebulous and immaterial fame is? You know it exists and it’s pulling you in every direction, but you can’t touch it or see it or kill it. The only option that ensures survival is to fall in love with it.

“Little Cream Soda” has the clearest meaning of the Suite, and my understanding it preceded this theory. The whole thing has come full circle. Jack pines for who he was in “Little People,” a time when “all I wanted was my ice cream colder and a little cream soda, oh well oh well.” It isn’t the last track on “Icky Thump,” but I sure wish it was. Ending the Stripes oeuvre with the words “There’s nothing left for me to tell you, oh well” would be so magnificently appropriate, and if there’s any good that comes of my creating this monster of a mixtape then it’s my getting to pretend that this existential white flag is the final note in the dirge.

But I’m fooling myself anyways. Jack White is as afraid of death as any of the rest of us, which is why his career has an afterlife in Third Man Records and “Blunderbuss” and “Lazaretto.” Once you’re famous, you have the choice to die one death or two. You can keep the party going and make two become one when your body kicks it, or you can die in the mind of the audience as you disappear from the stage and then die alone, truly alone, without Bob Dylan or Son House or Mort Crim or any of the other TV faces around to see you kick out your final jams. That’s the path Meg chose, and I know for a fact that Jack is too obsessed with the number three to admit himself two deaths, because that would make four and would ruin the entire dance he’s spent two decades choreographing.

Instead of “Little Cream Soda,” “Icky Thump” and The White Stripes end with “Effect and Cause,” a song about reaping what we sow and sleeping in the beds we make. The last words are “You seem to forget just how this song started / I’m reacting to you because you left me broken hearted / See you just can’t just take the effect and make it the cause.” I don’t know if that’s for Meg or for the audience or for fame fame fatal fame, but it’s a crock of shit compared to the end of the Suite.


Monday, 2:13 pm

There’s a kid in here wearing a navy shirt that says “LI Patriots Super Bowl Champions,” which has a nice design balance when you see it but is hideous to read typed out. He must be ten or eleven because he’s clearly still in that wiry awkward phase, but he’s got a rakish handsomeness that allows him to move confidently and without thought of failure, with a confidence that allowed him to unironically buy a celebratory Super Bowl shirt that if you think about it had to have been designed and made long before last night’s historic win. He’s also unironically wearing tennis shoes with slim cut jeans, another thing that you only get to pull off if you’ve been handsome from a very young age. There isn’t a single thing about him that I had at ten or eleven, and he has all the qualities that surely would have saved me from loving Daft Punk or being obsessed with The Wall or ever having cared about The White Stripes at all.

“Little Bird” has become one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s wondrous, a miracle, a living text of biblical moment and a testament to rock and roll and music itself. It is beautifully crafted in that way that all great White Stripes songs are: every element is simple, there is no assumption involved, and the whole thing is balanced on a faith in the perfect orgasmic candor of a single guitar phrase that I personally could listen to for hours, a fact the Jack uses and abuses by making the song little more than that one phrase, all other twists and turns existing in exact contrast to that melody, thereby elevating it because as great as the changes are, I want to get right back to what drew me in in the first place, which are those twelve notes, twelve over twelve and twelve over and over twelve, twelve tribes, twelve disciples, twelve because seven is holy work and five is half ten and ten is law, and so holy work towards incomplete law is twelve, but also because ten is law and two is heaven and hell so twelve is the law of judgment, but also ten is seven and three and seven is holy work and three is God, and so ten is the holy work of God, plus two is God’s holy work in heaven and hell which is twelve.

I know why The White Stripes became my favorite band. They are everything I ever wanted in a rock band. Whether I wanted those things because my life trained me to want them or because they exist only for me personally in my internal concept of art is anyone’s guess. First of all, there are only two of them, which is convenient because at the end of the day every great story only needs two characters (Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Lennon and McCartney, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Romeo and Juliet, Obi-Wan and Anakin, Kirk and Spock, Adam and Eve). Secondly, they were 100% dedicated to a color scheme that existed on their album covers and in their wardrobe but in their names and skin and hair as well. I realize now that I don’t like this because it has any greater meaning but because it is simple, like a color-coded planner, and appeals to an idiot like me.

As for their music, they are positively postmodern, not just referencing but incorporating every artist and genre from which they emerged. Being aware of their own patchwork allows them to elevate themselves beyond artifice and into innovation through deconstruction, because as any art major can tell you, you have to learn the rules before you can break them, and The White Stripes break every rule.


Photo: Patrick Pantano

Monday, 4:08 pm

I’ve been to Easter Vigil exactly once, which means I’ve prayed a full rosary countless times but for only one day in my entire life. It might be the one Catholic thing I’ve done that I completely understood. There’s a hypnotic state you eventually reach where the words open up beyond their own meanings in your mind and you’re free to wander internally through your own soul. I don’t pretend to think that this got me any closer to God than seeing Half Dome in person or witnessing an I-shit-you-not green flash as the sun set over the open ocean. But it was cool. I found a certain peace.

Hanging out with Jack and Meg for two days was not at all peaceful, and I feel absolutely godforsaken, but it’s been an exercise in meditation like any other prayer or yoga. I figure I’ve probably learned something. For a second I was going to write it out in this entry, but I guess I already wrote it out over and over in the previous entries, huh?

For as weird as this was for me, I can’t understand why you’ve read along this far. I know the state of my soul, but how do you feel after all of this? Why on earth are you doing this to yourself? Don’t complain to me, I didn’t invite you here. Oh, sure, I posted the link, but you didn’t have to click it you fucking nutjob. What is wrong with you?

I feel good. A little sweaty, but that’s normal. I feel like I’ve gotten over whatever the hump was and am well into the musical version of a runner’s high. I’ve got that third-eye feeling you get when you stick your finger right between your eyebrows but don’t touch the skin. I feel centered, thankful.

The White Stripes are two people, so why “Third Man Records?” Because of you and me, of course. You’re the Third Man, I’m the Third Man. The music can’t exist without us, we’re the finger that presses play, the ones who listen to the tree fall in the forest. Jack and Meg aren’t special. We have an awareness that they’ll never have — we can hear them, and they can’t.


Monday, 5:34 pm

Fuck the blues. Fuck Son House. Fuck Charley Patton. Fuck Detroit. Fuck Nashville. Fuck Third Man. Fuck the seventh son. Fuck the garage rock scene. Fuck punk. Fuck Elvis, fuck Jerry Lee Lewis. Fuck Peter and Osiris. Fuck you for reading this. Fuck Jack White, and fuck The White Stripes. Meg’s okay though.


Ross Hsu is editor of Overture.
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