Anyway, I was in Israel as a kind of cultural ambassador, and there were lots of press conferences scheduled around the performances. And the journalists usually started things off by asking about the avant-garde
"So, what's so good about new?" they'd ask
"Well," I'd say, "new is… interesting."
"And what," they would say, "is so good about interesting?"
"Well, interesting is, you know… It's… interesting. It's like… being awake," and I'm treading water now
"And what is so good about being awake?" they'd say
Finally I got the hang of this: never answer a question in Israel; always answer by asking another question
But the Israelis were very curious about the Gulf War and what Americans had thought about it, and I tried to think of a good question to ask and answer to this
But what was really on my mind was that the week before, I had myself been testing explosives in a parking lot in Tel Aviv. Now, this happened because I had brought some small stage bombs to Israel as props for this performance, and the Israeli promoter was very interested in them. And it turned out that he was on weekend duty on one of the bomb squads, and bombs were also something of a hobby during the week
So I said, "Look, you know, these bombs are nothing special, just, just a little smoke."
And he said, "Well, we can get much better things for you."
And I said, "No really, these are fine…"
And he said, "No, but it should be big! Theatrical! It should make an impression. I mean, you really need just the right bomb."
And so one morning he arranged to have about fifty small bombs delivered to a parking lot, and since he looked on it as a sort of special surprise favor, I couldn't really refuse
So we're on this parking lot testing the bombs, and after the first few explosions I found I was really getting pretty interested
They all had very different characteristics:
Some had fiery orange tails and made these low paah, paah, paah, popping sound;
Others exploded mid-air and left long smoky, slinky trails
And he had several of each kind in case I needed to review them all at the end, and I'm thinking:
Here I am, a citizen of the world's largest arms supplier, setting off bombs with the world's second largest arms customer, and I'm having a great time!
So even though the diplomatic part of the trip wasn't going so well, at least I was getting some instruction in terrorism
And it reminded me of something in a book by Don Delillo, about how terrorists are the only true artists left because they're the only ones who are still capable of really surprising people
And the other thing it reminded me of were all the attempts during the Gulf War to outwit the terrorists
And I especially remember an interesting list of tips devised by the us embassy in Madrid, and these tips were designed for Americans who found themselves in war-time airports
The idea was not to call ourselves to the attention of the numerous foreign terrorists who were presumably lurking all over the terminal, so the embassy tips were a list of mostly don'ts
Don't wear a baseball cap;
Don't wear a sweat shirt with the name of an American university on it;
Don't wear Timberlands with no socks;
Don't chew gum;
Don't yell "Ethel, our plane is leaving!"
I mean it's weird when your entire culture can be summed up in eight giveaway characteristics
And during the Gulf War I was traveling around Europe with a lot of equipment and all the airports were full of security guards who would suddenly point to a suitcase and start yelling:
"Whose bag is this? I wanna know right now who owns this bag."
And huge groups of passengers would start fanning out for the bag just running around in circles like a scud missile was on its way in
And I was carrying a lot of electronics, so I had to keep unpacking everything and plugging it in and demonstrating how it all worked
And I guessed I did seem a little fishy; a lot of this stuff wakes up displaying led program readouts that have names like Atom Smasher, and so it took a while to convince them that they weren't some kind of portable espionage system
So I've done quite a few of these sort of impromptu new music concerts for small groups of detectives and customs agents, And I'd have to keep setting all this stuff up, And they'd listen for a while and they'd say, "So uh, what's this?" And I'd pull out something like
[Voice Of Authority]
This filter, and say, "Now this is what I'd like to think of as the voice of Authority." And it would take me a while to tell them how I used it for songs that were, you know, about various forms of control, and they would say, "Now, why would you want to talk like that?"
And I looked around at the swat teams, and the undercover agents, and the dogs and the radio in the corner tuned to the Superbowl coverage of the war, and I'd say "Take a wild guess."
Finally of course, I got through. It was, after all, American-made equipment. And the customs agents were all talking about the effectiveness- no the beauty, the elegance, of the American strategy of pinpoint bombing. The high tech surgical approach which was being reported on cnn as something between grand opera and the Superbowl
Like the first reports before the blackout, when tv was live and everything was heightened, and it was so euphoric