Thursday, 14 February 2008

Huge McFuck

I fully admit that at least eighty percent of my copious, perhaps damning, knowledge of Scrooge McDuck comes from factual crapshoot wikipedia. The great thing about wikipedia is that, unlike a conventional encyclopedia, where a team of academics assemble to decide what society needs to know about and to what degree, on wikipedia it's chucked out to the masses. The upshot is that the length of a person, place or subject's wikipedia entry acts as a rough index as to how much the world at large cares about it.

And daaaamn if the world at large don't care lots about Scrooge McDuck. His wikipedia article is longer than the ones for William Wallace, Robert Burns, or indeed actual ducks.

But who can genuinely say they're surprised? Uncle Scrooge's appeal to modern audiences quickly surpassed Donald's - after all, Scrooge swam in a lake of gold and travelled the world on adventures. What did Donald do? Get pissed off at a fly, or something.

But alas, this sainted canard had a flaw built into him from the start. His creator, Don Rosa, had committed to a birth year - 1867. In the infinite, magical kingdom of Disney, here was a character who, by dint of being born in a specific time, had a built-in expiration date. In a cast of deathless archetypes, Scrooge was mortal.

I'm not sure how canon his death-date of 1967 is. It would mean that the events of popular Scrooge-centric spinoff series Ducktales happened sometime between 1947 and his death - given the fairly static ages of Huey, Duey and Louie and Webigail, probably a span of no more than two years.

What were final days like? Who came to his funeral? Is there an afterlife in the Disney world? And, you know, in the last analysis, is there much difference between calling out into the void after a fictional character like Scrooge McDuck, and calling out after our ancestors, after the countless humans who've become no more than text and hearsay? Do we care whether it's God or grandpa or Yorrick's skull that calls back, just so long as somebody says something, dammit.

The Impossible Deathbed Lament Of Scrooge McDuck

Is like a hurricane
Spend long enough
In its cosy eye
And soon
You come to think the whole world
Turns round you

Behind Killmotor Hill
The sunrise is fresh minted sovereigns
But the last son of Clan McDuck
Lies gasping for water in a golden bed
His grasping fist recalls young Donald, that
Apoplectic Hornblower
Who taught him the politics of rage
Age has Ebenezered his vigor
In its counting house of days

As a youngster, Scrooge rose early
Even then, he carried himself
With a certain avuncular aplomb
His gimp leg gifting him a tick-tocking surliness
His shinebox
Like an unexploded bomb

Lately, he cannot parse fact nuggets
From fool’s gold fables
He views his past
Through an astigmatic haze
A blurry tartan of
Fourth quarter forecasts
Tax havens, FTSE broadcasts
The jangling slang of ancient registers
Diamond money pins stabbed through
Bill folds like pioneers’ flags
Some pharaoh’s curse, a
Flash of bandaged paw,
This shapeshifting necromancer in Borneo
And the unholy rumble of Niagara
As he dangles
By his cane
From a frayed rope ladder

These days
He can no longer sort
The stupid angles of his brain
Nor even tame his bladder

But still
Clearest of all
He recalls
Gem-sharp dreams
Where he swims through a gleaming cash lake
In a twelve-story Futurist cinderblock
Chock full of heaped tender
A bright Mammonite cathedral

He can taste the aroma of Rands, Francs and Kroner,
Heft each swan dive like a Faberge egg
Let the sure weight transport him to way back when
A butterfly stroke through a bluff of doubloons could
Cause an imbalance in the Yen

He has drowned his best years in that corpulent silo
Midased his own heart
Then set it to cool behind bulletproof glass
And a laser-web
There was always one more dime to covet
It was never money
It was the love of it

Now that lucent organ burns in the furnace of his chest
A lone piper gurning
Forcing a requiem down silted arteries:
Here’s the tree that never grew
Here’s the duck that never flew
Oblivion unhinges its dull, dull maw

Some mysteries are best left unsolved
Uncle Scrooge,
You cannot rewrite history.
There’s no recasting Custer’s busted pride
No tugging the bayonet
From Crazy Horse’s splendid back
And sewing shut the split
How many Bible black afternoons have you squandered
Staring into an open fridge
Wishing it was a time machine?

Step away from the collection plate, old man!
You can’t buy back your misspent youth
This is simple needle’s eye economics
Soon those bold grandnephews
’ll be straddling your cold carcass
Levering each gold tooth
From the final vault of your lockjaw rictus.
Ever the coin-biting pessimist
You missed the long con
This limited flesh was the true wooden nickel
Its obverse engraved by the reaper’s grim sickle

Caches to ashes
Boom to dust
In the golden calf
We antitrust

This is the big crash, McDuck,
The culling of the sacred cash cow
The Money Bin going molten
Billions in bullion
An ocean of faces, dates and franked slogans
Converging in meltdown
The merger
To end all mergers
It’s 1929 all over
Taking you so far into the black
You can’t breathe

And your heart trots out
Its last bland iambs
De dum
de dum
de dum
de dum
end stop

O there’s no asset-stripper
So doughty as Time
But friends,
We know the freedom of liquidity
For the wages of sin is death an a’ that,
But a wage, well, that means dignity.


Ross Sutherland said...

i wonder if there's a drawing of his grave somewhere...

Tim- do you think you can get a framed picture of SmD and get someone to take your photo, holding it to your chest?

black suit and tie if possible...

Tim Clare said...

See my new post. Is there a duck pond in Norwich? Because if I got that pic it'd be great to have ducks in the background.