Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hey Jack Kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part III

I'm aware that I might well be presuming to know too much and that all of this is damned hack sociology. On the internet yesterday I saw one of those misnamed "memes" that said something like 'your friends are the ones you don't have to speak carefully around'.  I found this striking because as a writer, or the deeper personality type that made me think of myself as a writer, the idea of speaking carefully being a painful burden that one longs for the chance to lay down is foreign to me. I like to speak carefully. I would say that I take something like pride in imagining myself to be good at it. Or at least what I love most of all is to gradually mold my vague internal perceptions into ever more finally distilled thoughts and I value the role that carefully designed speech plays in that. One could say that I'm guilty of using the people I interact with in this way, even my mother and close friends, and you may judge me for that as you will. Let every person among us Keep It Real in their own way.

I'm confident that it largely comes down to this. You have no control over how I read you, whether I read you as irritating or pleasing, good or bad. You have no control over whether I see you as primarily a thing to be read, nor of course do I have any such control over your eyes and mind. When we acknowledge that of course there are many people who cannot tolerate the reality of this we may begin to see how those who obsessively hate what they think political correctness is can see themselves as exclusively honest while preaching the wildest delusions.

Actual common sense should tell us that there never has been and never could be a dominant social consensus on what is or is not offensive. The reasons for why anyone could think there has been or naturally should be are maybe too complex for our purposes here. But I do think it's valuable to recall that the mental effects of surburban and rural segregation in the 20th century will linger for a long time. It has encouraged white people raised in such environments to form an overly smooth and narrow concept of what the "mainstream" is; an exaggerated idea of how much commonality in culture thought and habit the American people have ever had. We should also recall that an age of far fewer media outlets more tightly controlled by particular sorts of white men is still well within living memory. The town newspaper financed by local economic pillars with its insistently heroic and existentially central view of private enterprise. three TV channels conveying much the same white skinned white-collarish sensibility. The lemming-like increase in media that began in the late 20th century and continues has closely aligned with historically oppressed groups working to kick the door down and gain some kind of public voice. If we put all of it together we might see where conservative whites are coming from in perceiving an unprecedented negative pressure upon their positive image and peace of mind. There is even something like a bit of truth to their perception.

Or if you're old enough you may remember a book from the early nineties called "All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." I recall that in the late nineties on the old dial-tone internet there were Hotmail groups attributing various right-wing bumper sticker quotes to the book that are not actually in it. still the category of people who were most attracted to this book is telling. There is something quite dark at play on the one hand; a generically conservative idea that the only people one need ever rightfully worry about not offending are Authorities, Social Superiors, Parents, Teachers or adult equivalents thereof. And this does put a sense of insult at suggestions that offending minority members is bad in grim light. My main point however is that there is part of us that wants to believe that the manners we need to mind in order to avoid being negatively thought of; (so that we can KNOW that we are not being negatively thought of) to be permanently settled things; though of course this could only be possible in a Fantasyland of one immortal generation.

What many people mean when they say they want "common sense" is a common sensibility whose goodness everyone has the same motive to presume out of hand and thus presume each other's goodness out of hand. Which is to say that what they want; what par of all of us wants, is a sort of magic veto power over the minds of others; a desire to believe that it is only ever not evil to judge us as wrong when we ourselves are intentionally wrong by our own estimation; and who of course is ever such a thing?

There is ultimately no getting around the problem of backlash. Privileged people who feel personally accused by the calling out of old bigotries and unjust hierarchies will intuitively defend themselves with an intensified form of these very things for a time. Still the problems must of course be named aloud at some point if they are ever to be gotten rid of. It is one of those life pains that need to be suffered and gotten over with.

Sarah Silverman tweeted something like the old saw of "deep down everyone wants just wants to be loved" and though it is an old saw it is still a key truth. In looking at the rise of right-wing populism both here and abroad, these fantasies of an impossible degree of unity in thought belief and identity within societies of millions being "natural" I would say that what the Trump supporter wants, what the MRA the fundamentalist or the white nationalist all want, is an environment where they are only ever judged with the same advantage of familiar affection that one finds in families friend groups and sexual relationships. Since political power can never give them that they shall of course remain dissatisfied. And rather then accept that nothing else at all can ever give them that they will choose instead to contimue blaming dark conspiratorial forces; (Hollywood, bureaucrats, elitists, hipsters, feminists, on and on and on) for denying them this hallucinatory birthright.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hey Jack Kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part II

I recall an incident over Christmas tried to use the fact that I said the word "bureaucracy" in a context I forget now as pretense for launching into one of his patented right-wing rants. I told him directly that I did not actually provide him with a context for talking on this subject.  He asked me if I voted and I said no, not as in no I didn't vote (I of course went for the higher scoring loser) but no as in this conversation will not happen. You cannot make me discuss what you will on your terms by your cue. To my introvert's eyes especially he is a maddeningly boorish man. He will aggressively prod for familiarity with the sex life beliefs legal troubles etc. of anyone else around him. He seems to honestly perceive cowardice as the only possible motive for rhetorical restraint and rejects the very concept of polite personal distance as a craven thing. An entitled neediness for familiarity is what drives both his politics and his general being I'd say' an assumption that human relationships are only either perfectly intimate or perfectly hostile, so that difference or unknown quantities in another are necessarily threats to himself; or above all else a sense of control over how he is personally perceived when he feels like he understands what those around him are all about.

I've long had the view that the centrality of belief to self is generally overestimated. That belief, or one's understanding of culturally normal belief paradigms, is largely a Rorschach of deeper and more primal personality traits. That the difference between dad and I in politics is a more or less incidental consequence on opposite ends of the natural personality scale on most every point. He on the other hand has an obvious suspicion and fear that rejection of him is my primary motive in thinking what I do and being who I am. I of course would rather presume that my reasons are more rational than such juvenile othering but hell he might be at least partially right after all. I am no high school paper rebel any more except maybe I always will be. Perhaps there is no growing out of it, no being above it. Perhaps the most all-encompassingly ambitious and historically effective worldviews have no grander motive than childhood defiance, or maybe the illusion of Olympic aboveness is a crime that I myself should peal guilty to while there's still some mercy to be had.

If you forgive all that pomp what I mean to say is that in listening to how dad talks, how mom and sis talk, how the rando on the street talks, it occurs to me just how much of my human interaction is with the fellow writer bros that I've known for a decade with thousands of hours of word practice between us. My eyes are reawakened to how our speech is very notably more deliberate than white Midwestern vernacular, or any culturally particular vernacular truth be told. If you record any given human conversation on the page it would much more likely read like Pynchon than Socrates. Most human dialogue is not rational or intentional. More typically it is so spontaneous that you can't even quite call it jazz. It's more like getting high on mind sex, the sharing of stream of consciousness and the taking of delight in the others seeming approval.

Many people, probably most, are more concerned with gaining a sense of solidarity or emotional understanding in their dialogues with each other than they are with accurately describing external reality. The so-called "post-truth" phenomenon boils down to mainly this, and is not actually the slightest bit new.

To state all of this in another way; one who is truly in their heart of hearts most concerned with "telling it like it is" should by rights have a a deep love for Received Pronunciation or "BBC English". This form of English is the most efficient kind in terms of verbiage to conveyed meaning ration precisely because it is "unnatural" deliberate and cultivated. Yet there are few people in the US or Liverpool for that matter who would consider this way of talking to be "authentic".

We come now to the increasingly looming name of Trump.  To understand how people can possibly thing that that man "tells it like it is" we must in the first place understand that we are all guilty of a magical impulse to Make what we want to be the truth. Since certainty and doubt feel pleasant and painful in themselves it follows that many would want to believe that these feelings are strictly matters of moral choice independent of external realities outside of one's control. We should bare in mind that Orwell did not intend to write "science fiction" of a fantastic future but to describe the general human condition in all political environments, and not just the condition of the powerful.

In the second place we should be savvy to the fact that, while most people are logically aware that lying off the cuff is thoroughly possible, as Trump does indeed do, the "truth" that most people are concerned with in their speech is the drive to relate to each other. It is Trumps willingness to say "something" rather than allow the implied personal coldness of silent space that comes across as authentic. There may also be something to the old saw that bigotry is largely about "scapegoating", that ancient stereotypes may be refuted repeatedly yet stubbornly reborn with each new generation because the pain in our lives just feels less bad somehow if we are convinced that our suffering is Somebody's Fault.  Our instincts have no concept of random bad luck but are of course primed to fight an enemy; so we get a cathartic sense of control over our own fates when told that there is an enemy to fight. Think of all the affectedly tough guys who pride themselves on hating criminals or terrorists more than thou and also take pride in shrugging at those more faceless social inequities that shave considerably more years off the average lifespan. Or perhaps more fundamentally we all have moments in our lives when Anger For Its Own Sake can feel liberating. It may be that the Dishonesty that Trump offers freedom from is in the form of every smile forced in the bank line while in the midst of a personal crisis. 

It is largely at this point that sexism and racism come into play, since Hillary and Obama before her were largely caught in a catch-22 on this matter. They would have been dismissed as "shrill" or "militant" if either had ever let loose with an id-dictated rant in public. Yet on the other hand I recall how some right-wing barkers mocked Obama's hemming in hawaing in mid-sentence; with the implication that the very act of forming one's words in their head before speaking them was ipso-facto deceitful. We could blame American anti-intellectualism here; but I'm pretty sure this sense of deliberate speaking being Necessarily dishonest is not culturally exclusive to us. It is very human to sense that something is just Wrong when a person seeks to express a personal point of view detached from their inner self, or describing a social issue that in way which does not imply that their personal feeling about it is the heart of the matter. Because again the "truth" that most people are concerned with while talking is to make their current state of mind  understood by the listener.

I'd say that Hillary for her part is seen as inherently "dishonest" both out of aincient and widespread sexism and our culturally particular "democracy of manners".  This piece is already too long to go into what Democracy of Manners is in full here, for now it will suffice to call it an aggressive informality and affected familiarity built for a status-fluid society.  What Hillary was up against is the trans-cultural sexism that all women must be "nurturing" in our particular Democracy of Manners context that expects all women to be flamboyantly fuzzy-open in a favorite aunt sort of way. 

In the end I'd guess that all semi-coherent raving against "elites" boils down to the fact that those of us who have dipped a toe in art, writing, politics, or are even just broadly educated are blessed with multiple ways to express our abstract blood humors of dread, anger, jealousy, disappointment, mortal fear; while for most people simple speech shall remain the sole or dominant means of expressing themselves throughout their lives. It is comparatively easy for us to acknowledge that the world is not About our own blood humors while we specify, but rather less so for people who need to let those humors out in one way or the other. They want a society composed of more commonality and fellow feeling than is actually possible so that they can feel assured that they are being understood.

Or more cynically they want a society where everyone shares the same cultural paradigms and assumptions so that no one could think that they are evil fools without pointing four fingers back....


Hey Jack kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part I.

I've been Youtube binging on 10000 Manics recently. Throughout my life I would hear "Trouble Me" or "Like the Weather" about once ever six months at like Sears or Village Inn and have always been intrigued by the sounds; finally realizing last week that I could have opened up this fascinating box of mystery at any point in the past fifteen years and that now was the time to do so. So listening to 10000 Maniacs and a couple of other low-volume bands under the era's infamously broad label of "Alternative" is how I spent my time last week mainly.

Having now become a studied expert in 10000 Maniacistism I can say that with the exception of some highlights and Natalie Merchant's good if not transcendent voice that their music suffers from a painfully constructed pleasantness.  I'm not saying that the Maniacs were wimps, except maybe ina more roundabout & educated way. But there is a markedly hollow unwillingness to disturb with a screamed out Fuck every now and then or the occasional stomp on a distortion pedal. There's a bloodlessness about them that can inspire a bruised and empty sort of anger, an absence of music's special liberating power to resonate in a way that lets us feel without naming and boxing that feeling.

The Maniacs were "socially conscious" in a generally left-of-center way. This is not of course an evil thing and may in fact be the only thing that makes the band less bad or banal than Hootie and the Blowfish for whoever might be keeping that score. The problem is that they were not really a "political" band; writing songs that rallied crowds to bond over a shared anger or aspiration. They were only just "socially conscious" checking off their dutiful concerns song by song in a Catachismic sort of way. In the song "Cherry Tree" for example Merchant tries to sing from the point of view of an illiterate adult in her own natural cadence of educated easterner. It's a s awkward as you might guess.

Though the Maniacs do again have their highlights, a few cases where Merchant has a real emotional commitment to the Issue of The Song and the sound startlingly improves.  "Don't Talk" is s nice simmering tune about alcoholism addressed to no one directly. (though the Maniacs guitar player did die of liver failure at 42. Occam's razor that for yourself) While Like the Weather remains a smartly  done construct of what Manic Depression is even if you listen to it twenty times in a week (As So I have.) with Merchant's lyrics about being frozen to bed by sadness a brilliant contrast to the bright-sounding music.  Overall though the trouble with this band is best reflected in their famous cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night" Their version is technically deft in sound and voice but when compared to Smith's original the absence of heat in a song about sex is mournfully apparent.  


I've subjected the reader this long Pitchfork review because in my own disappointment at 10000 Manics lack of feeling I think I may have some new insight towards the intensity of feeling against so called political correctness; how neurotic oversensitivity in either fact or perception may inspire not just annoyance but obsessive rage, be seen as not just bad but the Great Satan Evil from which all others flow. Something about the Maniacs tortuously mannered sound does indeed come across as not just false but maliciously deceptive somehow. There is some instinct within us that insists the perpetual benevolent calm of the Natalie Merchant persona just cannot be For Real. Beyond all else there is indeed a sense of looking down on society's human failures from a higher seat of Olympian judgement. And I begin to grasp the appeal of rebelling against that perceived claim to higherness in the most intuitive way; which to say that our very failures are "natural" "authentic" and therefore good so fuck you. I gain some idea of how some may see no higher purpose in their sociopolitical expression but to identify as Nor Natalie Merchant.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Auld Lang Satan

I have just smoked one of Fyfe's ancient dried out nugs I found on the floor. Or maybe a piece of carpet that had taken on an illusory appearance of biological lushness somehow, and so taken several of the more unpleasant cancer fade-out years off the end of my life in the smoking. It doesn't matter. My mother enrolled me in North Platte Catholic schools when she effectively inherited my grandmother's job as cafeteria head there. She asked me if I wanted to and I was ambivalent. My child self was confused by the question's very existence looking back. So she acted on her own to put me in St. Pats for reasons of heritage and appearance, she's an alumnus herself, and because North Platte is frontier enough for the difference between Protestant white people and Catholic white people to still matter in some ways. I regret not objecting now. I read Paul's Basquiat books and look at his own paintings and it makes me think of how the scratchy neon cartoon look as of the late 80s/early90's as filtered through mid-afternoon public television still informs my being and always will if I live a thousand years. I think of my dim memories as a little kid in public school, how that seemed to give me a slightly better 5th hand connection to the coastal pulse of the nations' actual mainstream.  A sense of civic being maybe, a sense of fellow being based more on common downtown experience than on common blood and culture.  Perhaps that's what right wingers hate about public schools, though to casually say that is to ascribe them with a superhuman self-awareness as well of course as a deliberately evil motive convenient to my own stance.  I can't really say. All I know is that a Lexington Latino at Occupy Lincoln, (rather shady sort truth be told, loosed out of prison and dumped in camp by the LPD as passive-aggressive sabotage) told me that I seemed like a guy who could be comfortable in both a big city and a small town and that's so. A blockful of squat townhouse yards in Denver KC or Chicago has always felt as natively familiar to me as twenty miles of pavement through the Sandhills like the fetal twin brother that I ate is talking to me or something.

I like Rod Stewart's old songs though I'm sure I'd hate the guy if I met him. That's are there is to a "guilty pleasure" about a particular song or artist isn't it?  I think that "Love Isn't Always on Time" song is more popular now than at the time of its release. Or at least I don't recall having ever heard it until I had already graduated UNL and now it's on classic radio more routinely than Kanye is on modern top 40.  Be it so because the guitar on that one is legit, and from Toto too go figure, the same lamers who did that dentist-office ass "Africa" song.

I started smoking weed at a moderately young age, 15. Mexican brick by necessity. "Kine bud" was anything else, whatever cultivated shit that somehow made its way to NP from California by way of Denver, generally twice the price per weight. I was only moderately one of "those guys" about smoking weed. I would rock a tie-dye every now and then but not like every day.  I never pretended that the Grateful Dead were any better than ok though I did pretend to myself that that the Kottenmouth Kings were ipso facto good because they rapped about smoking weed even though deep down I always knew that they not only sucked but superlatively sucked. I did have a lava lamp but what of that?  What went wrong in our culture that led us to pretend that appreciation for the inherent sweetness of lava lamps requires drugs? I never did get a pot leaf poster, let alone a pot leaf tattoo on my waist like a homegirl I had sex with once. She lives in Kearney with a kid now the last I heard. To think upon it now I don't think I have ever deeply identified with or loved the things or people that give me pleasure because I've always experienced pleasure in a disassociated, third-person sort of way, especially when having sex.

My most comparatively serious relationship was with Tiffany during my college dropout years. We moved to an apartment down the street from Wesleyan and looking back I think I just wanted a rentmate who was willing to move to the city and was a fairly decent friend who happened to have a vulva. That seems crass or even downright evil I realize but it's how it is. In these times I would wake up at three PM have two cups of coffee a slice of Casey's pizza and ten minutes of the World Herald for breakfast before it was back to the Barton's "rum" and brickweed at four PM. I enjoy orgasm to the same degree as a moderately chilled rum & orange juice I suppose. Those extended multi-sex sessions with that most people around me describe as the highlight of their lives were  a dreadful chore to me like family church functions as a kid. There's something within myself especially then but even now to some degree that wants to remain a sort of closeted not out of fear as being found out for whatever but for its own sake. I've never considered sex to be any more physically gross than what the body does anyway.  It's the abstract of being desired by another, of intensely existing in any other mind except my own and thus not totally owning myself, of "we" having a common feeling together, of "we" existing as we. That's what repels. Others speak of breaking down the wall between themselves and someone else as if nothing could be a more obvious and universal Need that of course I must feel to, so they say. When a date ask if I'm willing to make a commitment my answer of "commitment to what" is usually enough to end it right then and there. Tiffany had been abused as a child. Tiffany needed Lithium to live. Tiffany thought I hated her when I took my hours long walks to avoid her when it was just someone else/Others  in general that I had overdosed on and she was always the one I hated least of all. Money got tight. We took in a another North Platte kid named Caleb, even more fucked than either of us, (Entire orders of the multiplication table beyond lovable eccentric) into meth well beyond even the normal degree of bad. I would come home from my job of the week to find six gang associates shooting up in my bathroom. Tiffany complained that she couldn't walk naked through the house like she could when it was just her and me. I didn't like her doing that when it was just her and me. I would have like to have been a billionaire so I could be naked alone and never talk forever but I didn't like her being in my kitchen while I cooked my supper waiting to prepare whatever it was that pleased herself. I still don't know what her favorite food is. I don't she had one. She never did eat enough. She's back in North Platte with a fellow named Reuben now last I heard.

I think I could fake a relationship a little better now. I've learned how to better camouflage the fact of being a schizoid solipsist with no human core as such. I know better than to tell my mom out loud that it's pointless for me to have kids; because the permanent shutdown of my own brain shall entail the end of all reality, and whether there's anyone afterwards who remembers and loves me well what kind of fucking moron could possibly think that matters oh right sorry mom my bad.

Saddam Hussein's execution is an early example of viral internet experience. It's very clear that the man knew all along that he'd be going out like this (All Along as in since childhood that is) and that he'd been practicing his defiant death for a long time. I say this only because I've been waiting to bring up this ingeniously witty observation in conversation and realize now that the chance will probably never naturally flow up in natural speech. Why all of you insist on pretending to think that you "exist" for any other reason but to set up such lines for me I don't know.

Right across the pedestrian bridge over the tracks at 19th and Holdrege is a truck that's been in a wreck probably severe enough to have killed its riders. The windshield is three quarters smashed in and the interior has been on fire. The workers at the construction place on the block use it for storage: crowbars heavy-duty gloves etc. The windows are again non-existent mostly. You could probably rob the thing for either sale or personal use without consequence.

I know I'm not the only one who finds it striking that the near-south side of Lincoln is basically twenty first century urban in character, while the near north-sides character does indeed fit the "overgrown small town" label that some Omahans would attach to us. The pattern of auto machine and rail shops along Cornhusker with their largely white blue-collar (though also Middle Eastern blue-collar for the past quarter century) workers living in the neighborhoods behind. Their familiar family dramas of drugs, relationships gone wrong with a kid in the middle, the bonds of love, the pangs but also invigorating feels of hate, betrayal, the hazy narcotic feeling of an imagined golden past with no stress, the cultural affinity for fast cars, wrestling and of course football to state the elephant. A demographic pattern that begins right there at 19th and Holdrege and then follows the Burlington line northwest all the way to the corn on the east end of Havelock at around 74th or so. This is after all the part of town that Omahans' see the most of; the capitals' rail-toothed economic hard calorie eater physically facing Omaha and the greater East; so there are reasons beyond delusions of Cosmo grandeur for why some Omahans may see Lincoln as no more than the largest in a nesting doll chain of increasingly regional hubs as one heads out onto the High Plains. And the next westward signed destination point on I-80 is after all the reliable Jersey-joke next door for the one before. The kids in North Platte would laugh at the meth-hicks of Sidney while Kearney kids laughed at us for the same while Grand Island kids....

About ten or eleven years,ago, when I was still an undergrad a group of black kids called the Dudley Street Boys, (a self-defining handle.  They were adolescents who lived on the north side street one block down from Holdrege) took a ride all the way down too SouthPointe to steal guns from the Scheels there. A few weeks later they got caught.  They called themselves a gang and they did after all have a name and commit a gun-related crime together so there I suppose you have it. As I recall a few of the guns they stole were later used in murders robberies etc. on one coast or another. That's what guns are for and I'm sure that the same thing would have happened if they'd been bought up front over the Scheels counter.

About four years ago I got caught in a summer storm while walking and a group of white dudes drinking on the porch near commanded me to join them. This was along 22nd by all the sketchy auto detailing shops etc by the defunct Mopac railroad. The white dudes were sketchy too. We drank Busch's and smoked weed out of one of those old school little metal pipes that make every strain taste shitty. We watched a compilation of police chase videos on Fox.   One of them, a prototypical "big" bubba you might say, was conventionally employed as a security guard. The rest didn't say how they made their cash directly though from what they did say I got the impression that they were among those half-thief/half-scavengers who trowled through the neighboring alleys looking for metal electronics etc. They were racist in a very directly spoken way, at least to me with my blue eyes and the Husker shirt that I remember probably too perfectly to have actually been real now that I think of it. They referred to the black kids in the neighborhood as "niglets". They spoke of the Dudley Street boys in the tones of some menacing dread but never mentioned anything particular, beyond the well known fact of their having jacked a box store out in the burbs, that made the Dudleys such a dread horror. Even so these guys clearly got a weird sense of personal validation from the existence of black kids who had committed a crime and had a common name.  It makes me recall reactions to black athletes who did things they shouldn't have. Micheal Vick, Adrian Peterson or even OJ Simpson.  Not the disapproval in itself to what were indisputably bad things to do but the very apparent indulgence in the intensity of that disapproval, the insinuation of "Hah I knew it". The rain stopped after an hour, and when I confessed to having forgotten one of the dudes names while leaving he reminded me that it was Randy and looked mad enough to fight.

I had a friend named Matt Moore in college. Cool bro, solid liberal, liked to drink and smoke and trip a lot. Aspiring Entomologist from West Omaha family money. Got mad at me when I left the tropical cockroach I'd had to care for as part of my token science credit class out to die in the prairie winter. He said that it wasn't like one of those nasty cockroaches and I said "oh so it's of those high end cockroaches then?  Like the Lexus of cockroaches?"  Matt said he was surprised that the Dudley Street boys were intelligent enough to pull the robbery off. Which is to say that he was surprised that black kids were smart enough to rob a Scheels and get caught. Matt could be racist in both a casual, half-conscious and yet startlingly direct way like that sometimes.  His girlfriend in college Mari was Czech like I am, from the Bohemian majority country to the west of Wahoo. She was getting into the bug game too, had herself precociously together in a way that Matt just didn't. She threw me a going away party (hah) before I moved to Chicago that was really nice. Then a couple years after that she was instantly killed at age 24 or 5 when her sober but not-yet fully awake brother missed a stop sign on a Oregon vacation & her side of the car was hit by a semi at highway speed. It was three months before I learned.  I had seen that her Facebook page had suddenly become full of the sort of exaggerated praise usually given to toddlers, especially in regards to her just released master's thesis which she got an A on as I recall, but I didn't pay enough attention to glean that something was "Up" from that.

I close with my thoughts on Mrs. Beach, my grade school music teacher during my short stint in public school.  Mrs. Beach was warm, encouraging, motherly, a beloved figure in the North Platte community. I also recall how she in effect military-drafted us on too all those God Damn Christmas plays, Wizard of Oz adaptations etc, teaching us to pimp cute fro grown ups pleasure in our childhood as our first act of primal submission to established authority. I recall what an exaggerated, protest-too-much persona she was to think back on it; that perhaps the small town tendency towards conservative conformity is largely explained by individuals being compelled to fill a overly generic social niche though really I probably just overanalyze here yet again. Fuck that Beach anyhow is all I meant to say.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Egregious

In Kansas identical twin boys were once forced to fight to the death barehanded. The winner would eat the loser’s brain, be granted two wives, and appointed sheriff of whatever county he chose while his mother sang the old Mayflower hymn "Life is the Seed of Death and we Come to Sow anon anon."  The practice was banned in 1983. No Kansas Democrat has been elected to statewide office since. "Old Twin Killer Two Wives" remains common slang for "sheriff" throughout the Great Plains.

No culture is innocent of the Martyr's fallacy. That old movie "Quills" for example has it all wrong. The Marquis de Sade actually lived as long and comfortably as most Marquises and died in his sleep not quite a day after having buttsex with his teenage girlfriend.  So I've read anyhow.  I haven't really looked into the sources for this and can only guess that one who'd have Sade for a boyfriend would be the sort to write a thousand pages on "The Last Buttsex of Sade". "The 120 Days of Sodom" is ridiculous by the way and I don't mean in the sense of a good basketball player.  It may feel heroic to presume that anything conventionally shocking must be liberating by definition but the actual work of Burroughs lower end Von Trier or Pink Flamingoes etc., is just a deadening stream of shit piled on top of shit literally or otherwise. That one movie from Europe I saw for example; either Spain or France I'm pretty sure. A teenage boy comes across his newly dead father's porn stash and responds to this discovery by throwing the mags into a trashcan, pissing on them, masturbating on them, (not to them by any means just on them) and then dousing it all in butane and setting it alight. The kids mother flirts with him repeatedly while referring to herself as "a bitch and a slut."  Later a group of men at a touristy restaurant have a spontaneous jerkoff contest.  No one asks them to so much as keep the noise down.  At last the kids mom french-kisses him while fondling his junk and then immediately slits her own throat. Roll credits. One may compare all this shit to Herzog, for example, who while intentionally shocking himself also has something to say about authority, masculinity, the illusion of triumphing over nature vs. the just as illusory romantization of it and how all of this blends together to make people stupid.

The Chili Peppers' "One Hot Minute" isn't as bad as people say.  "Aeroplane" is one of their best songs straight up and overall I'd say this desk is the best of their Currently on Drugs Right Now work.  Most people haven't heard a bit of their leering, dope sweat bro music from before Mother's Milk and this is for the best.
 
I would trace my immunity to bad trips to a point at age twenty or so when I watched Apocalypse now alone on mushrooms. It was orgasm-level stimulation as you may well assume and unqualifiedly positive. After the movie I went outside just to be outside. Across a church yard from my apartment there was a pink house with purple window frames where a woman in this I swear to God Ms. Gingerbread style getup was watering her plants. I stared at her and her house for a time, maybe an hour. Then I went home and watched Apocalypse Now alone on Mushrooms again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Affect is All There Is

The US isn't actually filled to the brim with creationists who dropped out of grade school to go to church more. I know that's what we claim out loud on surveys but never mind. Fundamentalists have influence beyond their numbers, generally white and well-to-do.  They are also of course very loud and because of this have planted a common idea that fundamentalism is the historic Christian default. I emphasize that they have not 'brainwashed' anyone but have planted an idea of what's normal. Humans do not commonly give much thought to religion. By that I don't mean to say that no one who gives it any thought could believe. Their are genius believers. I mean that it is actually quite rare for any culture at any time to be overflowing with piety. (Iraq has the same percentage of avowed atheists as we do for example.)  We've been led to believe that this has been the civilizational norm until just yesterday but no, it never was.  We know that the culturally prevailing religion we happen to have is "normal" so we "believe" it; and it's been planted in our heads that creationism is elemental to the normal religion and thus to being normal. Still in the end we mainly sleep in on Sundays and of course we know that there is a far less profound difference between apes and ourselves than between apes and jellyfish.

Homophobia and hostility to abortion are indeed the historic norm in Christianity, but were not considered to be all that vital to it for nineteen hundred years. It is was only after these positions came under public challenge that they suddenly became Very Important.  But let's talk about facial hair now. The dogmatically bearded Greeks and the dogmatically shaved Romans.  The facial hair that was countercultural in the 1960's or hipster today was standard for the mecha-WASP presidents of the 1880's.  The idea that "our" customs are eternal because they are exclusively ideal or otherwise inarguably good. We must all know that this is shit deep down.

I've met the Kline who had the corner of 11th and G named after him. He was a good man or maybe a serial killer. He was civil to me for the thirty seconds we interacted and then he did other things for a few years and then he died. The block is now Lincoln's main Latino hub. Those who may be existentially unsettled by the very existence of such a thing need to understand that it doesn't matter and I mean that in the plainest possible sense. Kline is dead and there is only one degree of Not I. Your first-born son conjoined twin or partner you are cumming with right now are all the same degree of Not I as an anteater. The Unicameral man for my hometown wondered aloud "what's going to happen to Nebraska if we keep letting all these (ILLEGAL!!!) immigrants in. What's going to happen to Nebraska is that it is going to go dark for you and me and then stay dark. There shall be no taking America back but it will take us back. America will eat us. Wyuka will eat us. After that somebody else, whoever else, shall have not our thing but their own.

When I reflect upon the motives towards bigotry, especially the brutal things done to prevent "miscegenation," I conclude that the fire is driven not by fear of the unthinkable but by knowledge one finds intolerable. The knowledge that of course white and black could combine sexually socially or in any other way whenever we like. The knowledge that ethnicity is a byproduct of archaic transportation, that our ancestors fell in love or lust with whoever was in the same place and that's it.  There is no self-definition to be found here, neither any transcendence of temporary self.  There are only artificial We's. We are of no natural particular kind that we can continue existing through after personal death or of any intrinsically good kind that we can feel assured of being good through after we personally fail.

There have been several efforts to classify humankind by "race" basic units larger than a nation but smaller than the species itself. The lines are drawn by bigoted criteria though sometimes rational ones as well. But the paradigms still never of course quite work and never will. One such recentish attempt was Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations: Remaking World Order" Huntington divides our species into nine basic civilizations. He uses NATO membership to mark the border between "The West" and Russish "Orthodox" civilization. He distinguishes Latin America as separate from The West but not Iberia. China and India are given their own realms which makes sense.  Also Japan for I don't know why, of course they're different from the Chinese but more so than the Poles vis-a-vis the Scottish?  Israel is grouped within the Middle East even though they quite famously stick out. Huntington states that the Middle East is simply wired for hostility towards the West. He states the Muslim countries have a history of making war upon their neighbors; which is of course true; and something that the man seems to truly consider more remarkable than the English making was on the Scottish and the Irish and the French or the French making war on England Spain Germany and Belgium all alike or the US marching on Toronto and Mexico City both in turn.  Muslim culture is unique for wearing clothes and eating food.

It can be just as easily argued, because it is true, that Europe, indelibly Europeanized former colonies and the Middle East are all of the same 'cultural continent' or phylum.  The Mediterranean can be crossed in a not-very-technical boat, to say nothing of the Bosporus. It is the Sahara, Siberia and the Himalayas that marked the effective end of a world for a formatively long time. "We" have the same civilizational roots in Egypt and Mesopotamia and being "all children of Abraham man" is only one sign of this out of many. Before the one true jealous god there were analogues between Greek and Babylonian gods. If anything one says about the inherent barbarism of the Middle East happens to be true then so must we be inherently barbarous.  There is no way around that and there are those with cause to think so. I am a Caucasian in the middle of America; not to put too fine a point on it.   

Friday, June 24, 2016

Attention All Planets of The Solar Federation....

I've been reading a bit on Reagan's ruinous policy or rather attitude towards mental health infrastructure. The way he gutted funding as both CA governor and president; leaving those who were medically known as unable to bootstrap themselves out on the streets to fucking ay try to anyhow. Reagan was fixed on the idea that there was no true mental illness as such but only disobedience. It stands to reason that a conservative mind, one with an especially deep need for predictability and control, would be loathe to accept the existence of illusions from within that can't be controlled. And anyhow Marx did say something about false consciousness once.  There's the fire escape. It is wrong to suggest such a thing as one's brain unchoosingly misfiring because Marx.

Javert, the narc from Les Miserables for whom 'all crime was in the foremost rebellion.' (quoted from imprecise memory) The guy who killed himself rather than accept the unavoidable need for gray morals. Real-life authoritarians do not generally do that and it was too much. Too Much is just what Les Mis is as a story. It is all-caps 19th century ROMANTIC.  Everybody is just more more and suicide is the go-to option for anyone who feels any degree of bad at all. A dude on the barricades giving an impromptu six-page speech on the glories of martyrdom.  Still it does have its points. If crime is primarily disobedience, if the very existence of murder rape or general mayhem serve as proof that these crimes are over-lightly punished then in theory at least there is a clean formula and structure for placing all fires of the human heart under control. That is the authoritarian appeal which poisons our real-world politics. It is the appeal of 'toughness' for the sake of toughness.  The convenient notion that the pleasurable rush of having just won a fight is in itself of vital social benefit.

Political correctness is no more than the utterly practical knowledge that if I were a singer who put out an album called "Control" and the cover was me in a militarish costume staring you down the message conveyed would be very different from Janet Jackson's.

My stepdad is in Vietnam.  That much is established fact. He says that the reds shot his plane down and captured him three different times and that he escaped three different times or was it four?  I don't think so. He says that on his return to the Seattle airport he was accosted by a hippie who called him a baby killer until a fatherly wise sheriff intervened.  Bull Fucking Shit Dad. The John Wayneish tone that he gave the sheriff was I don't know pathetic and awesome at the same time right? He says that after the war he worked as a sheriff's deputy in interior Oregon and personally killed a pair of infamous murderers and thieves.  I don't think so again but hell maybe. He says that on 9/11 he was across the river in Jersey when 'hell came'.  Nope. I happened to be home in North Platte on that day and he was the one who woke me up to tell me. I recall him trying to make talk with me in banal slogans while I ignored him trying to gather this thing that I had slept through. He said something about "America having learned a lesson" meaning, so far as I can guess, that the very fact this thing happened was proof that we had been softhearted and blind. 

Conservatives take it on faith that of course they are stronger more vigilant and in all ways Just Better on national security than the left. But I remember 1999.  I remember that right-wingers, my stepdad included, were no more concerned with Al-Qaeda than anyone else. In their eyes the threat we were foolishly ignoring was Russia or China.  Even so it is a crucial plank of Dad's self-esteem to view himself as manfully protective where others are naive. I would even say that he would rather die and get it over with than accept that there is an inherent mortal vulnerability that cannot be escaped with any level of power strength or courage.  The man Needs to believe that the possibility of the US being harmed is not a given but only ever explained by our own failure of courage.  He Needs to he is perpetually wise to a dire and immediate threat that the nation is perpetually ignorant of, and gives no thought to the simple impossibility of national survival if this were so. He is of course a thoroughgoing  member of the 'guns for everyone everywhere' crowd.  He spoke in disapproval of my grandpa 'giving up' and becoming fatalistic just because he was an 83-year old with stage IV cancer. Only Russian poets would ever die if we had the degree of willpower over death that this man 'believes' we do.

The US is not more intrinsically chauvinistic than other countries.  We just haven't been well and truly kicked in the ass for it yet. (Unless you count our civil war, which I definitely should come to think of it.  Call it 'not enough yet' then.)  Our jingoistic mania after 9/11 has been compared to that of Europe at the start of World War I; which some people alive at the time have described as 'like being in love'.  In Paris during August of 1914 a man in a cafe was beaten to death for not joining in a spontaneous signing of "La Marseillaise".  He may have approved of the war for all anyone will ever know but he didn't join in the song because it was a coffee shop and who the fuck does that?  The man died for failing to realize that he had woken up to a world now operating by Monty Python rules.  If national survival magically depends on our personal approval of a conflict then suddenly we are Very Important.  There is no longer a 'lightness of being' but a fucking epic gravity to everything about us and all that we do. If one buys into the idea that "we" are characters in history's climactic chapter than we are never alone. We can be constantly larger-than-life emotional with everyone around us; as if everyone were everyone else's mother child or lover. Accepting all of this as nonsense is theoretically easy.  One only needs to go back to seeing oneself as a small person aging to death quietly with no masterpiece opera soundtrack behind them.

Our response to 9/11 and defeat in Vietnam has also been compared to Germany's "stabbed in the back myth" used to convince themselves that their loss in World War I was a matter of their own controlling. We and Germany are both rich countries whose people are accustomed to having our way. Getting what we want is How The World Works to our own eyes. Beyond final illness many white Americans need never face any more jarring reminder that this isn't so than a Democrat in the White House. Even this is too jarring to handle for some. We could do worse so far as empires go. We don't stack every head of a conquered city into a pyramid or crucify people.  Still being rich and strong without being dicks about may simply be beyond what the human spirit can do. A rich man's dog doesn't care if it deserves its feather bed or not. Humans are obsessed with justice. We cannot stand to view the good things in our life as plain luck, let alone as gained by foul means on our behalf however far personally removed from ourselves.  If white Americans are not the light of the world than what are we?  Tyrants? Decadents?  If we are not the eternal standard for what Americans are and should be than what? Country songs about how country the singer is and how being country is by far the greatest of all human glories. One Goodoldboysploitation reality show after another. From the nineties through today we have grown first obsessed and then outright manic about having our identities affirmed. We demand it from everyone and everything.

We greatly overestimate the level of control required for survival and basic comfort.  We are liver-poisoned by our privilege. Most people of the world recognize, however grudgingly, the need to assess where they are and take whatever step they think fitting with no promise of success. Not because they are closer-to-the-earth wiser but because they just have to. This crucial survival skill has atrophied within ourselves. There was once a crash-test driver who needed years to truly learn in his muscles that gripping the wheel on impact would only hurt him worse.