Wednesday, July 19, 2017

And Then My Friend You Die Mannnn

I saw a security guard pumping the man's chest while I saw another telling him to "not leave us right now"just as the ambulance was pulling up. The medics hooked him to an EKG  put a pumpable breathing mask over his mouth and he was aliveish when they took him away soon after; uncovered with chest spontaneously moving. Whether it was an OD or simple heart attack I don't know though given the brevity of his resuscitation I would guess the former.

I had seen my grandparents slowly fade from cancer in their eighties and then my cousin from the same at much younger. But I had never before seen a non-elderly person (the man looked to be in his forties) on the frontier between death and life to maybe go either way. And I had just read a very emotionally affecting comic book about dogs trying to survive the human post-apocalypse in the Denver library where all of this went down. The combination made me lose my composure in a way I never do; openly weeping chanting Hail Mary's and just publicly acting the damn clown in sum.

And yet why the hell do I write of myself when my heart hasn't stopped lately? I usually only read the top three or four articles in the Denver Post and if the man died it would have made page eleven or so. If he had lived it would not have been mentioned at all. Justt another day of homeless junkie shit at the DPL. So your guess is as good as mine.

I seem to recall the nineties spike in heroin use (if that was even real instead of a moral panic) was more amusing to me than this one, probably because my own death was of course more distant. Here I've seen a man carrying a foily of brown about this very same library. He lacked for a lighter and was willing to share with anyone who had a Bic. It happens that I had three but generally reserve the right to use for tobacco trades. I've also seen a skater kid openly hitting a meth bubbler in the park across. The quasi-girlfriend I had and seems gone now quasi-bonded with me over a shared luck in dabbling in heroin and managing to avoid needing it after.

You've probably heard the same noise I have about white people doing more heroin. I cannot speak for whether this is actual or anecdotal. You've probably also noticed the obviously-not-incidental softening of normative attitudes towards addiction. It is oft-stated but still true that the high from mainlining must be truly wonderful for all that.

I've loosely associated myself with a loosely associated group of buskers, train hoppers, hippie-punk hybrids, heads. One train-hopping kid was stuck in Salt Lake in six months, a fate I fear more than death. Last night someone stole his pack with cold-weather jacket inside. He claims to have once chased a public domestic abuser for half a mile for the chance to serve him in kind. This strikes me as self-mythologizing but we've bonded even so.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Denver Notes

She loitered in the McDonalds with a crew of train-hopper sorts. The prototype of blond hair and blue eyes, dilated by drugs or the high plains summer sun or both. I confess to viscerally finding her state Just Worse because she was beautiful. The meth sores about her arms & face and general air of anxious poor health. I confess to being more afraid that she may die soon as the impersonal concept of female beauty than as the person she is and I know that I'm bad for this. If I spoke to her this would probably change but no excuses.

The partner I've happened into on these streets is also blond, a bit older at forty. Her name is Kelly.  She's a bit more bold than I am about pissing in public bathrooms then buying nothing while I'm a bit more bold about pissing outside. We're a gender-traditional couple. She regrets not having kids and claims to have come from a well-off Pittsburgh area family that went bust with industrial decline. Maybe so. She is prone to conspiratorial rants and ranting in general, reminding me of my stepfather in the way she gets intoxicated on her own voice not in spite of but precisely because I do nothing to prompt her. We're probably not going to last, though we may slough off to LA together. Lately we've been doing our seperate routines during the day than maybe finding each other to share a blanket at night. It's better this way. Even sweet.

I spottily search for a source of cash. A sketchy day-labor place on East Colfax said I might be used to clean up after a Rockies game crowd if I showed up early enough on the Fourth. I showed up at noon to find thirty men calmly waiting outside the unopened office in ninety five heat. I left and got high on leftover joints from the previous night's Civic Center fireworks show instead. On the Craigslist for Denver gigs I saw someone offering weed farm work for anyone willing to work 12+ days six days a week or sometimes seven. I frankly suspect the post to be a sex slave front or perhaps a cannibal front. Or good weed isn't quite so important as all that even if it is legitimate. Normative quality has already reached a point where two hits of flower can be quite overwhelming. Or perhaps that's just the still illegal-state amateur hour in me talking.

I honestly fear for this city's economy once legal weed eventually does become the norm nationwide. In industrial districts and historic minority ghettos there are weed stores next door to weed stores next door to bars next door to weed stores. An outfit called Green Dragon has already gotten into the Walmart predatory capitalism game. Forcing Mom & Pop joints under through underpricing both here and in the mountain resort towns.  The technical law against public smoking carries less weight than laws against Bokononism in Cat's Cradle. Pipes are out and proud at every bus stop. It is somewhat cliche but still true that one can glean the culture of Denver by simply noting its place on the national map. The Midwest and California had a baby. Except now they've gotten divorced and the city has moved in with cool dad Cali. For as long as I've lived the conservatives about me have openly feared a bohemian bleedover spreading from here onto the Plains and now their fears are indeed become, sort of. Though White Midwestern quietude mildness of personality and fixation with civic respectability still hold great power behind the yoga and the grit.

I've had a nineties-key lime pair of shoes that I was coming to love stolen from me in my sleep; also a pair of shades that were quite handy in the bone-dry UV blue of Piedmont July. Though I've also found a pair of sandals that I may come to love in turn. The possibility of being of a chain of stolen shoes leading to stolen shoes leading to stolen shoes is one I am fully aware of.

There's a park across from the library where I write this now. A few days ago I was compelled to use a port-a-potty there; used needles scattered across the enclosure like dead bugs; a cup filled with dope residue blood and water, an impossible cocktail of shit vomit and blood in the bowl. I can reasonably hope for a night's sleep without dreaming of the scene on some night before I die. Until then my appetite for food has been lowered a bit, which is good for my budget and the summer heat both alike.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

There was Hail In the Morning And I Swore I Perceived a Death Vortex in My Dreams But Oaths Ain't Magic.

I recall that scene in Deadwood where Wu, the town murder victim cleaner, affirms his alliance with Al Swearengen by cutting off his Chinese imperial braid and screaming "America!" while throwing the braid to his pigs along with the latest dead men. Why the scene occurred to me today out of all days in the past fifteen years I don't know; and I don't mean to proclaim any great doctrine on the merits of assimilation or lack thereof. It is enough to say for now that such a Fucking Epic conversion in Damascus is not what adapting to a new country actually is. And I would guess that the scene was written to intentionally mock the idea that it is or should be.

A few years back when Gangnam Style was big  Bill OReilly had a piece that looked at the song from a 'kids these days' angle, with some bullshit expert in nothing decrying that it was 'just a flashy video with words that don't mean anything' reflecting the shallowness or short attention spans of our times etc etc. But the words do of course mean something in the Korean language written by a Korean man for a Korean audience, and anyhow it would be indisputably beautiful if somebody did just go sqsaxdsfevfrgbkorhbthjkp over a standard 2010's pop beat and the song blew up. If some perverse validation makes you need to believe that society is on a one-way decline from a superior past then you'll have to look somewhere besides music for such validation. Because we all know full well that our ancestors wern't playing fucking Mozart at barn dances or weddings on their homemade violins. They were singing about getting drunk and getting laid same as forever.

I do not quite recall if the Stephen King story turned Schwarzenegger movie "Running Man" inspired the video game "Smash TV" or vice-versa though I think that the movie came first. The film is a somewhat plausible police-state dystopia where maybe a dozen convicts or so per week get killed in this bloodsport gameshow. Smash TV is more fantastic with you as the lone contestant armed with a photon gun or multi-barreled grenade launcher against five hundred mooks at a time with blackjacks pocket knives or bike chains. I would think that such a Gettysburg pile of dead every week for how ever many years would be unsustainable in even the worst totalitarian hell but who knows? In North Platte there was once an arcade where you paid five dollars at the door for hours of limitless gameplay with no need to keep pumping in quarters. I beat Smash TV in about an hour in a half with about twelve continues or so as I recall, or maybe far more. Then I lost at a game on the new Sega Genesis within a matter of minutes because I kept intentionally killing my friends. Contemporary video games are so hung up on giving some pretense of reason for violence like "I'll give you thirty gold pieces if you rescue my daughter from the stone lords but first you must see the Oracle for the Sword of something or another" but fuck all that shit Photon Gun, "gnew gnew gnew gnew gnew gnew gnew"

At about the same time that I was playing Smash TV I was also watching the Lonesome Dove miniseries and being fucking traumatized by that guy who was killed by So Many Snakes and other things as well. In the years that I've grown and aged since then I've come to love the Eastowood/Leone style revisionist westerns and more contemporary stories set in the west as well. But I cannot say that Lonesome Dove has much going for it and find it sad that Larry McMurtry is better known for that book and its sequels than for 'The Last Picture Show". The only way that Lonesome Dove could be called good is if McMurtry intended it as an exaggerated grimdark parody of the revisionist western which may after all be the case. That snake scene for example is based on an old American folk tale of someone who knew someone who heard that someone was killed by a hundred water moccasins except water moccasins do not live in packs. Getting bit by one would probably kill you in 1885 but getting dozens of bites having a quick spasm and being done within seconds like the rodents that the venom is intended for is not real thing.  Then there's the pattern of characters being poly-murdered; the man who gets shot, scalped, castrated then mercy-killed with another shot. The soddy settlers who are shot and killed then hanged and killed then burned and killed. A bit-role cowboy is killed by lightning that ricochets of a pair of longhorns. A Native American villian named Blue Duck is an impossibly potent magic menace in the Anton Chigurh vein until he just gets busted by a local cop off page.

This along with popular characters being killed off-page through jarringly arbitrary means in the sequels leads me to think that McMurtry did in fact intend a comedy here. I could get behind that, and I can also patriotically support the idea of the Great Plains having its own Odyssey in this Texas-to-Montana cattle drive. Except McMurtry takes what could only be called an imperial Texan whatever attitude towards the northern plains. He sets a large part of the tale in Ogallala and a nearby farm with no mention of North Platte, which had already surpassed Ogallala as the regional hub, or for that matter any mention of Paxton Big Springs etc which were also already founded by this time. He alters out history to the point of having Red Cloud himself attacking the Platte Valley itself a full twenty years after the railroad went through, just to kill off a secondary femme-fatalish woman and her lackey. I realize it's fiction but my mandatory k-12 history lessons would have been about nothing else ever if this had happen and if time-machine history-fucking is not what the story is than you can't fuck with the real world that hard alright?

My parents cat Bullseye has gone missing for several days. He may have gotten killed trying to cross the busy road to the tall grass by the railroad where the rabbits & rats he like to disembowel and eat alive are. Or he might have made it across and is now living quite comfortably through warm June nights with a full belly. Time reveals all in due course. Most good closing lines are pat lies. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Eyes You Shall Never Have

I'd suppose that the recent turn towards demagoguery or willingness to "believe" nonsense, both here and abroad boils down to humans feeling a near-instinctive entitlement to some intimate warmth or assurance of being a good and important person from our primary social groups; and refuse to accept that when our primary social "we" is a nation-state of tens or hundreds of millions such-family like unqualified acceptance can never be had. People want the validating sense of power that comes with being personally attached to such immensity, such wealth, such military prowess, but cannot stomach that even if every groceria was a good old grocery store that neighbors in contemporary mega-societies must still fundamentally exist as strangers to each other, to be judged by each other with a strangers coldness.

This can lead among other things to a performance of zeal similar to what was seen in an earlier era of autonomous urbanization in the nineteenth & early twentieth centuries. An exaggeration of tribe and creed to the centrality of self. An effectively nihilist will to presume that the sociopolitical ideals they share with their fellows are not only true and good but the only truth and the only good. That anything done towards the end of an impossible historic triumph is permitted. If shared belief is the natural basis of group identity than one can at least escape any legitimate judgement from the stranger. While if such beliefs do not stand to scrutiny than never mind. The believers need only to win history and seize control of its writing to eliminate all judgement and all scrutiny forever. Cue Orwell and all that.

Or to state it in a slightly simpler way look close at what Trump supporters worry about most and you'll find a panicked denial that they are not the cultural default; or that there has never been such a default at all. They cannot stand that they are just another subculture within a centerless ballpit of only subcultures, bound to be seen as odd by the other balls just as they find the others odd in turn with no transcendent authority to decree that the others are wrong, that the habits they've learned will win them admiration within their own social groups can possibly be despised by other groups. The core of their reality-denying media-hating blather against "the establishment" or "elites" is an emotionally redeeming myth that this state of affairs is artificial. That the strangers judgement is not based on sincere conviction but is only ever a shallow gesture of fashion and thus not a real judgement.

I recall Rick Windham, hunting & fishing columnist for my hometown newspaper. Windham was among the leaders of a group that that sought to get hunting not just allowed and sanctioned by Nebraska law but double allowed, enshrined in the state constitution as not just legal but objectively virtuous by authority's decree. Windham would advocate for this in his columns, raving against the "elites" in the unicameral who were unable to hide their annoyance at this petty man, and also warning against alien California hippies who might take over our values one day. He wanted hunting to be universally seen as normal while at the same time wanting to be seen as personally exceptional for being a hunter, while viewing reality and humble good sense as mere speedbumbs in the way of this oxymoronic paradise. He may or may not have been aware that moral unease with hunting or meat eating did not really appear out of nothing in the 1960's. I've read Oregon Trail migrants express disapproval of deer-shooting, and even as far back as the early 18800's the English thinker Jeremy Bentham wrote that the question regarding our treatment of animals "is not can they reason but can they suffer?" Still Windham tells himself that he believes in a falsely stolen Man's Age when everyone agreed that hunting was proof of Self-Reliance or a talent for handling oneself in the wilderness. The idea of such unchallenged good regard being artificially denied by elites allowed him to feel that such regard was still his in some sense; to whistle past the fact of strangers being unimpressed by his Power because he simply had none. That he was just another actor in a custom particular to a few thousand rural prairie men in a world of billions, gathering meat with his comfortable waterproof jackets and fetishized thousand dollar tactical scope whatnots while indigenous folk who truly do need to kill their own food do it with handmade spears.

You may have seen those old photos of Native American boys who were herded into boarding schools then forcibly styled into a "Victorian gentleman" look down to the haircut. These scenes are of course horrifying to modern liberal eyes and also quite baffling. Forcing Christianity upon these kids was evil enough; yet though also easier to comprehend given the perceived cosmic gravity then mandatory short hair mandatory cuff links etc. Even in a time when it was not only mainstream but the mainstream to presume that only Europeans were civilized we must surely have been able to see that at least some of our customs were value-neutral? That there is no inherent link between Aristotelian logic and a snazzy tux?

The answer is that cosmic gravity has never really been what it's about. Those who proclaim Western superiority may seem to make a rough kind of sense when they say that our particular way of thinking is what creates the wealth technology or medicine that makes life better for everyone, or facilitates more elaborate art forms that more strenuously push the human mind, or that the Christian faith is a sublime moral truth with unique powers to minimize the bad and maximize the good within human nature. All such gravity and pomp and appeal to first loyalties is meant to make us feel obliged to shut down our critical reasoning because that is not what it's about.

When the Cheyenne, Pawnee, Assinibone etc had their first contact with European fur traders they found "our" manner of dress to be ridiculous, they thought their our masculine custom of the handshake was the most asinine thing they've ever seen. Native men would pass the time in winter camp by mimicking the white handshake with each other and then falling to the ground laughing for hours on end. If Europeans are not the Only True Civilization then we cannot say that they were wrong to laugh. That's what it's all about. If neither we nor anyone else is the superior culture, if there is no human prototype to provide a center, then most people will always look ridiculous to most people, most people's favorite food will always be disgusting to most people, most peoples spiritual beliefs will always be preposterous nonsense to most people, most peoples customs and day-to-day habits will always be a stupid waste of time and life to most people, everyone's language will always sound like an infant's blather to most people (Because this is in fact what all of our languages are with a bit of architecture tacked on post-facto.) There is no transcendent standard to save us by dictating that we must not be seen as freaky little cartoons by most people who will ever live. If you think of how schoolkids will on occasion latch themselves onto a bully out of protest-too much-will to equate weirdness with danger or evil, or to find comfort in the idea of weirdness being Someone Else by definition. That's what it's all about. Behind the ethnic chauvinist's talk of love of the Eternal Folk or final historic victory that child's insecurity is all there is. It was never really about saving the boarding-school Natives souls. It was always about making them be us in visual mundanes so that they would have to laugh at themselves to laugh at us.  A love for freedom or equality is not the instinctive human default. Their rejection does not strictly require any special trauma false consciousness or socioeconomic malice. There shall always be people who reject equality difference and choice for as long as there are humans who hate being judged by standards they cannot control.   
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I've asked conservatives online about their understanding of patriotism from time to time. Of in what way exactly they think societies benefit from presuming their own natural inclination to the good. Of why such an assumption is more than an indulgence-for-its-own-sake same as any drug high, let alone an ethical obligation. The answers I received were not quite coherent though not necessarily vicious.  I did of course receive many answers to the effect that we must see the US as inherently good because soldiers died for it, and when I pointed out that to presume a thing must be good "Because" people died for it is a distinctly Jihadist style of reasoning well, this did of course bring out the viciousness quite reliably.

The popular right-wing fixation with "elites" goes all the way back to John-Bircher days at least, or even to slaver fantasies of "soft" boarding-school Yankees. There's a tellingly needful desire to believe that liberal or leftist beliefs cannot have organic roots from within American life and culture but but must be invented by unnaturally bloodless professors or Hollywood hedonists. From here flows an obsessive search for hypocrisy, double-standards or some other sign of insincerity among these imagined opinion-masters, and a great will to torture logic to the greatest possible contortions in order to find "examples" of such hypocrisy. I would guess that this willfully delusional form of anti-elite posturing has many roots; a 'Strong-Father' style of upbringing that leads one to feel that all statements of belief are assertions of authority & command by definition, an equation of fame with power that flows from a desire to believe that the world is a coherent place intentionally scripted by a small group or recognizable faces, or is anyhow an easy equation to make when the mass media we feel connected to the world through bleeds into a common soup in our memories.

Claims to the double standards of liberal elites are generally filled with intentional bullshit and sometimes outright lies in regards to the Clintons omnisexual orgies or Beyonce worshipping Satan and so on.  Still I think there's a certain flavor of sincerity behind it all. A genuine sense that to participate in society at all is in itself to acknowledge it as the exclusive ideal, that one must necessarily live in a state of depressive loss if they do not assume the cultural norms they were born to to be basically what is Meant, that a counterfeit claim to superior personal enlightenment is the only conceivable way that one could stand the prospect of social forms not being Meant. Of course everyone knows better than to claim outright that society is perfect, but the human tendency is to acknowledge only such flaws as can plausibly be blamed on deviance from the True Path that our ancestors lived for the sake of deliberately paving For Us.  We have a hard time grasping how one who truly identifies with the social group could possibly bear to think that the norms themselves are the problem, that "Our" norms are themselves the problem. It is easier to believe that only those who perversely live for the sake of holding common folk in contempt could think so.

If a desire to transform society is not in itself hostility towards its members, then how else after all does one handle their personal conscience after being part of that society all their lives?  In-group superiority may be zealously asserted or quietly assumed. But if it is not believed in at all then the prospect of being personally complicit in evil precisely because  one followed the rules suddenly looms horrifyingly large. There is no more primal or predictable human folly than to become more complicit in evil through the very act of denying that we possibly could be. It is when this backfire effect reaches a certain critical weight that history Goes Bad; when societies collapse, war tyranny and disease prevail, and humans die together by the cityfull.
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I recall an Evangelical Christian spiel that I saw online or maybe heard on radio or TV. I forget the medium but it did happen and  I'm not just making a fantasy land where I'm an omniscient observer I assure you. I recall anyway that the man or woman or bodiless text said something like 'We know that God loves us, and that since he loves us there can be no valuable loving gift then his holy word on how we are to live.'

Strictly speaking there is indeed very little in the way of 'so now what?' that necessarily follows from 'Christ is Lord' 'Mohammad is the last prophet' etc etc...

There is a strong human tendency, close to universal if not quite, to understand love for parents as primarily gratitude for providing a model of what humans are and ought to be like, of what men and women are and ought to be like. I would say that conservatives are those most intensely inclined to this but we'll get to that. And the tendency is by no means foolish or bad in itself. It has functionally 'worked' for most people in most times. Most people in most times have simply taken on the life of their same-sex parent upon adulthood and living memory of this being what Life Has Always Been has only recently passed even in the West. Of course it still effects how we think. We've all heard those boilerplate lines about everyone thinking tour parents are the worst people in the world as teenagers then learning they were geniuses as we age. The possibility of anyone seeing their parents as the random specimens of humanity they are, a bundle of probably non-superlative virtues and flaws, is implicitly denied and such denial is the very point of this hoary old folk wisdom. Most of us cannot yet wrap our heads around the possibility that whether our parents have been exceptionally wise or foolish by standards of the particular path they chose may just well be irrelevant to ourselves and our own choices. We have entered the age where "How Life Works" dies again and again with each person, or even several times in the same life with each change of job or address. To time for choosing to see this as desirable or not may have never been in the first place and is far gone forever now regardless.

There is a primal liberal impulse that presumes wisdom to be a good ethical concept of how the world should work. There is a primal conservative impulse that presumes wisdom to be deft navigation of how the world present-tense Works. The latter does of course require a circular justification of whatever toxic social norms or brutally enforced hierarchies happen to be there when one's toddler brain grows into sustained consciousness. Still it is a simple survival need for the conservative impulse to be the childhood default, and as one grows it remains less disheartening vertiginous and disquieting. I do not mean to be flip about systemic oppression but there are reason why the liberal impulse is truly socially normal among only the historically fucked over, and with critical exceptions among even them. When it comes to white Americans or other historically favored well, we've all seen the kid who gets mad when his grandma chooses not to give him her candy like he's come to expect. We've all been that kid. Of course getting the candy is proof-in-itself of always deserving it.

Consider now how so many languages have close equivalents of fatherland, motherland, patria... I've seen and heard many lefties express exacerbation of how anyone could oppose same-sex marraige say, or openness to lifestyle choices in general, with some variation of 'don't societies exist to maximize human happiness?' Sure. So we believe by definition. Conservatives though presume that existential direction from the Patria is the ultimate reason for society, and that such direction must have priority over personal happiness when it comes to choosing. (That is insofar as they even acknowledge an ultimate conflict here. I've read several right-wing commentators matter-of-factly place existential doubt in the first rank of human agonies along with grief heartbreak etc..) The inscrutible-to-outsiders intensity of homophobia or antifeminism has a long list of overlapping causes, one of them being a sense that dictation on how to be a woman or man is one's due reward for a lifetime of obeying speed limits workplace dress codes grade school chewing-gum bans and all the rest. Conservatives love "freedom"; because that's a normalized American feeling that they're 'supposed' to have, but view any prospect of a dramatically greater social openness to people living or identifying as they will to be an oxymoronic negation of why we have bothered to organize ourselves as we have.

Or to state it in another way, the embrace of "alternate facts" is and has always been about a loathness to accept that Ultimate reality is independent of one's social environment or concept of How The World Works; that the social order, hierarchy, and day-to-day- habits of living for society's members are subjective choices that will someday fail even on such points not based upon evil premises. A refusal to accept that the 'slippery slope' fundamentalists warn against is indeed real and also eternally inescapable, that one ultimately has no choice but to improvise what they think is best in the moment,  perhaps to be wrong and rightfully damned by  humans a thousand years hence with better ethical codes than our own, who rightfully hold our respectability standards in scorn because there's are better. I could have born to a place and time where slavery and/or human sacrifice was routine. I will never know if I would have been the brave rebel who challenged either but probably not. The odds of this are necessarily low for any given one.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Deer Sausage

When I was eight or so a borderline gun nut told me that he thought Red Badge of Courage was boring. Though of course I was eight and hadn't read anything heavy yet. I guess he assumed that I still had a hairless penis after all and so would Just Know what any given war story was all about. It would be some years before I read "Badge" and some years more before I could guess where he borderline gun nut was coming from. Crane's message in the story is that there is no such thing as courage being proven once and for all in a Great Caldron of Truth; even in the extreme case of industrial warfare, because courage and cowardice are themselves circumstantial, not even existing as consistent traits within the same person over life. I can see why that message would leave a bad taste in the rural white men I grew up among. Men who perform martiality with the same defensive flamboyance of 18th century aristocrats  with their guns their American flag clothes and their intentionally cultivated ease to feel dishonored.
The truth is that we don't get eaten by wolves so much anymore. Murder by human villain is and has always been a rare cause of death no matter how unfailingly overestimated. Even war itself has famously grown more assembly-line impersonal through the years. The fact is that no man's personal courage, even if truly exceptional, is likely to have any effect on extending either his own life or that of a loved one. Heroism and loving will to protect mean nothing in the cancer ward. Still men are raised to orient our entire beings around a Great moment of truth that shall probably never come. There's a vertigo in that, an unplaceable cortisol itch, a sense of failure born from the very absence of any chance to fail. If we lived in some alternate timeline where feminism had somehow never come to exist in any form, or a greater variety of sexual habits and identity had never come to pass masculinity would still bear the smell of protest-too-much, wounded theater, zoo-simian-jerkoff, hamfisted/kneejerk denial of challenge, bullshit puffery, every man a codpiece of himself.

I read in Roger Ailes NYT obit of how he once spoke of a time when he punched a hole in his office drywall while abusing his staff. Then someone performing the act of admiring the boss wrote "don't mess with Roger Ailes" around the hole with magic marker. I happen to be intimate enough with drunken bro-pads to know that punching through drywall does not require extraordinary prowess. It can be done with average or less upper body strength. So if this is the proof one offers to the world for being So Badass then I don't know.  This may inspire a sort of Christian pity though such is best reserved for those who make a hopeless stand against overwhelming social overdogs. And Ailes very intentionally chose a politics that assured he would never have to do that. So I spose that fuck his dead ass is all there is.
One may look at Ailes or any of his Fox News shouting heads or Ted Nugent or any number of others who overact manhood like they in an amateur drag show and feel assured that they can't be for real. That no one truly confident of having common sense or ancient mandate of nature on their side could vamp it up so artlessly. There's some truth to that. Exaggerated male power is in no small part a reaction against modern challenge to white male power. This is commonly understood by most sides. But humans don't fear loss of power simply due to vanity or sadism or some Nietzschean vital force but also (perhaps mainly) due to sense of identity and sense of certainty of who different people must be to each other's eyes that comes with an established and familiar power structure. When a modern man views an 80's action film where Musclesweat murders a thousand cocaine communist Muslims and finds Musclesweat to be an utterly serious role model he isn't "just" posturing but also truly needs a role model that badly.
The attraction of cartoon alpha-maleness for the Fox News crowd is partly ego to be sure; the idea of such invincibility and impossible control being our natural birthright. The main appeal however is that it is simply an external standard for how to be. An outside authority to measure oneself against and see if one is "doing it right". A freedom from having to improvise oneself as they go along with the eternal lack of certainty of being good this entails. Some people just never grow out of playing House or Monkey-doing their parents in the mirror. I say 'grow out of' as if it is a matter of intelligence or sophistication but no. It is a matter of personality and life experience that may be had by some with more raw IQ than myself. Many people if not most just need an outside authority to existentially guide them. This can lead to bizarre cosmic dogmas on the only true way to mow one's grass, or a thousand other small conformities that sentient creatures should be above. It leads at a price of massive suffering to narrow and cartoonish standards of True manhood or womanhood. Even so there are many who will tolerate these cartoonish and narrow standards, or even embrace them Because they are cartoonish and narrow, because if they are cartoonish and narrow than they are Fucking Clear. It is only the mud of the human world as it actually is that gets in the way of such clarity. The reality of billions of men of invariable and often mutually opposing tempers and desires.  The reality of culture/how one Knows Life to Work being an accident of oceans mountains and time. I would guess that a large part of what attracts people to right-wing and other pseudo-populist junk media is the assurance that such muddiness is artificial, that it is a uniquely modern decadence invented by whoever the elites are; & thus that clarity is still the natural human default though none have ever seen it.
 A friend of Theodore Roosevelt's said that 'Death had to take him sleeping. If he had been awake there would have been a fight'. Sure, and he was a sick old man who would have lost. To put it another way there is of course no decadent modern tendency to 'forget' our war veterans. We remember our veterans with great fixation truth be told. The men we do forget are the skeletons of Pompeii found arched because they were trying to shield their wives and kids from the raining fire. The skeletons of the wives and kids were of course found in the same place because they died at the same moment. Some of these men must of been exceptionally strong or brave by human standards but then a mountain.
 I've written of how manhood has always and must necessarily have an air of wounded posturing, even when no challenge to male dominance was visible on the horizon, and though I've hypothetically mentioned a timeline where there was no feminism or gender challenge the truth is that of course the absence of such challenge could have never happened. History must be filled with those who examined the supposed primal contract of men being in charge in return for sacrificing ourselves when trouble came and and known that this emperor was naked yet chose to keep quiet. Someone or another would have spoken up at some point.
 The world is perpetually bloated with hero vs. villain stories. While no one makes movies about lowering the death rate from diabetes by 12% over thirty years. We obsess over terrorism and crime for a galaxy of  racial reasons and also due to an attractive sense of control in the assumption that deliberate villainy is a primary cause of human suffering; that death does not sometimes but typically come in a tangible form that can be punched back. This obviously has poisonous effect on our culture and politics. There are for example those who will always blame the possibility of terrorism on cowardice or political correctness for so long as they lack control over death itself, which shall of course be forever. Still they will never stop 'believing' that mastery of fate can possibly be had with just a little bit more power and force.
It is obvious to say that men backlash against feminism, trans & gay rights or 'The Left' in general because we want to stay in control. It is more to say that we backlash because we want to be "Needed" in control. People want to be needed. 'If everyone is equal and free to be as they will then how am "I" to Know that I am needed and good?'   This is the emotional problem that the left is always burdened to answer. This is what the incoherent ravings against 'the elite' boil down to most always.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The End of The World

Mobster-turned-professional-ex mobster Henry Hill moved to North Platte after marrying a woman from the roughly general area. He'd been in the open for awhile by this point. The men he ratted on were all dead themselves & anyhow he'd been kicked out of Witness protection for a credit-card scam that I'm told was rather savvy by nineties computer finance standards but still got pinched. He started an Italian restaurant in the "sports" bar that far a time challenged the bowling alley based-"Touchdown Club" for dominance of local nightlife with it's Goodfellas poster featured prominently on the main wall. Long Island Iced Teas were seven dollars as were pitchers of Miller heavy though the food was somewhat bland tell the truth. I was later told that by the standards of an East Coast Italian who'd had living family bonds to the old country Hill's cooking quite simply sucked, and he'd been a smoker for fifty years by this time & thus had no clue of how anything tasted. He got really into the Western Nebraska drug scene, easily assimilating from cocaine to meth and winning a string of DUI's along with a drunk & disorderly at the only late-night grocery store, all with truly elite BAC's. Before finally dying in his sixties he lost the restaurant when he got into felony trouble for dealing as well as for beating another wife again, which is a callous way to describe such I know but it's only the fish-belly that the interstate washed up that I have any direct experience of.

I met Hill at the bar once. I was having a Long Island and he was just off work smoking a Camel nonfilter, hands trembling lightly from decades of body-defiance. He asked me if I was getting drunk buddy and I replied that this seemed to be the case.  He asked as well if I was getting any pussy that night and I said maybe though I don't recall if I did. I've had sex multiple times but only one avuncular chat with a murderer.

All our best stories are about the Mafia for a reason. The human mystique about secret murder clubs is universal regardless of whether their ends are political or strictly for profit. (Though of course there's no real difference between the two in America.) Even at this atrophied point in his life Hill was still a "Guy Who made Things Happen" sticking a finger in a meth trade that ships from El Paso/Juarez up to Denver/Front Range, and out to various Plains points from there in cars of uncertain ownership. I know from my own small experience of this trade that it is just as falsely impressive as Hill was. (Not least because of police pimping their 'major busts') Still the aura.  I was raised an American man with the same idea that the willingness to go to extremes for wealth was due some level of admiration if not quite approval as such.

I don't blame Martin Scorsese for glamorizing Hill. I know it was intent to do just the opposite but he's Scorsese. He could make a flophouse hotel suicide in winter look sublimely cool. Hill may have never been a young Ray Liotta but he was young once. Or anyhow Goodfellas was based on on accounting that Hill gave a book writer about his own experience from his own select point of view. Thirty years in the game without ever pulling the trigger himself. Just looking disturbed at the deeds of his mean friends and than helping to bury the bodies. Right then. I for my part have not looked up the details of his late-life Nebraska legal troubles. These may be wrong. Though the essence of drugs and domestic abuse I know to be true for a certainty.

Robert De Niro shall never move to North Platte. My mother's dogs shall never bark at him in half-jest.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Taproot Have been Forgotten

The most prototypical Wyoming stretch of waterless, eternal-winter human hating environment is called the Red Desert and begins just west of Laramie from our perspective. The dominant geographic feature there is called Elk Mountain. The Natives name for it actually translates to Elk Penis or elk Dick as I recall, though I may be wrong here and I am not going to bother looking it up. I do know for a fact that Chimney Rock was called Deer Dick or Elk Dick by the indigenous,  which is interesting as the two dicks are only about two hours apart by car or less than a week by foot. I have a vague memory of seeing an elk's dick in profile incidental to seeing the whole elk and they are indeed a bit more squarish than ours as I recall so the names are accurate enough. Even so and with all due awareness of Abrahamic repression etc. I can't help but find the single-mindedness here a little weird. Maybe it's only after one got out of the foothills and into the Rockies proper, where tall things become the norm or anyway form a continuous wall, that one finally ceased to envision dicks popping out of the ground here or there. Yet than again the Grand Tetons translate from French as no more and no less than the Big Tit Mountains though they really look like no such thing. They look like rocks. Really big rocks that can easily kill people trying to get over them. While the actually motherly flatlands, food producing and safely crossed, get mocked for looking dull. Fuck the mountains. Just take a picture while you're passing through and hang it on your wall instead of moving to Arizona and getting your water piped in from some abandoned uranium mine nine hundred miles away.

I've read a bit on angel lust, or as much as can be given that there's not much too it. Some dead men have erections that are just going to stay there until whenever they rot away. It is most common in cases of young violent death that bring a sudden stop from healthy straight to dead. There are even cases of hanging victims ejaculating at the moment of death and I mean judicial ones not the accidental suicides who were trying to do that. It all reveals a new angle on the appeal of war or the romantic aura around violence I suppose. Fading out from cancer at eighty five doesn't make anybody cum. And if we were to achieve a world of unbroken equality and peace there is the old question of what then?  What does anyone do?  What does anyone feel besides fine? Who do generations distinguish themselves from each other if everything is always fine? I'm afraid that we would have to keep a few bloodsports going at the very least; auto racing, bullfighting, American football or even mountain climbing if one simply must be one of those pricks. But only if they really do sustain themselves on Mountain Dew and Slim Jims none of that Gatorade shit. And they must by law own a snowboard with a bootlegged image of Not Bart Simpson on it to use as they will. They do not have to board per se but they have to have one.

Some years ago there was a demonstration in London in which a young Muslim man held up a sign that read "Freedom Go To Hell". The image has become a meme among the Western right, offered as "proof" that Islam itself is intrinsically hostile to "us". But I think such honesty might clear the air a bit from white Christian authoritarians. They say that they love freedom because that's a social norm here that one is "supposed" to abide. But the plain truth is that a free society is simply one that denies any obligation to guide the individual to the Golden Path. A shared understanding of ultimate truth and how or if it applies to day-to-day life is not what societies are for and not what they should be for. A nation is nothing more grand than an agreement among a historically accidental cross-section of living people to be one. The nation is not here to fill any existential hollowness with superhuman ancestral wisdom or to make us part of some Great Epic of history. The only thing that makes this hollowness "post-modern" or in any other way new is that  reminders that other beliefs and lifestyles exist and that we could have been anyone else or more intensely constant than before. But no one intends to throw out the technologies that provide such reminders. We just keep seeking the same bullshit purity and the same meaningless tree-pissing "victory".  Freedom does not promise happiness or fulfillment. to anyone. Society is not a Superfamily where one can always count on being accepted through the power of shared belief and customs. The nation is not a Superself that makes one history's all powerful lead character. Freedom is just freedom. You'll probably be less miserable with it than you'd be in some steampunk spyocracy and that's all you are guaranteed. 

I once heard a friend say that he didn't like Salt Lake City because it was 'really gentrified' which is factually wrong because it implies that someone had actively gentrified the place at some time after Brigham Young himself when nah. Exaggeratedly clean is what Salt Lake has always been about from the very start. Though this does unnerve and the gigantic city blocks are obnoxious for sure.

As a Platte valley Catholic the word "alien" has always been the most galling half of the phrase "illegal alien" to my eyes. I'm still young enough that the sound of ranchera music has "always" been as normal around the neighborhood as country or classic rock from the stereos of driveway mechanics. The fact that a majority-christian European-language speaking people are declared with a straight face to be "non-western" or otherwise incompatible with out ways is beyond absurd and betrays that those who are hostile to immigration are exactly this and no more. That they are not actually concerned with legalities or some mysterious measure of civilly responsible assimilation. It is nothing more than the illusion of society being a superfamily  where sameness supposedly guarantees blind personal acceptance as a good fellow from the sames.  I recall as well the out-sized influence of Texas on this thing, the socioeconomic dominance there of Anglo minorities over Latino majorities especially south of Interstate 10 and the fear of losing that power.

Yet then again I also think of Freud's "Narcissism of small differences" theory to explain the bad blood between the English and Scottish and it occurs that we do not actually see Latin America as a post-imperial culture heavily parallel to our own except Spanish. Latin Americans are the
foreigners we are most familiar with and it is precisely because of this that we tend to see them not as themselves but as Foreignness itself; not as Coca-Cola loving Catholics but as every antipodal nomad who has ever bewildered us on the Discovery channel. This is bad.  It is wrong and I do not mean to excuse racism in any way but it is very funny too.   

I confess to having once smoked a half-packet of K2 that someone had dropped on the sidewalk over the course of a weekend. It is indeed a very deadening high sadly predicable moral panics about "new" drugs notwithstanding. I've heard that they spray motor oil and worse things on the green carpet base and I recall very little about the weekend except that it was last summer or the one before that. A mother and son who owned a headshop on south 27th that I frequented long ago, across multiple generations of owners, have gotten in trouble for selling K2 with the knowledge that it would be smoked.  They face the possibility of about fifty years in jail each. Now of course they know that they were selling a hard drug that would be used as such and it is just that they face some trouble for shady business habits but get the fuck out with that fifty years shit. Meanwhile the sheriff of Chappell, astride the Denver/Cheyenne interstate junction, cries all the way to the bank about how busy he is with weed tourists who cannot stand driving the speed limit through the high plains.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Birds

I was once on acid in the Pioneer's Park Prairie and looked up to see a hawk flying above me while a robin or something was trotting ahead of me. The robin was scampering forward out of fear of me in the same direction the hawk was going and I would have felt guilty if i inspired it to fly straight into the hawk's claws.  So I made some sort of gesture meant to convey that I meant no harm that meant nothing in any language human or bird that of course the robin ignored though it did not end up being eaten on my account so far as I know. A subdivision across the road broke up the illusion of primordial grassland and I'd like to get my hands on whoever it was on the city council or whatnot who approved that God-damned thing.

It happens that Sandhill Cranes find dead corn stalks very nutritious, so that this is one species that has actually benefited from white incursion; their numbers quadrupling over the course of the twentieth century or so I've read from a reliable source. & even if they hadn't become a regional icon the fact that they camp out in the same Platte Valley that people do means they are always within missed-shot range of the interstate or the railroad, so that legal hunting would be out of the question regardless. Such is the case here anyway which is good because they are hunted down in Texas, to the point that every new-hatched crane is more likely to be shot dead than a soldier in combat or so I've read from the same source. Texans have more or less free rein to shoot each other though and like I said the cranes have benefited from European settlement overall.

The town of North Platte sits on land that is naturally delta-marsh, so heavily bridled with bogs & semi-permanent channels that discerning the exact junction point of the Plattes to satisfy human landmark-lust was apparently difficult. In high spring when the humidity is up one can smell the natural lordship of the mudsand right downtown and even as far west as Hershey some fifteen miles from the forks. The town has taken on a rough triangle shape as it spreads out from the forks, with the poorer people living on the more flood-prone northeast end nearest the junction while doctors bankers railroad executives etc. concentrate on the southwest end where there is more room for big yards. The the general risk of flood here hasn't really been exceptional since dams etc were built upstream and the town does not exist in the same state of constant water siege as Cairo Il; my time there being something I may tell of in the future maybe. Before white people chose to build a regional hub here (which given the Platte's famed unnavigabillity was an arbitrary choice save for the old landmark lust) the site of North Platte was apparently a garden for wildlife. Bison would concentrate there while crossing from one set of sandhills to the other and there were also effective cities of antelope coyote, wolves, birds, birds birds.

My most vivid memory of the Sandhills Cranes is being woken up by their cartoon squaks at four in the morning. Or maybe in reaching the town-country frontier on either the east or west and seeing the things camped out by the hundreds in some farmers field like a Russian army trying to starve us out. occasionally flying low across the road in great flocks daring the driver to fuck up their grill for the sake of momentary bloodlust. There indeed truly beautiful when taking flight with a totalitarian degree of coordination led by some Alpha among them or maybe some random one of their number who says 'hey y'all let's go over here and eat more dead corn.'

At about halftime of the 1995 national championship game against Florida my cousin Aaron showed up with a dead pheasant. Unplucked and ungutted save for the shotgun metal that killed it. I don't know what Aaron expected us to do with the fucking thing though after this whiskers our family schnauzer did love him forevermore.

Once when I was high and skipping high school I watched this documentary called "March of the Cranes" on NET.  It was Cranes.  Then at the very end there was this guy in downtown Omaha or something there was this guy meant to be dressed up like a Sandhills Crane with muppet beak costume-shop wings and all the rest. And he spent what seemed to be twenty minutes trotting back in forth in a little circle in what was meant to be a demonstration of the crane mating dance and it was fucking amazing. It was one of the few truly psychedelic experiences of my life. I've spent my adult years looking for it on Youtube and across the internet but to no avail.

In 2012 or so I returned to Nebraska across the footbridge from Council Bluffs and trotted about the Omaha riverfront for awhile. I came across a flock of geese and observed one eat another's shit straight from the cloaca. This left me sincerely traumatized for some days even though I'd been logically aware that yeah birds will do that. I'm capible of hating the things when I'm in a foul mood.  God-damned feathered lizards with older siblings hard-wired to peck the younger to death so why bother having two except for sadism?  Yet I've also seen mating pairs respond with true joy when one had cause to think the other had been eaten and then learned that this wasn't so yet. Life is neither good or bad but just tasting things.  And it's perfectly of that it's all a fluke.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

MMhhmmmmhhh

I recently saw a western film in which the villain was marked by an 'eastern; manner in speech and dress. which was very strange as the setting was nineteenth century Wyoming and every single white person was from the East. This also begs the question of why all the good guys talk in the same prairie fire dry diction when a common regional dialect cannot possibly have evolved within a fraction of a single lifetime.

We should understand that the American value on straightforwardness is no vaccine against bullshit. Nor could anything else possibly be with human nature being what it is. Anytime a thing is commonly valued there will be those who try to "win" at the value through artificial means. who want to believe in this case that timidity or pomposity are more common motives for a chosen turn of phrase than they actually are.  Moe Sleazak and his precious Carhold.

On Twitter there's a guy who mainly goads the Unicameral for not being real true conservative enough. He has a cowboy hat and the standard cowboy facial hair with short mustache and tightly cropped goatee. This  LARPing ass motherfucker lives in fucking Blair.

In the earliest days of commercial cattle herding on the plains there were the same practical benefits of wearing a hat in a shade-free environment. Some of the poor vagabond alcoholics getting paid for this job by some quasi-aristocratic fuck wore bowlers, or proto-fedoras, or stovepipe tophats like Lincoln wore, or weird blob-crown looking things like in Jesus Christ Superstar.  Then by the early 20th century start to see cowboys uniformly wearing what we would know as cowboy hats, though still with a weird mismash of jeans slacks and various styles of shirt. The idea that you're supposed to be a cowboy is much younger than eating beef after all. Now some cowboy hats price at over a g for quasi-aristocratic fucks to wear at each others funerals.

It does say something about our culture that there are a thousand knockoffs of High Noon for a single "Gangs of New York" doesn't it? Daniel Day-Lewis was intentionally over the top in that one but not by much.  The movie isn't all that out of line from nineteenth century reality, or much less so than most westerns anyhow. The idea of cities being for riffraff (the definition of who They are changing somewhat over time) who aren't good enough to own land is considerably older than the automobile suburb, with roots back in Medieval England and the feudal manor.  Neglected cities have always been an American thing. Wanting to believe that the ratio of clean plain-spoken (blond, blue eyed, tanless) pioneers-to riffraff is much higher than it actually is is an American thing to; than and now.

there have been times where I've tried to say something to the effect that I do not identify as white. some may have gotten the idea that I meant to let myself off the historical hook by doing so but no, that's not quite it, at least not primarily. what I mean is that Richard Daley Sr. grew up in a Chicago where Swedish and Norwegian kids would beat each other into slush for trespassing in each other's neighborhoods. What I mean is that in 1920's Nebraska that KKK would often get more mileage out of anti-Catholic than anti-black rhetoric. That in Sutherland it apparently gained a large following by promising to stick it to the Irish Catholics within the big city of North Platte. What I mean is that there's never been any unifying whiteness beyond the idea that the riff-raff are somebody else now has there?  I mean that it makes me angry and sad in turns to see my own family forget that "Once We were strangers" etc. and embrace the contempt that gives us some bullshit claim to aristocratic normality.

I've heard that Anglophone countries that remained within the British Commenwealth have something called "culture creep" a self-loathing sense that nothing they produce can be as good as something made in the older and more established English culture. Americans certainly don't have that problem but we still have the issue of newness, the lack of establishment. There may be something after all to the strawman Eurosnob idea that we have no particular substance. that we have only the Hard Sell.  The Broad performance of exaggerated simple-man manliness. The performance of pushy familiarity, the performance of what that glam-rock fraudster Buffalo Bill defined as cowboyhood for us.  There has never been a real America.

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.