Aspirin Go-Carts

(or The time A couple of Hits were misses)

 

Itsy, bitsy

spiders

walking across my brain.

 

When is it time to call

the vicar?

or did you trade my golf card for a thousand boondoggles?

 

A small wire brush,

some toothpicks,

and maybe a cigar.

 

Why stop at the numbers and all those letters

why not catch a mirror?

Isn’t that your biggest picture

of the capstones

made of ice

mountains in the snow?

 

After all the crap flies,

will you sample tastes like bread,

or of fruit

from within the garden deep in your lovely dale?

 

I drank your wine

and I admit it

but I stopped at the mayor

he’s sending aces like a slackhammer

or the jack of hearts in gold peacocks.

 

Anyway

what time was your appointment

with the vicar?

Was it one or was it only two? I can ever remember him crouching

like a panther

or maybe a griffon

but I got through that by 1992.

 

The Wheel of Fortune

called

‘send a G-spot vibrator

and a pack of Marlboro and shampoo’.

they didn’t have any

black dresses

in your size,

but they had this

piece

of candy

and an apple…

made of ripe, red glue.

 

Sign the check over baby

It’s time to see the Corona Candlestick

of his eye

in the night time like a baby, blue-green goygarlo.

While I sat in my guitar

with your tool and a simple thing sifting for treasure.

And it didn’t matter

And what about

my soul

and my spirit

and a night on the town

like a ghost

in the hallways.

You know that tincan laugh

in my

soul? It wasn’t just yesterday,

it was today.

 

Isn’t riches better than right?

Or didn’t you learn that in school?

A maiden once sold me something,

but I left it on her nightstand

with a bowl of fruit and my glasses.

 

Yesterday aint today anymore,

and tomorrow sits on a rail track

with a troll or was it just his likeness

under a rainbow gastank

and in the darkness of the bottom.

and

our

soul.

like fire

in your eye

and hastiness

in your breath.

 

Wasn’t this what you wanted,

or did we sit in a puddle of mercy-killings?

Anyway, send me a song in

the middle of it,

somewhere where the Kalico Kats sing.

I didn’t ask for yellow custard

or this piece of shit harpy song either Castro.

Mice play all day anyway,

they ride on ears like

puke fungus popsicles

and the afterbirth of Hannibal Ayatollah your mother and a priest with V.D.

 

Once isn’t enough for a good time

eighty is plenty too much.

how did we cipher

your rhythm,

or was it the ante

that cost me your grief all that night?

 

Why don’t you put away

the caplets

three aren’t enough to kill the cow?

 

This isn’t the time for Easter plenty

or grabass with a green

jackass too.

Hector was your lover,

give it a blow.

He wasn’t your master,

or a slave,

but brother in soul.

 

I sat with her the other day

and she said,

quiet,

you had your turn.

now have a gas,

and a splinter

in the stern.

You know how it feels

like a drop of mercury

through that whole.

Now we know

not to play like evil children

in the garden

with all those spinning crow.

 

That was your last night

and things only got better,

for the worse.

After all the money

you named a carton of ink spots

the carnation

of limpid and

eyelids of ice in warm milk undergarments.

 

Read the ingredients.

This isn’t the end

but a picture

of blue-green plants which wonder

why the hell

we sat in a tunnel like brigands

in the east

 

cast

of your

sunburn

eyes.

 

This poem was published on the Reveille website on August 29, 2017.

This is the second part of this feature on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Make sure you read part one first and you may wish to wait until all four parts are published.

This lost paradise that is the setting for the second Fall of a Modern Prometheus, is a world divided into itself. The rational human has supplanted his emotional soul as the social animal has gone within himself to explore the deepest questions of mortality and immortality. The explorer Walton has left behind his sister and society to answer the secrets of the north while Victor Frankenstein seeks the Philosopher’s Stone in his temple laboratory in Ingolstadt. Wilt dramatically unveils the scene: “Victor Frankenstein raises his hands over the mortal scraps on his table and calls down into them the ideal. There is in the ordinary celebration of this mystery always a space between the altar and the chapel; the priest is both dangerously separated from the community and together with it” (36). The explorer-priest Frankenstein can never be completely apart from that which connects him to humanity even as he soars above “the herd of common projectors” (286).

This public-private dichotomy or world divided plays the Promethean theme of the overreacher and rebel against Frankenstein’s purported “chief concern” or “the exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection and the excellence of universal virtue” (xxiv). George Levine, exploring the text along with Kate Ellis’ “Monsters in the Garden: Mary Shelley and the Bourgeois Family,” argues that Percy Shelley’s claims (in the preface he wrote for the 1818 edition) are more than “a devious defense of a possibly offensive story”. Ellis, according to Levine, reads the text as “an attack on the very traditions of bourgeois society that it purports to be celebrating” (13-14). Victor is never satisfied with his domestic situation – by bourgeois standards, indeed, his relationship with his “sister”/lover might be perceived as something monstrous. Victor’s unquiet soul never seems at rest in the domestic garden of his family. Instead of domestic “bliss” Victor has chosen to go off and secretly create his own Monster.

So for Mary Shelley, as well as for her mother, this is another characteristic of a fallen humanity. Humanity is divided into the public and the private; intellect and emotion; the outward exploration of what lies within and the domesticity in the home that is the social ideal of bourgeois reach; and there is man and woman. Shelley’s introduction references History of the Inconstant Lover with a vision that is morbidly reflected in the novel – “When he thought to clasp the bride to whom he had pledged his vows, found himself in the arms of the pale ghost of her whom he had deserted” (xv-xvi). Man had deserted woman and, as Daniel Cottom points out in “Frankenstein and the Monster of Representation”, “within the novel’s final retreat from the darker regions of creation there is the central figure of a woman who is partially made and then torn apart” (69). Walton’s vessel is purely masculine. Indeed, woman can not be represented in the public world “out there” and are “missing in the authorship of the monster” (Cottom 69).  

Kate Ellis shows how the structure of Mary Shelley’s novel, “with its three concentric narratives, imposes on the linear unfolding of the plot” the separation of the “outer” world of male discovery and the “inner” world of female domesticity (124). Men and women move through these separate spheres of the public and the private until finally these worlds collide with the ferocity of the Monster or of Frankenstein mutilating his golem’s unfinished, monstrous concubine. Ellis notes that in this world, “’insiders’ cannot leave, or do so at their peril” and “’outsiders’ cannot enter; they are condemned to perpetual exile and deprivation, forbidden even from trying to create a domestic circle of their own” (137). By his own sequestering act, Victor becomes more and more estranged from his circle as he spirals deeper into his creation’s world.

There is no place for the angelic women in the novel as, indeed, none of them can survive it. Frankenstein’s mother martyrs herself for her adopted daughter, a framed Justine is unprotected by the impotent men of the house of Frankenstein and finds her pathetic end at the gibbet, and finally Elizabeth is throttled on her wedding bed by her new husband’s abomination. The violent collision of the primal beast without (or the subconscious within) invades the domestic household within (or the society without) and, as Levine concludes, “The threat of such intrusion is central to the meaning of the Frankenstein metaphor and brings us to the edge of the conception of civilization and its discontents”. For Levine, domestic affection imprisons the individual striving to break free so that in the end, “there is no peace” in either “a defective society or a rampant individualism” without a sort of compromise (14). Yet the story outside of the story seems to leave us without the hope of satisfactory compromise and clouds Walton’s return to society in a shroud of haunted dearth.

The shifting meanings of the Creature have become abortive life (301). The asexual union of man and lightening gives us the “incomplete Creature” for Paul Sherwin, “whose inside is hopelessly divided from his outside, is indeed a ‘filthy type’ of the modern Prometheus” (896). For George Levine, the book’s meanings “point centrally to the way ‘Frankenstein’ as a modern metaphor implies a conception of the divided self, the creator and his work at odds”. Inside our civilized selves, like “the Monster leering through the window at the horrified Victor and the murdered Elizabeth” is the “monstrous, destructive, and self-destructive energy” of the human animal (15). This is the hideous, nameless Monster without a mate, without a friend, and without a place, but it is also something fearful within ourselves.

This fallen world where the Monster roams, another of the Monster’s meanings, is a place where humanity had long been separated from its generative “primal unity” (Manson and Stewart 228). Long ago, in the primeval state, according to Woodard, humanity was connected with nature and “undifferentiated from it, in a thoughtless and perfect unity, unpuzzled and at home” (577). To Manson and Stewart “whatever creative force existed outside the individual and between all the human faculties” was lost as “human faculties became divided against themselves” (228). Humanity began to take sides, formulate something new, and the world was to “fragment into alien and unrelated forms” (Woodard 577).

This fractured world can only be defined by difference. Difference is what the Creature comes to represent and, because of his monstrousness, is how he must be defined. In the beginning, the cause of the De Laceys’ unhappiness eluded the Monster, until his education became more complete and he learned about “the division of property, of immense wealth and squalid poverty, of rank, descent, and noble blood” (156). Gradually the artificial world that humanity created is exposed as something evil and malignant to the naïve outsider and after learning of this evil intermixed with the good, the Creature reveals, “my wonder ceased, and I turned away with disgust and loathing” (156, Pollin 101). As George Levine explains, “the notion that the world of men is itself ‘monstrous’ is a constant motif of the novel” (12). Clearly, it seems, it is this propensity of our society to differentiate and create monstrosities, often through categorizing and separating ourselves, that makes our world so “monstrous”. 

The godlike act of creation is driven by an egotism that is meant to “separate and elevate” Victor from the rest of humanity (Manson and Stewart 238). To find his place in the world, Frankenstein believes he must become a messianic figure apart from the world. According to Sherwin, “putting together and dismembering are one” for Frankenstein and the Creature “lacks a phenomenological center” in the “absolute disjunction” of its parts. The Creature is a mirror of the creator who “is similarly unbalanced, a confused collectivity” (896). This disjointed imbalance permeates the entire novel as, indeed one can argue, it permeates the entire world that we have hobbled together. 

The social networks of our civilization have created the hegemony of difference. The Creature, because of his hideousness and unnatural birth, is an outcast from this society. So horrible is he, in fact, even his creator must turn away in disgust (171). This then, is an important feature of the novel’s description of our fallen world. The world that humanity has created relies on these differences to define itself. Those within the social network have a place in the hierarchy of difference and those who can not be defined as belonging are cast aside as “the Other”. The nameless Monster is without place and an outsider before he becomes a rebellious criminal, or as Mary Shelley’s philosopher father would have stated, he was a criminal because society placed him there (Sutherland lec 29). Our societies are defined by difference and by the divisions we have created. Our societies continue to divide and differentiate so that individuals are placed by varying degrees outside of the spheres of acceptability. In the end, there are those outside of these spheres who have no place within these social networks, and that only can function as they are defined – as social rebels.

As the signs of the Monster shift, he comes to represent all of humanity displaced from its primordial center. This is a fallen humankind that has lost its place and is desperately seeking to find its way again. For Paul Sherwin, “Frankenstein is empowered, and at times disabled by the despair over the human condition, whose limits condemn the creator’s sublime quest to the status of an extravagant, desperate wish” (897). Fashioned together from pieces of lifeless flesh and jolted to life through an unearthly mysterious life-giving quality, the Monster roams the planet completely disconnected from the mystical essence that gave him life. He is disjointed and removed from himself and apart from the rest of humanity.

Isolation, at the heart of the human condition, is the final place of the explorer who has delved to the greatest depths of his soul. Here within, is where we meet the creature in all his ugliness. Isolation and loneliness is the mortal wound of a monster built with a human heart. Early on, the explorer Walton, pines for the friend whose absence becomes “a most severe evil” in a letter to his sister (10). With this hope deep in his heart, he has headed into the frozen arctic wastelands where, ironically, his last hope for comradeship resides. Mary Shelley’s epistolary framework for the novel helps to emphasize this utter alienation.

The Creature complains that “misery made me a fiend” and while Adam had Eve to share his thoughts, the Creature is alone, “miserably alone” (128, 172-3). Throughout the text, this is his constant drumbeat of sorrow. In exchange for a mate, he vows to conform to society’s desire for his ostracism. He laments, “I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me: and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him” (172-3). As Sherwin points out,

The Creature’s utmost desire is that another reciprocate his need for sympathetic relationship, and even after he becomes searingly conscious of his exclusion from the human community and begins to objectify the negativity he arouses in others, we recognize that his aggression is a by-product of disintegration, not an innate drive that has been cathartically unbound. (890)

Victor’s journey into the deepest secrets of the universe of solitude result in the creation of a being that is a manifestation of the darkest depths of Frankenstein’s self. It is something so private and hideous, that Victor can only manage to flee from it and abandon it to a pathetically lonesome existence. The Creature, like Victor’s subconscious, desires only to rectify his abandoned condition, and as he is repeatedly spurned at every turn, his aggression and vengeance is realized.

Despite his attempt to abandon the Creature, Victor can not actually rid himself of the demon that is his after all, and he is drawn down into his creation’s world. His secretive and unnatural experiments form the beginning of his isolation and as the Monster destroys Victor’s world, Victor becomes more and more the shadowy reflection of his creation and its despicable alienation. Victor walks about “like a restless spectre, separated from all it loved, and miserable in the separation” (227). The space between Frankenstein and those he loves and the society at large becomes “an insurmountable barrier” (211-2). By abandoning his creature, Victor has abandoned his materialized inner self. His efforts to put the genie back in the bottle, though, only serve to pull his form into alignment with the disjointed existence of his isolated and secretive self.

Hang on as this the second of four parts.

 

Seer of the Self-Medicated Generation

Sometime, way-back in the greener part of the mid-80s when the Reagan Revolution was in full swing, I was at one of those university talks that Hunter S. Thompson used to give. You could smell the whiskey before he even walked into the narrow auditorium packed with students and other assorted freaks. Like some latter-day FDR, there, extending from his mouth, was his trademark cigarette holder and a lit Dunhill. In one hand, he held a glistening, even glowing, lowball glass filled with ice and the golden-brown elixir. Just like you’ve heard, bags of high-quality sens and psilocybin along with the occasional pre-rolled number were tossed at him from everyone in the front dozen or so rows.

He mumbled a barely coherent ramble, but it was an experience to be invited to join his posse of fellow questers obligatory student chaperone and all. It was another calling…and another refusal…Hunter like some fox peering out of the brush before whipping a white-tipped red tail in your nose.

America misses Hunter. He was a surgeon with a steel jackhammer scalpel that cut to the core of their black little hearts. The buffoons, that is, the ones in the center of our public spaces…the ones destined to be eviscerated whenever they crossed paths with the good doctor.

That’s what we miss. America needs Hunter now more than ever. Maybe the pain got to be too much. I don’t know. I just know it’s a shame he’s not here to put them all in their proper place.

Young America had Mark Twain. Like Samuel Clemens, Hunter had one true masterpiece – the great American novel. He was the sounding for our age and like the humorist of the previous century who came and went with a great comet, Hunter served as our early warning system. Through a self-conscious and drug-addled geas he tagged Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971), Hunter set out to find what we had all lost steeped in this war machine culture that America had become. His failure became an instantaneous American literary treasure.

We count on those who position themselves on the outskirts to throw some light on these harbingers and Hunter was no exception. In another work of magical mayhem, Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967) Hunter documented his time with Sonny Barger and the Oakland Angels – a band of violent, white, working-class misfits who felt they had been left behind by society and the elites of like those in nearby Berkeley. Unity and a don’t give a shit attitude of total retaliation gave them strength. Like the scorpions of the Apocalypse, the Angels rode in and rolled on leaving the writer a bloody pulp, afraid and alone in the end. Just like you and me, he wasn’t one of them, and the Angels could never be accused of doing anything half-assed.

Most of Hunter’s works appeared in various periodicals like Rolling Stone, the San Francisco Examiner, the Nation, National Observer, The New York Times and Playboy. He was a journalist by trade. A couple of the more notable anthologies of these essays include The Great Shark Hunt (1979) and Generation of Swine (1988). Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973) is an insightful look at the apparently timeless politics of the time and a crooked president basking in glory and the secrets hidden then, but that would soon lead to his spectacular self-immolation.

Where is Hunter in the time of Trump? Are you out there? Time to ask for volunteers…. Who is training the next generation? Sam Kriss can’t do this all by himself. At least his words are still with us. Help us Hunter!

This post originally appeared on the Reveille website on August 23, 2017.

This is actually a poem (ok, a prose poem if you must) and was originally on the Ecce Aeon site before appearing on the Reveille website on August 10, 2017. It should be dedicated to Hunter Thompson and on many levels Haj remains eternally indebted to the great doctor.

 

CAROL

Henry was an old bastard. Fifty something with wrinkled eyes and an old pouty mouth made of whiskey and cigarettes. He really wasn’t any older than your father.

Henry had ridden across America in a fat bellied tomahawk made by Harley Davidson USA. He cut down at least twenty of the worst of them damned Kennedys. All twenty were momma’s boys and sucked their thumbs all the way to heaven…until Henry hit them over the skull with a wrench the size of your forearm.

Katydids bothered the old bastard along with those weird trunk-like creatures that had gnarled, greasy legs and a forked-tongue like the breath of your Aunt Cassie. Like salted coffee and sulphur or something rolled up in kerosene hair pits. He was absolutely screwed up and knew nothing about the crossroads he kneeled on.

Henry had a dog…back at his apartment on 39th and 2nd Avenue. He listened to rock and roll and twisted up a mean straight while it played the xylophone. This wasn’t like the last trip. Anyway, there was more weirdness and that barrel of pythons this time. It was crazier. Crazier by 49.

The first ghost was an old farm boy, or something without any arms. It limped like marionette gastric cramps with a touch of gangrene. The smell was the little pond no one knew about under the willows swirling in the moss of a thousand rains. He said his name was Randall…, or something like that.

Yesterday the old man was a child and knew God and saw his reflection in the hoary pool of misery and joy. Crammed between the Bible and his black book were twenty sermons written by the ever-loving promised-land preacher. He ate vegetarian and smoked reefer with his fellows. They never seemed to get too wracked out about anything, except maybe for praising God and raising holy Cain.

Rooted in his soul within the darkness. It was like a tiny beacon that no one could douse or put out. It told the time in seven thousand baby dancers and had a crest that showed no one, nor anything. Acetylene white light. The only thing that kept his limbs crawling through those bloody trenches at Verdun. It wasn’t over yet, but this kept speeding along a killer highway to Franken-bits and 40,000 lost souls who found nirvana.

Henry never saw the first ghost leave. It was only his mother putting him to bed. Singing night carols of peace and loving amongst the world that belonged to his lord and Satan. Evil was just bad feelings then. Not something you ate and wore. It was pure and simple. Today it’s all hell and a bad shit.

By the time the second one hit, it was all over. Henry was drooling lime tequila and orange marmalade. He sat in his own fumes. It was like olive oil and an old tire burning piss from sour cholera. He sat in it, man. This was where he ended up with a piece of frost in his beard and two bolts stuck through his neck and his skull. All play-dough and without any shine. It was pathetic and glorious at the same time.

It seemed to last a lifetime until his dog, Rex, spoke again. “It’s all pretty ugly in there, Henry. Why don’t you come out?” “That dog’s the third bitch,” Henry muttered as he laced up one boot.

“It’s the apocalypse of your soul”, Rex informed him matter-of-fact. “You miserable son-of-a-bitch”.

It wasn’t long before Henry was howling. The pain had never set him free. Until now.

He jumped.

 

Steven Stapleton

Look, I’ve been listening to experimental – let’s call it Industrial (of course, forgive me for this term) – music well, since its genesis (pun intended). We made our tapes. We were just kids…misfits among the misfits. Since this time I have had a deep appreciation for anything…and I mean anything…that Steven Stapleton has been associated with. Primarily, of course, this is the aural-astral travels of his project known as Nurse With Wound.

The biggest problem with talking about something like the work of Steven and NWW is that…well, you can’t really talk about it. Ultimately, you have to listen to it and, if you’re new to this sort of haunting and mesmerizing ear trip, you probably need to wash, rinse and repeat a few times before you find yourself immersed in the sounds of the cosmos. Here’s another major problem – literally everything that Steven – frequently in collaboration with other wonderfully talented alien beings – does is worth mentioning. So I would direct you to his body of work. Right now I am listening to Soliloquy for Lilith (1988-89). Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella (1979) was the first NWW recording and was made with John Fothergill, Heman Pathak and engineer Nick Rogers. How can a blog like this not mention his initial collaboration with Colin Potter on Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)? You can listen to literally anything that Steven has worked on and it will be an experience worth having.

As you may have guessed, this art is really a part of the surrealist art movement and if one would ask me, I would argue that surrealism (not to mention futurism and even dadaism) didn’t really hit its stride until guys like Stapleton had their take on it. Importantly, artists like Steven Stapleton can’t be put in a box, so labels like Industrial, Surreal and even Dada can never capture the avant garde of the truly innovative creative genius. Steven is a collaborating artist too and I suspect that collaboration brings the best out of him and his fellow artists such as David Tibet, John Balance, William Bennett, Colin Potter, Andrew Liles, Matt Waldron, and, of course, Diana Rogerson. There are many more that should be mentioned on this list, but this is a start. Hell, this sort of music craves collaboration even if the artists are (likely) a bunch of loners.

Here’s something else, Steven is an extraordinarily talented pictorial artist working under the name Babs Santini. He’s done most of his own album covers along with the far out décor of his houses in County Clare Ireland. Steven is one of the truly remarkable creative forces of our time and after almost 40 years, I suspect he has a pretty stout following of freaks like me. One thing freaks have got to realize – we’re not that freaky anymore!

So give Nurse With Wound a listen and you might find something new to wash upon your soul. There’s a total solar eclipse coming up, so that might be a good time to baptize yourself too. If you already love Stapleton and dig his sounds, drop me a line with your favorite(s) and we’ll all bask in the wonder of what Steven brings to this weird, wacky universe we call home.

This post originally appeared on the Reveille website August 15, 2017.

 

Jerry Lewis

Look this is about artists and their art. This isn’t a judgment of someone’s life, but about their contributions to our culture. May God’s grace shine on every one of us. So in the vein of celebrating living national treasures, I most emphatically nominate one of my favorite funnyman geniuses – the very talented, smart, and delightfully life-affirming Jerry Lewis. With Jerry and his comedy, one could forget the troubles of the world through laughter and entertaining mayhem. Jerry could grab us by our heart because he was almost always emotionally invested. It always seemed that his characters cared, so we cared too. Certainly, Jerry will also be remembered as the philanthropic star who founded and hosted the most well-known fund-raising event in television.

When you laughed at Jerry’s slapstick goofiness, you were always laughing at yourself. Some remember him best as the funny-guy, little brother (or even le femme) of the Martin and Lewis duo with their nightclub improvisations and films like The Stooge (1951) or Artists and Models (1955) featuring the wonderful Shirley MacLaine. For me, when Jerry took more control of his works as writer and director, he absolutely shined during the early 1960s with films like the comedic masterpiece The Bellboy (1960); The Ladies Man (1961); and the crazily hilarious The Nutty Professor (1963). The Geisha Boy (1958) is so sappy sentimental that I can barely watch it anymore, but it’s wonderful. Cinderfella (1960) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964), both directed by Frank Tashlin, are so fun I can watch them anytime day or night and, well, I guess, like Jerry, I’m a kid again when I watch these pictures.

Jerry Lewis’ characters weren’t everyman characters either. Like many comedic geniuses, he played the “little guy” – the underdog in a world structured for the strong. Much of his humor was how his socially awkward characters would interact with the more conforming, and socially acceptable, members of our world – the matronly and domineering, charmingly smooth operators either of the lovable variety like Dean or the patronizing and smug variety, successful business people and intelligentsia, and of course the bullies. He didn’t always get the best of them either, but he always had us on his side.

His humor did take a subversive slant on our society. Jerry seems to ask us about the misfits, the little guys and the weakest among us. If any deserve our sympathy, isn’t it these? Jerry’s characters always cared and in a real way this was another of the many qualities that set him in opposition to the character Dean Martin portrayed alongside Jerry. Maybe this is why Jerry always got my sympathy, even if I will always love Dean for the films he made with Jerry and for his smooth, mellow crooning. So we should treasure Jerry as one of the greats and for the timelessness of the art he shared with us all.

This post originally appeared on the Reveille website on August 9, 2017 shortly before his passing from this incarnation to the next. We still love you Jerry and praise God for your great films.

So last year on the Reveille website, we featured mini critiques of great artists. This was kicked off with a somewhat arid tribute to Woody Allen. It might be helpful to point out that these are not moral, ethical or other sorts of judgment of the artists in question, but of their work that can be freely judged and critiqued. We have the luxury of letting God judge the people while we judge the work. This first one on Woody was published on August 2, 2017 and expect more to follow.

Woody Allen

In the US, we should celebrate our living national treasures. Among these must be, if not the greatest, truly one of the greatest American filmmakers – Woody Allen. In six decades, Woody has blessed the world’s film-going public with a number of humorous, sensitive and thought-provoking experiences.

Woody never had what I call the “Keats-syndrome” – where many, if not most, artists have done their best works by the time they turn 25 (when Keats died after 4 years of unprecedented artistic output). Woody’s great films span his entire career from the experimental, gut-funny gondos like What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), Take the Money and Run (1969) and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (1972); to his early comic masterpieces Sleeper (1973) and Annie Hall (1977); through his maturing and wondrous Manhattan (1979) and Stardust Memories (1980); the innovative Zelig (1983); his mid-80s streak of Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Radio Days (1987); 1990s Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Deconstructing Harry (1997); and into the 21st Century with Match Point (2005), Midnight in Paris (2011), Blue Jasmine (2013) and Irrational Man (2015) none of these 2000s films actually featured Woody as an actor either. I have not watched the entire canon (and do I relish that fact) and there are simply too many film gems to list here.

Early on, Woody established his iconic, every-man character in the vein of Chaplin’s Little Tramp and like any great artist, he provided continuity with the comic geniuses like Groucho Marx and Harold Lloyd who preceded and inspired him. He would have been one of the true greats if this would have been all, but Woody continued to innovate and exercise a level of creativity and energy that has been exceptional in its artistic scope through a variety of genres, with its many achievements and innovations, and with its impact on culture and society yesterday, today and presumably tomorrow.

The Woody Allen we see in his films is obsessed with sex and death, but the films of Woody explore the living meanings of love and the complexity of human relationships. He forged a uniquely artistic trail through the post-modern cynicism that had begun to take root as he was transitioning from a successful writer into a successful filmmaker. Beyond the existential despair though, Woody was always there to develop a real sense of the hope to be found in how we relate and care for one another in an otherwise cold and callous world. As an artist, Woody Allen is truly a living American treasure.

STOP TRUMP NOW!

We know that this world must come to an end. Today, we have power far greater than we have ever had before – the life-giving and utterly destructive power of the atom. Is this a sign?

Must we heed the warning of a Trump presidency?

The stakes seem to be at their height. If not the fire and fury of nuclear holocaust then will it be ecological disaster, or some new phase of tyrannical dystopia, or even some other threat percolating in our collective unconsciousness yet to be realized?  To just continue down the present course of human history with its racial and social injustice, economic disparity, wars without end, agonizing famine, blight, torture, murder and mayhem is this all there is to hope for? After all every generation has had its false-prophets of doom, why should ours be any different?

Will the destruction of this world give rise to another? Something is blowing in the wind. Call it an energy or a movement, but the revolutionary spirit is out there – the project for utopia.

The paradoxes of this piece are reflected in the politics of our contemporary western civilization – and one of these paradoxes is that of judgment. Since the beginnings of our sacred and profane institutions, we have been taught the gospel of fire and grace. That there are those destined for salvation and there are others destined for eternal damnation. Today this takes shape in the streets of Charlottesville. Is our society to embrace diversity and inclusion or to be reserved for the holy select?

Try as we might, our judgments of one another are hypocritical unless we hold to this faith of the chosen ones. Put another way, this is an indictment of every one of us – without exception for we are the ones who made this world real.

So this magician, illusionist more properly, sits in the Oval Office or on the greens of Mar-A-Lago, weaving his own reality seemingly out of thin air. Certainly, one can find deep sacrosanctity to so traditional a source in these weavings…how they arise without the support of empirical observation, but come from a “beyond”. We should not underestimate this either as its power is real and palpable. Look, who is the President here…?

We worship intellect, yet fail to see it is also at the root of our greatest shortcomings, so this is another paradox we seem to completely miss. Think like his holy prophet of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, and project your desired reality onto this world and see it take shape.

What has happened to our instincts? We are the lukewarm…who no longer care. “Whatever”…. We no longer have passion. We no longer listen to our hearts. Our imbalances are both sensual and stem from a too-large cerebral cortex. With our hands, we have crafted a world after our imaginings and reflective of our complete abandonment into the “reality” of the phenomenological self. We are crippled without the use of legs.

Like anything, this all needs to be placed in historical context. We have entered the Security Age featuring the crushing power of Information that few, if any, of us really seem to grasp. This age had a great prophet realized in America through the truly transformational presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan who set the stage for the ravaging of the Keynesian welfare state and its middle class affluence that marked the preceding era. Humankind has been set upon in virtually every direction. Networks have disappeared and the struggle to replace them has not been in any way successful: faith in the Fatherly spirit has been shaken to its core; our connection to Mother Earth is threadbare, and the familial core of community has virtually evaporated from modern life.

What has replaced these networks? The concomitant dedication to the ego and a neo-Epicurean life of fantasy made real. In the end, we are burnt out. We know that true, lasting happiness has evaded us in the pursuit of fleeting moments of pleasure, yet we know not where to turn for answers. The new idols have turned out to be no better than the old ones, or even, in many respects, to have made our situation worse.

Let’s get a quick definition out of the way. The world is where we live. From a Gnostic vantage, this is a dystopian reality. Call it Hell on Earth if you will while the Earth itself is the sacred planet and otherwise has nothing to do with this “world”.

The world is what we made up. It was formed from some nether void of our unconscious with what tools we had access to. It is a reality that took shape based on our projections and our desires – for personal gain or “success”, wealth, and for love or for pleasure.

Despite the apparent devolvement of our manifest reality, we are slowly maturing. Call this evolution. Recall the expression – take a step back to take two steps forward.

This reality, this world, is a part of our un-actualized and unfulfilled collective selves. In a very real way, this world was formed through a sort of male adolescent fantasy. It really does lack real maturity, it lacks the hermaphroditic balance of self-actualization, it has grown from violence, lust, and the self-serving quest of pleasure.

I share in this like we all do on some level. Those in power and those who are stuck in these imbalances of being most especially live in this creation. Look at the seat of our governance. Do you occasionally look at this space in Washington and ask yourself if these people have any connection to our lives or what we perceive as real?

This dream world which we call reality is really a nightmare. This world has lost its humor. What it does best is perpetuate misery punctuated by moments of dreamless sleep or utter unconscious orgasmic loss. Something we used to call pleasure, but it is all now an empty pit in the place we used to call our heart.

Watch some of the films of male adolescent fantasy. For my generation that includes the James Bond adventures – mainly the ones starring Sean Connery. Sergio Leone’s spaghetti-westerns starring Clint Eastwood and any of Bruce Lee’s movies. I can literally watch these films over and over. To me these are ambrosia testosteroné.

To capture this one need only turn the sound down while viewing the half-parodies of Our Man Flint or In Like Flint with James Coburn and fill in the blanks. This is a white-washed fantasy world of popsicle bikini flesh (primarily white) women fulfilling a subservient role and shaking and dancing to the satisfaction of powerful (and tight-ass) males like Derek Flint who use intelligence, scientific knowledge, violence, impeccable looks and their boyish charms to alter the course of reality in a global espionage setting. These films are representations of the adolescent male fantasies that have driven us into our own dystopian “reality”. Yes, these are the people who have been in charge and remain in charge of this reality we submit to.

Their lies prop up this reality. They will tell you that you’re an idealist (and secretly they must deny that theirs is a reality that is “made up” by former Idealists they now call Realists). You live in a fantasy world (yet who exactly is perpetuating a dangerous and destructive fantasy?). You are powerless (be afraid in your loose hold on bourgeoisie comfort). You can’t change anything (you are impotent). You are fighting the natural state of things (and are a mere speck in the gargantuan technological world). This is unnatural (as if this world shared anything with the natural earth beyond its utter brutality). You are pursuing an illusion that comes from superstitious hysteria (remember, those who are smarter than you have declared that god is so dead). You’ve heard this and more and will continue to hear from those who deceive or those who are themselves deceived enough to perpetuate these lies.

Be like Trump in this and respect the power of projection – the power of the will. Fear this, not the ogres they push forward from the darkness of the id, but fear and respect this power as it is real power. We have got to take this power for ourselves. Feed a new reality. Visualize it. Project a positive end to this world and not the annihilation that feeds the ultimate death-wish of our wholly undeveloped and psychically damaged brothers and sisters. They may have never crossed that threshold into manhood or womanhood (or, indeed, even conceived of the merger of opposites). Their path, their projections, and especially their reality should not be our reality. We’re bigger than that. We need to change this world, but to take their path is life-nullifying. This is the Thanatos calling them to the oldest lie there is – that peace and beatification can be found only in the quiet sleep of ultimate (and ultimately illusive) death. We must heed the calling of life, of brother/sisterhood, of peace, love and fellowship. We must not submit to this world. We must rise up and stop Trump now! In a very real sense, as we approach actualization – as we evolve, we must simplify…yes indeed, we really must become children again. This time, though, we bring something new to this life we seek – the life that we must discover, project upon the planet and finally actualize.

This post originally appeared on the Reveille website on August 15, 2017 in a slightly altered form.

 

Neo-liberalism is accelerating the death of global capitalism. Its demise was inevitable. Capitalism is simply unsustainable – even if the world’s population wasn’t growing at a nearly exponential rate.

Things become clearer when one distills the issues to their basics. Call this the Six Cs of Economics as we compare and contrast two opposing economic ideals – that of Capitalism and Communism.

First, to get something out of the way, it has long been a habit of those in charge (likely an intentional distortion) to confuse what can be called political systems – how laws are created and carried out in society – with that of economic systems – or how wealth is distributed in society. Of course, a good example of this is setting “democracy” against “communism”. Democracy is a political system and not an economic system. Communism is an economic system and not a political system. It is awfully convenient for the proponents of capitalism to lump capitalism (an economic system) into democracy and tout its relationship with freedom while associating communism with totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union or Red China.

What we are addressing here, for the time being, are economic systems – specifically two: Capitalism and Communism.

So let’s look at these opposing systems of wealth distribution. Capitalism is a Consumption-based system that relies on the consumption of goods and services to work and to work well. The more people are consuming, the better the system is working. The consumers, who are the workers, are employed making goods and providing services and have enough capital to keep the system going by using their capital to consume goods and services. Capitalism needs brisk business and this means a high level of consumption. The consumption of goods naturally involves the consumption of resources as well.

If consumption levels are down, then the system is suffering and people are doing less well. One of the long-time challenges of consumption is that it increases costs over time and this is something that economists have termed the “inflationary spiral”. A consumption-based system will steadily decrease the earth’s supply of precious resources as they are consumed, so the system increases the scarcity of goods which increases their costs. The costs of services follow the ever increasing rates of inflation.

Here we can get into some basic supply and demand – decreasing supplies increases the cost consumers are willing to pay, so demand increases as goods become scarcer. An important and related side note, though, is that increasing supplies is a crappy way to create demand – demand is what fundamentally drives supply or it is market forces that create real opportunity in a capitalistic system (something “supply-siders” want you to completely miss).

Another important point here is that Capitalism succeeds as demand is created. The more demand, the more consumption, the more business is booming, so if one can make something that people didn’t know they needed and make it so they can’t live without it and you’ve successfully tapped a new market. That’s consumption at its best as it feeds into the Consumption based system and keeps the economy going strong.

A Consumption system erodes the planet earth. It has brought us to the brink of ecological disaster, so if the success of neo-liberalism hadn’t brought capitalism to its early demise, the ecology probably would have taken care of this first. A Consumption-based system is systematically contradictory to a Conservation approach to an economy and to the environment.

Communism is indeed a system calling for real Conservation. There are no forces driving consumption, but human needs create demand and supply meets that demand and can regulate supply based on this relatively modest demand. So Communism keeps consumption and the cost of consumption (inflation and ecological destruction/deterioration) in check. The primary driver of Communism is Conservation – the less that is consumed, the less cost to society, to the economy and to the environment creating a healthier overall society.

Simplified – one system winds itself down and is utterly unstainable on every level including on the economic level and the other system is the only model that is ultimately sustainable.

So that leaves us with two more Cs to cover and again these are forces in opposition. With Communism there is Cooperation. The system relies on the Cooperation of its citizenry to efficiently meet needs’ demand and create supplies that meet those demands while optimizing Conservation. This is a highly efficient and, in the macro-scheme of things, very cost-effective. Everyone works together as one unit to meet the needs of the globe’s citizenry.

With Capitalism, you guessed it, we have the 6th C: the much lauded Competition. This is where numerous (the more the better) organizations vie against each other to meet demand. Unlike a system based on Cooperation, this is highly inefficient and further drives up costs, waste, consumption and, in the end, this works to damage the environment in its inefficient consumption and production. Product, service and brand marketing itself all become a source of consumption and add to the system’s overall inefficiency.

As social Darwinists argue, Capitalism is aligned with the “state of nature” or the “natural condition of mankind” – like the “natural” competition one finds in Hobbesian nature. World markets, in turn, are “free market” economies of competition as no one nation can establish its own set of rules governing trade otherwise. This feeds into the status of nation-states and the various issues that competition manifests – poverty, winners and losers, wealth inequities, war, terror and many of our worst global woes.

Capitalists argue that competition is necessary to drive innovation, but this seems to be another empty argument of those wanting to maintain the current hierarchies of power. Most of us have come to realize that the best progress and innovation actually comes from collaboration – which is a much less cynical argument about modern humankind, of course.

It seems very apparent that humanity would do well to alter its present course and use a system that embraces collaboration and Cooperation over Competition. On this planet with booming population growth – something mostly attributed to global Capitalism with its wealth disparity resulting in vast swathes of poverty and under-development – and dwindling natural resources, we can either compete or cooperate. One path is most certainly leading us to doom – nuclear annihilation or ecological disaster, while the other path appears to be our only hope for salvation.

This post originally appeared on the Reveille website on August 7, 2017 and is slightly revised here.

 

Get Smart – It’s the Age of Security

With the proliferation of computerized communication technology and the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s, we came to recognize that the Industrial Age was becoming history and was being rapidly replaced by something we’ve come to call the Information Age. From the simplest viewpoint – this was first as projection or the dissemination of information in a highly efficient manner; then as channeling with information flowing back as personalized data collection or what we’ve come to call Big Data; and finally as the utilization of this data to secure hierarchies of power and influence whether in marketing and business, culture and personal lives or even politically. Market forces inevitably pushed all the sciences, including the behavioral sciences, into the mix.

That’s how it works in the “free market” – the technology comes first driven by the market and only later will society interpret, judge and dissect its meaning, value and costs.

Now we need to step back away from this and take a big picture look at history – further back still and we see how the institutions of societies have, to the greatest degree, been in place to secure traditional hierarchies of power and wealth. From the simplest viewpoint, these structures are a dichotomy of master and slave. Indeed, the three estates of medieval Europe, were really better described as two estates – those of the powerful elite masters, nobles and clergy, who all came from the same families, bloodlines and power bases and on the other end the great masses called peasants and serfs.

These institutions of power are by nature conspiratorial and designed to ensure that existing systems of power either remain in place or are further strengthened through any innovations. Today is no different than the past in this respect. This may bear repeating – the powerful work to retain their hold on power and this is the same today as it has been for millennia.

Recently, we’ve heard of the efforts of the political right in the US to secure their positions of power despite the radical changes in information technology and the free exchange of ideas (and the potential for an enlightened slave). In her book, Democracy in Chains, historian Nancy Maclean argues that libertarians and the political right have conspired to sacrifice democracy for their purest forms of capitalism. In a real sense, what obscures the true agenda of the powerful is less their stealthy approach to their manifestoes, and more the distortions, historical revisionism, and the propagandizing of their efforts.

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein makes this very clear. Democracy, real democracy or the rule by majority is truly incompatible with the type of capitalism practiced worldwide today – call it neoliberalism or neoconservatism. As the ignorant masses become more informed – an inevitability of the developed world in this Information Age – the power structures of capitalism and the division of wealth will become more and more apparent.

So what do the powerful do? First, simply bifurcate the economy further and push the supply-side agenda of the Chicago School personified through the political leadership of Reagan and Thatcher: privatize what is public; set the market forces free through deregulation; and reduce the burden of taxes by cutting social spending to the bone. Put simply – make the rich richer and decimate the middle-class. Go ahead and upset the old Keynesian balance – a working capitalism, in the sense of placating the masses, is no longer necessary.

The second step is get rid of democracy and prepare the world for modern demagoguery. What do we see today in the personification and indeed the culmination of these policies with Donald Trump’s presidency? Gerrymandering (including “gerrymandering” the supreme court), voter suppression; using “law and order” to criminalize race and criminalize poverty to further disenfranchise that segment of society; personifying corporate institutions; redefining freedom as an economic concept; stressing “individualism” over collectivism despite global corporatism; and most important using the tools of the modern security state especially its most potent tool: fear. All of this to be carried out along with the long-time strategies of deception, misinformation and use of evangelical and conservative social causes to retain hold of as many working class voters being left behind by this new economic reality as possible.

Naomi Klein must be given credit for also naming this sub-segment of the Information Age – she called it the Security Age and this is the age in which we now live.

For Naomi, this is the wealthiest and most powerful moving into their protected enclaves or “green zones” while the rest of us must flounder in the remnants she calls “red zones”. Indeed, security is to become a driving force in an economy that has no longer maintained its footing through grass roots consumer/working-class affluence, but through the shell game of credit and the need for security: personal armed forces; cyber and brick-and-mortar protection; surveillance equipment and software and other forms of “black operations” tools and services.

Look around you and open your eyes. You must first step back, take in the historical context and then come back to earth. What, after all, did the President of the United States use as the great symbolic promise of his campaign? That’s right – the big, beautiful Wall!

Fear has ever been a powerful force in politics and today is no different than in Weimar Germany or other times and places in world history. In America, race has always had an important sleight-of-hand function in bringing poorly educated white voters into the fold and keep them clear of the real issues – the real conflict – that of class. In July, in one of his campaign-style speeches in Youngstown Ohio, Trump took the message further. The enemy (immigrants or non-whites) weren’t just coming for your jobs, your perceived privilege and your way of life, but were coming to rape and kill your women. None of this is really that innovative from an unoriginal want-to-be tyrant working to establish his own cult of personality and personal power-base.See what’s going on and pay attention. The courts have set the stage with billions of dollars from rich donors and a Congress long-past beholden to their constituents. Civil rights era voter laws have been tossed out or left to erode; Fourth Amendment rights have been seriously compromised; and a sort of fascism called Corporatism has already seated the real power into our lost republic of America.

Things are happening too fast – combine the shock and awe tactics of modern power brokers including the Trump administration with the exponential trajectory of technology and you have nothing but disaster for freedom-loving Americans (even world-citizens).

In the last year: legislation allowing Internet Service Providers to share consumers’ online browsing history without permission; FBI warnings that smart toys can spy on your toddler; housekeeping robots mapping homes and sharing intelligence with other companies; spying TV sets; and most significantly, the revelation to many Americans of something that is called computational propaganda – one of the most powerful tools of this new Security State in the new Age in which we live.

Get it. The Security Age started on September 11, 2001 during the Bush presidency and the passage of this Patriot Act. America’s citizens gave up hard-won freedom for a security that only became necessary based on the irrational fears stoked by those exerting the most control. Snowden blew the whistle about the depths our government would sink.

This is a declaration – we live in the Age of Security and everything that entails. Certainly, this blog can’t even touch on it all – after all secrets, conspiracies, and nefarious operations are part and parcel in this age. Ask yourself if ours is a society mature enough (truly evolved enough) to really deal with what AI means. This Age relies on a new economy, re-secured politics, surveillance, and most importantly utilizes propaganda to reassert the masters’ power in ways our predecessors could never dream of. This Age is about Information and its Power. Make no mistake about that. It’s time to get smart and then to educate your brothers and sisters. Get it?

This post first appeared on the Reveille website on August 2, 2017 and is republished here with minor alterations.