A) Putney Swope vs Tropic Thunder
…has anyone made the connection?
B) Writing exercises:
- Describe the difference between the flavor of a lemon and the flavor of a lime.
- Compare the stilted, grandiloquent, pseudo-British English of mid-20th century American motion picture Space Aliens to the strikingly similar language spoken by Roman Senators in films of the same era (with special emphasis on the tic of the avoidance of the use of contractions) and use this Alien/Roman dialect of English in a short story with a contemporary setting (without resorting to satire).
- Everyone remembers their “First time” but how many remember their last? Write about your last.
- Write something that nobody could possibly hate (no less than 600 words).
- Write an “anonymous” note to yourself consisting of intimate, possibly offensive, advice.
- As soon as you wake, every morning, write only one sentence, on only one page in a notebook (that you keep beside the bed for that purpose) and immediately turn to the next the page of the notebook. Do not read earlier sentences as you progress. Continue the exercise until a major Life Change (moving house, loss of livelihood, serious illness, divorce, death of a family member or friend, etc)… then read the accumulated sentences in the notebook and evaluate your path as a writer in light of the seriousness of the Life Change.
- Write a tongue-in-cheek suicide note until it hits too close to home.
- Write a character who is everything you’re not. You’re welcome.
C) SHORT STORY: THE PEPPER DEFENSE
After Pepper killed the vegan she felt much better (vindicated) until a kind of unease set in. It felt like nausea’s suaver cousin, this unease, inducing quease-tinged shivers akin to those Pepper more normally associated with crème de menthe. It wasn’t that the body required disposal (there was none). It was the fact that there was none. What if the vegan weren’t really dead? What if the vegan told people (authority people) that Pepper had tried and failed to kill her? A) Was that against any law and B) how against the law was it, if it was? But how could anyone prove that Pepper hadn’t been joking? A stunt gone wrong that hadn’t? Pepper supposed that the best defense (if a defense was what she needed, if trying to kill a vegan, and failing to, was against the law enough to require a defense, if she was caught) was to prove, without a doubt, that anyone Pepper really meant to kill would inevitably die, as a result of the effort. It would have to be someone smaller and weaker than Pepper, obviously. A vegan?
D) Philosophical Inquiry
Are vacuums lighter than air? If so, would a container made of ultra-lightweight-yet-stronger-than-air-pressure material, containing as much vacuum as possible, function like a hot-air balloon? If not: why not?
E) CLICK BAIT
The NSA took a picture of you every day of your Life: try not to cry when you see the last picture!
F) STYLES OF READING
A few years ago I was on a walk with a young female friend who had borrowed a copy of John Gardner’s short (postmodern) novel Grendel. When I asked her what she thought of the book she said, “Well, I was really disappointed in Grendel…”
To which I could think of no meaningful response. She didn’t mean the book. She meant the monster.
G) Can You Feel It?
A gooey, cloudy, room-temperature layer of neo-liberal propaganda coating everything.
“You know what’s weird? I mean, I think it’s psychological, but whenever I go to poo, and it’s hard to, I just go like this…” (makes “cranking” movement with right hand) “…and it comes out faster.”
—Daughter, 11, Thursday September 21, 2017
At the very beginning of the 21st century, The Right wing version of Luther Blissett wrote a postmodern work of intertextual, intersectional and interdisciplinary narratives called “The War on Terror” and it has dominated the cultural life of most of the planet for a generation. No other writer or group of writers comes close in success or influence.
J) GUESS WHO
“Nothing could be worse than this war, but we honestly do not see what the President or any one else can do about it. Leave the country and the entire Far East to the Communists? People do not want to see that it is Russia that is fighting against the U.S. in Viet Nam. Without Russia the North would have been beaten ages ago. This is a life and death struggle against Communism, not just a little war somewhere at the other end of the world, alas.”
Who wrote this? Vera Nabokov, of course. Surprised, aren’t you? So was I.
K) GUESS WHO 2
“We learn a language, and though it does not belong to us alone but is shared by all members of the community, it is by means of our language that we understand and express ourselves and that which is all around us.”
It only takes about five seconds to realize that this is one of the silliest pseudo-profound sentiments, committed to print, in recent years… and to which the only possible response is O Rly?
Author: Karl Ove Knausgaard. Obviously.
L) WORST UPLIFTING FACEBOOK APHORISM
“The Wound is the place where the light enters you.” -Rumi.
I hear they wear this aphorism on tee-shirts in Afghanistan.
M) THE ART OF THE INEPTLY-WRITTEN EULOGY
“Diski died yesterday, after two years of illness, an experience that she detailed in the London Review of Books.” –Dissent, Madeleine Schwartz
Somewhat surprised the referred-to piece didn’t attract wider coverage…
N) SCHOOLBOYISH POMES I WROTE LONG AGO
the astronomer princess cat
if astronomers could be both
princesses and cats you’d be that
astronomical cat in royal tat, taffeta hat
crowning such lush liquescence: the tresses
of heavens-black as
if the Space you aim brass telescopes at is
lilting halfway down
your back, a twist befitting
beauty: that self-
inflating sting which strikes above
the neck and only isn’t living
hell in floods or
games of chances
i will was (ballad of the senior poet)
i will was when you still
O) THINK ABOUT IT
I’m an Agnostic. It means, put simply, that I have no idea how or why the Universe came to be, nor what it means, nor if an Intelligence is involved somehow or behind it all. Can any rational being claim to know otherwise? No, but that doesn’t stop quite a few people who claim to be rational while pretending to know.
It’s obvious that Natural Selection is the process by which living systems are tweaked, in their particular attributes, by lethal environmental pressures. The animals who can see best in the dark or run the fastest, and so forth, live long enough (and compete well enough for mates) to pass on their genetic particulars.
But there’s no way to use the same mechanism to explain primordial engineering marvels like, for example, the spider web… about which, you’d have to admit, even if the independent, pre-functional evolution of the components of the web-making organ could be rationally explained (it can’t), that still leaves the jaw-dropping mystery of the evolution of the spider’s skill in using the web.
In the appended video, Richard Dawkins “explains” the evolution of the eye so irrationally that it’s nearly evidence of a psychiatric condition… or just ordinary snake oil with a posh accent: (to paraphrase satirically) “Well let’s imagine we very conveniently start with a very primitive eye…”
As I commented in the thread:
It’s almost shocking how Dawkins’ narrative-drive elides key questions in the steps between the steps in his just-so tale. And, no, I do not believe in God/ gods. But this is a bizarrely (magically) self-serving way of leaving out bothersome questions. I need to see some tighter Logic here. And so do you all.
If you’d prefer some SCIENCE, watch this:
P) THE MOUTHS OF BABES
Daughter said this to me (verbatim) at 11:25am, Aug 14, 2015 (she was 9):
“Hey Daddy, you’re the cup of money and I pour you out!”
Q) CULTURAL VARIANTS IN PARENTING
It’s common policy in much of Germany to ignore a crying infant until the infant goes quiet (from sheer exhaustion); this is to train silence/schedule-obedience in the infant but it produces the double-problem of severely disturbing the bonding process while raising quasi-autistic children who will become quasi-autistic adults capable of deriving little joy in the nearness of a child (even a child of their own). Further, Germany is a bit of an authoritarian society in which the credentialed leaders/ experts are Father Figures and all the others are obedient children; these obedient children make unhappy parents (they sometimes seem to be in competition with their children for attention or fun ). I’m quite happily a (happily-married) parent, myself, and whenever I make a trip to the playground (here in Germany) with our child, I can’t help noticing that many of the playground amusements (especially, for some reason, the climbing frames but also including trampolines) have parents on them, doing flips etc, as if they’re asserting the fact that they aren’t quite finished being kids. It’s weird, in that I haven’t the slightest desire to climb on the monkey bars, or swing on the swings, myself. Perhaps because I’m very happy being a grown up parent with grown-up preoccupations such as our child’s safety and happiness.
Now, I’m aware that quite a few non-Germans, around the world, also, misguidedly, use the CIO (cry it out) “sleep-training” technique on infants at night but the German use of the technique strikes me as extreme: they do it during the day, on the train, in the shopping mall, etc, too. Every day I see kids wailing in strollers while mothers look on and do nothing or read their phones. I recently walked by a large group of toddlers with three adults… a daycare on an outing… and a child who couldn’t have been older than 18 months was sitting on the sidewalk and wailing away, purple-faced, while all three grown-ups (and the other kids) looked on from a distance with utterly impassive facial expressions.
The generational psycho-social consequences of this practise have not a little to do with Germany’s world-image as a place of “cold” or “rude” or “insensitive” people, possibly.
R) ART THEORY
What modernism freed us from, for better or worse, was the “masterpiece”, and though mechanical reproduction and commercial banalization finalized the shift, it wasn’t Warhol who put the nail in the coffin but Picasso. Picasso didn’t paint masterpieces; masterpieces take too long to paint. It isn’t proper to evaluate Rothko or Pollock or DeKooning in terms of their “masterpieces”… that’s where the audience is a hundred years behind. If they can’t locate a “masterpiece”, they express contempt. But what they should be looking for are reliably-high quality visual experiences in sufficient quantity to deserve a narrativized kind of contemplation, and that’s what Rothko et al (and all modern artists) have to offer.
S) MUSIC THEORY
My trajectory as a music lover has been backward, in a way. The prized possessions in my record collection, at the age of 17, were records (on the Nonesuch label) by Morton Subotnick (eg Silver Apples/the Wild Bull) and Luigi Nono; the former’s work I can hear as I type this, the latter has faded from memory, leaving only the composer’s name. In college I developed a hunger for “populist” things and discovered Bowie’s (still-fresh) Low/Heroes/Lodger… then became retro-fixated on the mystical Station to Station. I still listen, on occasion, to minimalist wonders or textural koans but am generally drawn to and energized by, in my senescence, the level of ramification/ permutation/ stratification you get in, say, Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, op. 133 (Takács Quartet: thrillingly anachronistic) or something from Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel…”.
I attended an “avant garde” performance of a friend’s, a while back, at avant salon Madame Claude’s, featuring Maresuke Contracello; the first half of the experience I quite liked. But then it occurred to me, perhaps 40 minutes into it, that I was on a strange cusp between finding many moments quite familiar and being able to anticipate the next… aka, what we feel when listening to “pop”. I suddenly had the idea that the “experimental” has calcified, after c. 100 years, into a vocabulary of gestures as finite/comforting as the seven-tone system.
T) SEGREGATION and ITS ENTHUSIASTS: A MODEST PROPOSAL
Post any article even remotely connected to racial matters and you will, of course, attract racists to the comment thread. If the article is too long and too full of polysyllables, it will attract milder, better, chin-stroking racists with degrees.
The reasonably-articulate racists peg racial differences to differences in class, as though all blacks are poorer than all whites and all blacks are less educated than all whites. As though millions of whites… what Liberals like to call “white trash”… don’t suffer a psycho-social PTSD of generational poverty that’s very nearly severe as the version the poorest American blacks suffer. Hollywood has done a very good job of conjuring the illusion, in the minds of our petite racists, and just about everyone else, that the Real Norm and the Hollywood Norm are fairly close, and that most American whites are soft-spoken members of a home-owning middle class without drug problems, poor diets, anger issues, criminal records and devastating educational deficits. Good job, Hollywood… that’s what you’re there for.
But let’s get real. Desegregation is a big step in the right racial direction, but mixing income levels (a la the poorly-conceived gesture of ghetto-to-suburb school bussing I remember from childhood) is what always dooms the social experiment to failure. How about figuring a way to get poor blacks and poor whites to live together, eh? In other words, why not try to fix this rotted house from its foundations up, for a change?
Start small, with a trial neighborhood centered around a newly-built school and a park or two and subsidized housing; one could scrape the money together from a portion of the catering budget of the Pentagon’s half of the proceeds from taxes, for example. Low rents, or the possibility of ownership, could be an incentive for poor blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics to try living together in a gated, 21st century, low-income melting pot enclave with a diverse council of “community elders” (or whatever) and a kind of community policing force to keep the edgier teens from degrading the property. And so forth.
Why not? Or is the spectre of possible unity across the broadest base of Serfdom, in America, a little too dangerous…?
U) POMES FOR SINISTER CHILDREN
divine little jezebel klein
divine little Jezebel Klein
in her red boots and green suit arrived
at the picnic for children from
over the hill with a cupful of night
in her pocket
other kids there were laden with chocolate
and gooey-big biscuits in fancy-wrapped boxes,
but Jezebel Klein merely smiled while they gossiped
so rude as they chewed just like fat little foxes,
unaware of the cupful of night in her pocket
‘Jezebel dear,’ said Miss Teachem the teacher
‘why aren’t you gulping ‘n munching ‘n slurping or
greedily wolfing ‘n chowing ‘n snarfing?’
‘why are you sitting with dignified bliss?
something is eerie and queer and amiss!’
after she said it Miss Teachem forgot it
but J.K. still had this: night in her pocket
hours elapsed and the shadows grew longer
cast by the gas-pregnant bellies of champions,
trumpet percussion of blasts reeking hunger
they napped-off snack’s orgy with gusting abandon,
even Teachem was beached under cover of clover
dreaming of grammar and doing it over,
while sinister marvelous Jezebel Klein
sprinkled her drops of the night ‘pon the children,
’til Coroner thought it was Cold that had killed them
divine little Jezebel Klein
in her red boots and green suit survived
all the brats in her class, so Miss Teachem’s at last
little Jezebel’s well-behaved tutor
V) PROFESSIONAL HAZARD
This is the only way in which I Envy other Professions: when a Doctor, Lawyer, Dentist, Computer Repairman, Cop, Baker, Research Scientist or Veterinarian introduces his/herself and admits to their job title when asked, nobody thinks (or even says): “Well, you can’t be very good if I’ve never heard of you!” Anybody who’s in a Creative Profession will know what I’m talking about.
c. 1900: Photography destroys Painting.
C. 2000: Lucian Freud destroys Photography.
X) LET’S START A PETITION
So Dylan won the Nobel last year and Kendrick snagged a Pulitzer this year. Can we get a Grammy for Mr. DeLillo in 2019?
Y) RACE AT LENGTH
The Black People I grew up with, and always knew of, have always been angry. I never knew a day when all the Black People around me weren’t angry… terribly, terribly angry. It is my understanding that Black Anger has a lot to do with the high blood pressure that limits the life-expectancy of North American Black Males to something outrageous like two-score and ten (approx. where North American White Males were in the early 19th century?). Lacking Anger is not something I ever considered a Black problem. The Black People I grew up with would detonate if you looked at them wrong.
However. After a few decades of knowing only, among Blacks, the Black People who are angry, it dawned on me that anger, alone, isn’t enough. Being Angry only leads to a positive change in circumstance (versus a negative change, which is far too easy and far too common) if certain other factors come into it. Anger x leverage = change. Where is our leverage?
Does anyone seriously give a f____ck how Angry Black People get, anymore?
Because the Protest Model we grew up with involved leveraging Moral Authority to shame Imperial Power into making Humane concessions regarding the conditions of our captivity; the Cold War set the stakes high enough (could Uncle Sam really afford to make the U.S.S.R. seem socially progressive, in comparison to the US, in 1964?) to lend Black Moral Authority some force. Does Black Moral Authority still have force? I don’t think so; not after forty years of anti-Black propaganda (thanks, “Gangsta Rap”… promulgated by labels owned, overwhelmingly, by non-Blacks! Thanks, Fox News! Thanks Hollywood!).
Strategically speaking, I don’t see a battle plan in being Angry alone. I think we need to be Angry and well-educated; we need to be Angry Intellectuals. We need to fine-tune our Anger and come up with some long-range plans. Because our genealogies hail, in the end, from countries without armies: that’s the crux of it. We hail from the thoroughly-colonized Third World. We don’t have influential embassies to lean on. We can’t make threats. Despite a few token luminaries to our credit, we, as Blacks, are only about a notch higher than “Gypsies” on the global power scale. And we just lost about 15% of what little global prestige we were clinging to when Cosby got outed as a garden-variety-showbiz-date-rapist (we only lost 2% prestige on OJ).
What happened, I believe, is that We (in or of North America) believed… We internalized… the propaganda that bamboozled us into believing the bullshit about Education being a “white” thing. We bought the nonsense about “Ebonics” (do whites call ignorant Appalachian pidgen-English “Caucasonics”?), we internalized the racist fantasia that articulacy, industriousness, self-discipline and intellectual ambition are “white” attributes. And, sure, call me a paranoid N, but I believe it was an orchestrated program.
I believe that Fascist Racists exert a considerable amount of influence on the tenor and targets of Pop Culture; I believe that Integration was deliberately sabotaged and Blacks have been subjected to Psycho-Social Genocide since things got dangerously close to changing (when the Serfs got dangerously close to unifying, across lines of color/gender/class/age) in the 1960s-1970s. We fell for it. We were out-maneuvered. Our weapons, such as they are (burning our own neighborhoods to the ground? Blocking traffic? Okay) are… pathetic. Scream, shout, shake your fist, punch a few honkies, even. Net result?
We are forced to confront oppression with a very weak hand.
The only thing keeping Blacks from being rounded up and tossed in camps, The Day After Tomorrow, is Liberal White Public Opinion. Let that sink in. It should scare the living sh___t out of us. Because who saved the Jews of Germany in 1939? And there were plenty of powerful Jews in the world in 1939. But who saved the Jews in 1939?
Who will save US when the shit hits the fan? GERMANY?
When those petite-Nazis Hernstein and Murray published the most racist (and blockbusting) work of narrative fiction since Birth of a Nation (The Bell Curve), who came to our (Black) defence with a flaming rhetorical sword and plenty of science… who effectively cut that vile shit into hideous bits for us? Stephen Jay Gould. NOT a Black Person. How many Black People even knew the “debate” was going on….?
We need some long-range plans. We need a generation or two of self-disciplined young intellectuals. We need a whole generation or two of well-educated, self-disciplined Blacks who understand how the World works to the extent that they are capable of changing even a little bit of it. We need to infiltrate, in meaningful ways, via the patient work of accumulating Social Capital.
Anger minus Leverage = Diddley Squat. How does that old saying from the Bible go…?
“Don’t get mad, get ready.”
Z) CGI INSTAGRAM MODELS
Seems creepy AF and on a continuum with Huxwellian horrors I traditionally shake a fist at… but let’s think this through.
The rise of CGI Instagram models would indicate, I think, a total collapse of Meat-Based-Modeling by 2025, no? Catwalk shows would be Holographic. Fashion Designers would find this option quite attractive, I should think, because a Hologram would A) look exactly how the designer wanted B) work for free C) never be a diva/ have an eating disorder/ grow old and so on. This would put models out of work (sorry boys and girls: you’ll need to learn how to actually do things, now) but the upside would be the tremendous possibility of minimizing (if not eliminating) sexual abuse in Fashion. Quite something, no?
And why stop with models? Why do humans need to “act” in Iron Man XX or Wonder Woman 5: the Pre-Prequel Sequel…? Why not CGI the whole movie? We’re almost there, aren’t we? Hollywood would love it: no CGI actor would command a 30 Million Dollar fee. No limits on “dangerous stunts”. A popular Brand Image would never age; could run, conceivably (like Mickey Mouse) for generations and generations. Hollywood Stars are virtual projections already, in any case… the final step would be untethering the projection from meat. And: again: a steep reduction (or total elimination) of Sexual Abuse in Hollywood.
Subtler cultural advantage: Blockbuster Propaganda CGI Super Hero Fodder would finally split, categorically, as Artform Genre, in a definitive fashion, from the genre embodied by obscure little B&W movies shot on real film with real actors performing real scripts… a niche market that would grow, possibly, if it finally got from out of that shadow of the Shock and Awe Entertainment Events currently dominating the market. The audience compares the apples and oranges of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and ________ (fill in the blank with Blockbusting pap of choice) and they find Vertigo somewhat wanting: not fast/ loud/ porny enough (which explains Hollywood’s classic-remake-mania): category error. People have conflated these two very different Artforms (real cinema vs Popcorn Flicks) merely because Humans have traditionally appeared before the camera in both. CGI’ing the Talent could be an end to this cultural confusion as well as an end to the Casting Couch.
Not to mention an opportunity to fill any Pop Film with as much (and whatever kind) of Diversity as the audience mandates. The same Blockbusting CGI film could play, simultaneously, in several different markets, with totally different(-looking) casts. Is there (or will there be?) a market in LA in which the audience is primarily a beautiful mongrel-mix of Mexican/ Asian/ Black? The Mexican/ Asian/ Black-actors version of a given film could play, if need be, in that neighborhood, in that theater, only.
I look at these idiotic CGI Instagram Models and feel something akin to Hope.