ongoingly misc and sundry thoughts of late, late Fall
1-Somewhere between Neo Nazi slogan-slinging and the 15,000,000,000-page Millennial Thought-Crime Offenses Codex, there is reasonable, and reasonably unsanitized, discourse. Locating that sweet spot is a worthy (and not really terribly difficult) challenge, though it is clearly not for Retards or the easily-offended. The time may well be coming again…
2-A Novel is just a play with insanely detailed stage-directions.
3-I spent my adolescence in Las Vegas and therefore tend to pronounce “Vegan” under that influence; Daughter invariably corrects me (“It’s VEE-GAHN, Daddy!”) and I invariably point out that this pronunciation is pulled randomly out of the pretentious ass of universal Snowflake’s Unconscious Collective, since, presumably, the word “vegetation” (with its short “e” and soft “g”) has something to do with the root of the word “Vegan”. So I’ve started pronouncing it “VEJ-IN” (/ˈvɛdʒ- (ə)n/) at every opportunity, which Daughter finds embarrassing and hilarious. I want this to catch on.
4-There I was, ranting to Wife, out of the side of my mouth, about the Relentless Infantilizing of the Culture, when I happened to land on the page of the New Yorker’s review of the Mister Rogers biopic.
5-Which was right next to the New Yorker‘s lavish excerpt from a Graphic Novel (as though it were a Novel).
6-Between impulse and action is the reflective moment of intellectual activity that the Zen Master learns to disable in order to become the animal whose absence of a thinking distance between that impulse and that action yields idiotically perfect results.
7-My experience of Post Modernism revolves mostly around the rich sensation of arguing vociferously against those who argue vociferously against those against whom I also argue vociferously.
8-Re: Bowie’s “Black Star”: what most critics possibly missed:
“His cry went on through the final image: the spots of raw bright blood on the earth. Blood on excrement. The supreme moment, high above the desert, when the two elements, blood and excrement, long kept apart, merge. A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky’s clarity. Point of darkness and gateway to repose. Reach out, pierce the fine fabric of the sheltering sky, take repose.”
—Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky-(1949)
9-We are mostly-soft objects comparing ourselves, unfavorably, to mostly-hard objects. What’s worse (much worse) is that Time, after the peak soft-hardness of our ’20s, renders us softer by the minute. Our only recourse is to work crash-diet hard at excavating and displaying the hardest thing we have to offer: our skeletons. Our very-hard hardware mocks us.
10- Escher Vs Giger: The Visual Paradigm of Late Late Pre-Collapse Soc Med Capitalism.
11-We are each comprised of many minds of varying degrees of intelligence on a rotating schedule of running the show. Two of my minds (the Dieter and the Rabelaisian) often meet, late at night, in front of the refrigerator, to wrestle.
12-The sources from which I keep hearing that the “novel is dead” are the same sources promoting the kinds of conservative, unimaginative, simplistically moralistic and cookie-cutter fables of the middle class that they mean when they say “the novel”. In which case: I’ll be happy to deliver the eulogy.
13-Somewhere between unripe and overcooked lies youth’s sticky magic; we lick our chops for long, long after that particular dish is eaten.
14-Reading a British critic exult over Richard Ford’s macho banalities must be like how it felt to be a film student in New Jersey, in the ’60s, reading Francois Truffaut apotheosize Jerry Lewis.
15-American Society and its Foreign Policies, historically and in any contemporary sense, are profoundly violent illustrations of the obvious principle that if you have something that everyone (anyone) wants, and can’t defend it, it will be taken from you. Period. That is the lesson and example America offers the world… none of that crap about Freedom/ Equality/ Progress/ Hope. Why do we persist in claiming otherwise? The “American Dream” = SUPERIOR FIREPOWER
16-Good Band Name: BVD DNA. Reminiscent of the one I thought up almost ten years ago (and which you are free to use): SUMO SPEEDO.
17-On Populist Colorism in Media (referring here, initially, to the cast of The Cosby Show): the commercial logic of casting two light-skinned mixed girls in that show, as members of a nuclear family of noticeably-African Americans… Mother Claire is a leeetle bit mixed but not so much… is the same old Antebellum colorism driving the casting of most of the “romantic interests” in rap videos, sitcoms and Hollywood flicks. The darker girls are usually “fat and sassy” comedic foils, the lighter-skinned mixed girls are the “dreamy,” “preferable” kind of “Black” leading lady or Pop Idol. Casting “Lt. Uhura” in Star Trek was actually going a lot more boldly than people generally realize, esp. when Uhura commenced to wearing an Afro later in the series. Were that same part cast in the ’80s, or now, even, a much less “African” -looking actress would have gotten the part (as happened in the 2009 feature film). Even the Queen of Classic Blaxploitation, Pam Grier, was on the lighter side of Black-Ambiguous. Though the sexiest thing I ever saw, in the Drive-In ’70s, as a stunned kid, was a very dark and silkily-naked JUDY PACE slipping under the covers of a bed she was seducing a gullible “honky” cop into. That may, in fact, be the sexiest thing I have ever seen while seated, fully clothed, among a large group of people including my father.
18- I suddenly realized that I missed the last-call statutory good taste Lit Crit cut-off point for ripping Richard Powers’ radiantly asinine book The Overstory to shreds… what was I busy with that year? I never thought Powers was any good (he writes like a Paul Auster who breaks into DeLillo’s vacation condo, tries on the robe and slippers he finds in the master bedroom, lights a pipe and starts typing) and The Overstory was the perfect misstep to trigger a cascade of savage reappraisals of the whole dud oeuvre. Don’t agree? Check out this opening:
First there was nothing. Then there was everything.
Then, in a park above a western city after dusk, the air is raining messages. A woman sits on the ground, leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back, as hard as life. Its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things, in words before words.
It says: Sun and water are questions endlessly worth answering.
It says: A good answer must be reinvented many times, from scratch.
It says: Every piece of earth needs a new way to grip it. There are more ways to branch than any cedar pencil will ever find. A thing can travel everywhere, just by holding still.
The woman does exactly that. Signals rain down around her like seeds.
It’s like Sting writing about Sex.
19- An old German fellow on the U-Bahn was making “funny granddad” faces at a delighted half-Black (I’m pretty sure my guess is accurate) baby in a stroller on the other side of the glass partition between old feller’s seat and the space in front of the train’s exit, where the baby’s mother was preparing to roll the carriage off the train, and all the Germans on the u-bahn wagon, that I could see, were smiling so beatifically , with such exaggerated pleasure in themselves and the tableaux, sharing and amplifying the (apparently) deeply significant moment, that I thought: there must be money in this sort of thing…
20-What we call “puberty” may well (among other things) be the year during which children first see themselves as beings deserving to be treated with Dignity, which rarely happens (ergo the “drama”).
21-Why is everyone suddenly using the grating eggcorn “stepping foot” (for “setting foot”)? Makes me think of the not-quite-equivalent but just as rampant “jibe/ jive” confusion of the early 2000s.
22-Was at an Audio-Engineer’s to do pre-production, yesterday and today, and the Audio Engineer (a very old friend) and his Wife, who are deliberately childless, live in an immaculately handsome flat, so neatly arranged, in muted colors and strikingly dustless, and which, I’m fairly sure, from what I can see, has not changed a degree or a milligram, not a new throw-rug or altered bookshelf arrangement, or shift in where the decorative figurines stay in the kitchen, in fifteen years. It’s a very clean and obscure museum of their marriage. I swear it’s haunted. I would not care to try to spend the night there.
23-This is a real headline that I’ve just read and this is our world (these are our times):
New Zealand launches world’s first HIV positive sperm bank
24-I could sit here imagining any possible food on Earth, as peckish as I’m beginning to feel (and how many years ago did my plumbing start getting into the habit of making genuinely alarming sounds, like crimped and perforated iron pipes pumping high-pressure spurts and bucketfuls of demon-wolves and ball-bearings from one level of Hell to a much deeper level? the word ‘borborygmus’ doesn’t come close), but I keep thinking of Ramen Noodles (the better brownish kind, included with a packet of chili powder, a transparent packet of oil or congealed fat, a packet of monosodium glutamate laced with desiccated essence of pig, cow, mushroom, poultry or shrimp, from an Asian grocery). The venerable dorm room delicacy. Whatever happened to the formerly unreasonable heights of my expectations…?
25-Discussing “bullying” with Daughter. I explained to her that Society as we know it is based on it (bullying) and that, often, the only way to stop bullies is to enlist the aid of bigger bullies (eg, the police are bullies; would you be as likely to obey an unarmed cop?). The key, I said, is to avoid, with great skill, bringing yourself to the attention of any cop, mob, criminal type or bureaucrat with time to kill and nothing to lose. Much easier out of, rather than in, School.
26-From the (neglected) To-Do List: construct a meandering and detailed joke with “the sweet smell of sock sex” as its unexpected punch-line.
27-Imaginary caption for an imaginary New Yorker cartoon from the late great Gahan Wilson:
Things are looking up!
28– Blade Runner: the most optimistic pessimistic film of the 1980s:
29– Modern Comedy is being legislated by people who don’t get it… just like Modern Sex.
30-I was a dedicated purchaser of grocery store aftershave in the late 1960s, years before I would need to shave: Hai Karate, Brut and Aqua Velva, mainly, but sometimes I bought one called Jade East (and I’m probably misremembering a purchase of English Leather, although maybe I got some for a birthday), impervious to the patronizing grins and winks of the check-out ladies (who were probably, in fact, girls). Now that shaving is a big part of my day (the whole skull, except the brows and lashes; chest; used to do armpits, too, but couldn’t keep up), ironically, I haven’t purchased aftershave in perhaps 48 years. I suddenly realize I need to start again. The missing puzzle piece. Happiness complete. Aqua Velva: even the name makes me glad.
31-Explained to Daughter that Capitalism, per se, is not the problem, although “They” (who are the problem) like it very much when We say “Capitalism is the problem!” Because then They can shrug and say, “Would you prefer Stalinism… ?” And things therefore stay the same, meaning: some people (They) do very little, or nothing, or very bad things, and watch large sums thundering in overflowing streams into their coffers, while a great many (Us) do quite a lot, and quite a lot that’s valuable and necessary, and earn diddley (as Kurt Vonnegut would put it) squat. I explained to Daughter that the problem is not being forced to conform to some kind of system (even if this were all primeval forest, we’d have to wake up early every morning and forage, or hunt in well-organized teams, and avoid Primeval Death, every minute, with all of our grace and wits): the problem is that the system is rigged to favor a very small number of not-very-good, or useful, or nice, people who rely on lethal force (police/ military/ secret police) to keep Them where They are. Keeping Them where They are (and Us where we are) is also the function of Television, Radio, Newspapers, Religion, i-phones, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and everything else designed to be consumed and enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people. Things are only as they are because “We” think that we “Like” them that way. Pass it on.
32– Some people who believe the amusing/ ridiculous “Paul is Dead” meme (a rumor I first encountered in c. 1970, I think, when an FM radio disc jockey butted into the long outro of “I Am The Walrus” with “This is to Paul, wherever you are now!” I was c. 11 and shocked) are idiots who haven’t really thought-through the A) astronomical odds against sinister puppet masters finding a walking melody-machine with a wide vocal range and unusual facility as a left-handed bassist adept at playing right-handed guitar who also looked close enough to Paul McCartney to make any surgical adjustment of his looks and stature convincing enough to fool old friends and close family members and B) WHY? Because why not just manufacture The Bay City Rollers (which is what they did) instead? But many who cry “FAUL” on YouTube are just kids who look at any picture of McCartney from the late-’60s and find it difficult to reconcile the baggy-eyed stoner (drooping mustache attached) with the perky/squirrelly moptop speedfreak of 1962 and either of those, in turn, with the jowly dude with the lopsided eyebrows; in other words, kids these days just don’t seem to understanding Aging (aka How Time Fucks You Up) at all. They seem to think that Getting Old is a simple matter of airbrushing a few wrinkles and some gray hair over one’s class picture from 8th grade. It is not. Does anyone look at pictures of CANDIA MCWILLIAM and cry “That’s not Candia McWilliam! They replaced Candia McWilliam with an impostor after she died drinking furniture polish in ’77!” Ditto Marianne Faithfull. No one calls her “Marianne Fakefull” despite her “shocking” metamorphoses. But let’s get back to Candia McWilliam: this paragraph, in its roundabout way, is really all about Candia. The profound loss of beauty, the wounded childhood, the aura of unfair privilege she frittered away, the lows she sank to (she really did drink cleaning fluids and polish, et al, for their alcohol content): I’m going to read her autobio next week for its amazing frankness. This, I intuit, will be a performance worthy of late Beckett.
“Candia McWilliam has written a shocker. Her new book, What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness, is fundamentally different from any other autobiography I have read. Most people write their memoirs in the belief that if only they can explain themselves they will be liked. But Candia McWilliam does not care for herself at all.
She calls herself “a tired sow with lost eyes”. She tells us she feels like “a fat ghost”. She informs us: “I sense myself as a disaster in a room, as though someone has let in a maimed domestic animal and half killed it …”
She states that she is running out of things to lose, that she burns with remorse in the night, that she carries “like typhoid” the sense that there is nowhere left for her to go where she is not a nuisance. “The sense of being disliked and of not belonging is the earliest sense I have.”
Once she could rely on her looks. “But I never knew that I was, sometimes, beautiful. I didn’t feel it. Sometimes I see it now in a photograph, and I think, You fool, you didn’t do it right at all. When you looked like that, you felt as though you looked like this. You had it coming to you.'”
A cautionary tale that is fucking profound and profoundly fucking true. A pepper-spraying of Truth in a “post Truth” culture; forget her former (or present) class. Should be required reading for teens. This book should come bundled with Kardashian skin cream.
33- I used to find money on the street all of the time… tens and twenties in parking lots ( and 165 DM in a phone booth my first week in Berlin, 1990); envelopes or brown paper bags full of coins; there was a young post-hippie beggar in San Diego (’97) who snatched up an expensive pen I had dropped from a book while crossing the street, once, and he wouldn’t give it back… I turned in a huff and stomped off and found a 20 dollar bill five paces away and saluted him needlingly (instant karma’s cheerleader) (and oh, fuck him; the dirt didn’t make him noble)! Yet I haven’t found one tiny Euro-dime in over a decade. Are people more careful with their cash now? Are too many transactions digital? Are my eyes weaker…? Is Jesus being mean because of that thing with the beggar… ?
34- This is a real book title that I’ve just read and this is our world (these are our times):
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
36.- “I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight.” –Anais Nin
“Isn’t that what writing Novels is for?” –Pastor Prime
35-The overcrowded and pestilential space for the Shitty Novel is all used up, agreed, but there is an untouched aesthetic frontier, a huge wilderness, for the Novelist of Intelligence, Experience and Talent to populate and replenish: GO (metaphorically) WEST, (OLD) WOMAN AND MAN! GO WEST! The Future is a Sunset.
37-Locally Optimistic, Globally Cynical: LOPGLOC
38– If you are not Of Color and happen to read a news item about the rape or murder of a pretty girl or a cute child today, here’s what your Of Color friends will do, after hearing about the crime, that you will not (unless you’re a Nazi): check to see if the killer is Of Color.
39– Every rescue of a long-dead Artist from the crypt of obscurity is also an indictment of the people of the Artist’s times; if you love Art, you will by now have mixed feelings regarding Humanity. With the ironic caveat that it is Humanity that Art must love.
40- Pissing you off may be the first step in making you think about the matter more deeply.
41– Dumb as a rubber ladder and smooth as a corduroy condom
42–Gilligans Wake (if I Google this, I’m sure I’ll find that this is already a thing, so I won’t)
43-Do Women get Heroic Futility?
44– In Vino Verdigris
45- The Old World’s Unfair (a pome):
the old world’s unfair
tao (how poeters lived on insecure sin
ecure of fickle noblesse, obese largesse & rich wives’ invites to
sup) supported Poèmetry’s need for Need much
better than Merica’s invent
of the licensed Poèmetrical Profess(or)ional w/
her/his charlatan robes& deeply
skinned knees (for who’d not liefer)
(blow a Duke than an)
46– Foolish is not, at the moment, a popular word, but it’s a very useful and nuanced one; it can be used to describe the actions of someone who, although not stupid, is behaving stupidly. Any guesses why the word has fallen out of favor …?
47- Why Probabilistic Arguments in support of theories of Divine Intent are fallacy-laced bullshit (a comment):
“the grandeur of the Universe shud make anyone careful of saying there’s no God…if we’ve got any more than 2 brain cells ..if we’ve got any more than a synapse….we shud be careful NOT to be agnostic”
“Grandeur” in comparison to what? Writing from within the universe under discussion, you’re in no position to make a credible assessment of its relative attributes. Of course you think of it as “grandeur” because you have no other standard of comparison. Likewise, the probability of Everything Happening as it has Happened is off the table of calculations; it’s a meaningless calculation; there’s no way of knowing if ten trillion universes of this description occur every moment, or if Our Universal Config is eye-wateringly rare, and whether either that rareness, or commonness, are, in and of themselves, suggestive. To illustrate: From the standpoint of the mosquito you smashed, on your neck, last year, the odds that a hundred million years of hominid, and three hundred million years of mosquito, evolution, would intersect at precisely the moment, on a Friday evening, that you killed that particular mosquito, would seem so incalculably unlikely (a series of billions of “coincidences”) that it would appear to indicated Divine Intent. Well, the mosquito would think that, wouldn’t it…? But it was random. No offence to the mosquito. And even if the entire Universe consisted of nothing but evenly-spaced socks, the question (fluke or not?) would remain unanswered by your meaningless (context-lacking) estimation of the beauty of socks.
48– Re: what most critics possibly missed:
“I am aware that the man who is said to be deluded may be in his delusion telling me the truth, and this in no equivocal or metaphorical sense, but quite literally, and that the cracked mind of the schizophrenic may let in light which does not enter the intact minds of many sane people whose minds are closed.” —R.D. Laing, The Divided Self (1959)
“There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in“—Leonard Cohen, The Future (1992)
49– My family is, or was, a beautiful, soft, slow, multi-train wreck of many cultures… from antebellum Southern to Yankee Black & White to scattered African and scattered Northern European and chunklets, from the West and South East, of the Native American… but how many can boast of having grown up with a beautiful Aunt whose nickname (used absolutely, 24/7, in place of her legal name)… KOOTCHIE? Which is, thrillingly, on a par with “Jelly Roll,” in the great 19th century (suggestive names of the underclass) parade and not to be taken lightly. I knew plenty of “blacker” families but knew of not one single other instance of a girl, or lady, called “Kootchie,” in the broad day light, to her face, Sundays included. Decades later I noticed a sushi place, in Berlin, on Kant Strasse (does anyone among you know the proper pronunciation of Kant?), in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and it was called (wink wink) Kucci. I always thought of Kootchie when I walked by Kucci.
Here was Kootchie in her prime:
... and Kootchie in the 1970s:
So my mother’s family inherited that much of the chic bit of the culture (Kootchie was the only one with such a risqué nickname, as far as I know), but my grandmother was a book-reviewer for the newspaper (uncool), and my grandfather rode horses (atypical), and I never (never) got to partake (sigh) in the underclass’s legendary tradition of the eldest son’s initiation by the youngest, hottest, maternal aunt… though I cannot say I did not daydream.
[editor’s note: Aunt “Kootchie,” I later heard, had died shortly before I wrote this]
50-It’s getting quite cold in Berlin, windy and overcast most days. But I like the cold: without the cold, you can’t really have “cozy”. The feeling of “cozy” must be a primordial memory; it must be a (pleasantly) diluted echo of the ancestors’ intense (life and death) gloating over adequate shelter finally secured, an epigenetic inheritance encoded along with the mystic reverence for the hearth that doesn’t make sense considering generations of modern humans raised with central heating. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere: why do pop songs swimming in reverb feel so unearthly or emotional? Do they trigger encoded recollections of deep, dramatically-lit, grottoes…? Think of all those yearning, eerie, reverb-drenched love songs of the 1950s; so many are haunted with poignant laments, or insinuations, about loss. What primordial deaths, in pre-civilization caves, are they commemorating?
51-There are a few large Turkish grocery stores within a (brisk, longish) walking distance of our home and we like to buy our fruits, vegetables, nuts and bread (the little we eat) at these stores. Recently, Wife and I were on one of our “shopping dates” (we get all of our real alone-time when Daughter is in school, so we have to combine functions; at least we still don’t fuck-while-hoovering… yet) we tried a new Turkish grocery and I was inspired, there, to try the meat, which I usually get at one of the German grocery chains. We bought half a kilo of “gulasch” meat. I was going to make a large stew. Got the “baby” carrots, potatoes, peppers and celery, etc, home and opened up the neatly-wrapped “gulasch” meat on the kitchen counter. The meat was in very large chunks and the chunks were richly purple with blood; the bottom of the white package looked exactly like a soaked-through field dressing. It was then that I realized that the “modern, western” standard of processing and presenting “fresh” meat must involve a step or two (rinsing? draining?) that “traditional” methods don’t bother with. The “gulasch” meat I get in German groceries is pink, at most, and cut much smaller and, more importantly (I now realize) does not put the consumer/client in mind of a corpse. But that packet of bloody chunks we got from the Turkish grocery made me think of nothing but a corpse; a cadaver chopped up for disposal (the “Naked Lunch” indeed). The difference was jarring and I couldn’t bring myself to prepare that not-really-cheap purchase of meat to be eaten. I flushed it down a toilet one large chunk at a time. Did this experience turn me Vegan? No. But it made me a little more gratefully modern.