Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Progress

There are so many forms of this mysterious word that it baffles me to sit with just one.  It is as if "progress" is the restaurant and at each table within sits myself and a different date.  At one table, closest to the door is the image of me sitting with an ambiguous, androgynous individual who could simply be summarized as discursive practices.

We are each discussing literature and post-modernism and at no point do we seem to be engaged with our food.  The plates are full, steak appetizers, coffee, dessert, and the two of us are deeply focused on what the other is saying and yet, despite all of this communication we can't seem to get the check to match our orders.  So we just sit and talk and talk without any conclusion to our evening.  The two of us alone are enthralled with the company, our minds are churning out beautiful ideas, but we never expand our progress beyond the dinner table.  It is possibly the progress of the mind without testing this progress on the outside world.

And yet at another table sits myself alone.  And I have cleared my plate twice and continue to order food.  I'm bantering on about my favorite color and television show and book and ironically I am sick to death of the evening.  I just talk and talk, my voice never escalating, but there is no structure to my solipsistic rant.  I drink heavily and run through a gamut of emotions, and it is effectively the progress of the body without the progress of mind.

There at another table is myself and an older form of myself, though how far along in years I do not know.  Here the younger one is asking all all the questions pedagogically while the older self snarkily responds.  The old one disbelieves the true identity of his date.  And their plates are bare but the food was great.  The only progress being done here is in fact the speculation of progress.  It is nothing more than a compilation of "what if" questions that cannot be answered without the younger self's progress at the previous two tables.

At another table is yet another older form of myself and another younger form of myself.  Here the older one longs to tell the younger self everything he knows, but can't decide where to start.  The younger one is impatient and ready to leave.  They are in the wrong restaurant.

Progress is, in the academic sense, becoming an obsession to me.  It is the root of happiness and peace and personal glory and yet there is no blueprint for its working nor a docket for my place in it.  Alone I am the antithesis of progress, and without the acknowledgement of others the word lacks all meaning in general.

And then there is the final table!  It is the most complicated date in the building.   At this one is myself and one friend symbolizing all the people I know and another form of myself that takes everything I say to my friend and puts it into quotation marks.  He is my interpretive self.  For simplicity's sake, the writer is now sitting at this table as the personal self.

Suddenly it dawns on me that there is a fourth person at this table who I did not see at first, and that is a form of my friend whose words have all been put into quotes by the form I was talking to (The Interpretive Friend).  Between us all is this list of questions that we have some answers to and most are the same like that the sky is blue and that the plural of cow is cattle.  But some of our questions have been answered entirely differently with various tangents and idealisms attributed to these long-winded responses.  Some of the times we write in crayon or charcoal and sometimes we just leave one word answers.

All the while it seems like my friend that I couldn't see but who listens is taking these words from my interpretive self and analyzing them from all sorts of viewpoints.  He is struggling to garner some image of the form of me that he cannot see.  And eventually there arrives two more people at the table.  Both silent individuals who are entirely fabricated out of our own reactions to each other's interpretive self.  And, being friends, we both enjoy the company of these two new people very much.  Each of them are our own impersonal "other-self."

Being a restaurant called Progress, naturally these other-selves get up and leave after a new question is answered by either one of us, and a new one comes in from behind some curtain somewhere and sits in his place.  So the six of us, all struggling to enjoy Progress, keep being befuddled by the way the whole process seems to constantly shift our own perspectives of the world.  It is as if the Truth of progress lies outside of myself, and my interpretive self, and outside of our friend's own promethean other-self.  And while we are all the same at the same point in existance at any moment, it seems we are three very different people with different insecurities and goals and ideals.

The interpretive self fears being misenterpreted, plain and simple.

My other-self fears only what my friend chooses to determine I fear, and I know this because my own form of their other-self fears that which I have garnered as Truth from their interpretive form.  I try not to let down their interpretive self by misinterpreting him, but if I do I know not to get upset but only to question further.  These fears are relaxed but ever prevalent.

My personal self only fears the absence of progress in any given discursive practice. If we have achieved Truth then the fears that my personal self hold match with the fears that my interpretive self present and with the fears that my other-self holds in my friend opinion.  To hide the fear of the personal self is to create a false image of the other-self, and to silence the interpretive self.  This shadows the Truth, and ultimately damages any goals of progression.

Where this all comes together is when these selves unite with my static, academic self and Discursive Practices, with my dynamic, physical self, and with my friends own versions of that self.  When all of these people come together, when their ideas are applied and when Truth is the ideal and the focus of our dinner conversation, then we are achieving the most valuable progress of all.  And when we leave that restaraunt and combine all these selves back into our own whole composite being, we apply that progress to the world together.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Elephant Therapy

I learned through a friend, (which is really a miraculous statement in itself.  Imagine the utter importance of a human if they can be both trusted and teaching simultaneously) that elephants have the same complex emotional structure of human beings.   Apparently, when bounty hunters fly over a herd, they’ll shoot down all of the Proud, Leathery, Gray, Stalwarts for their bones. The ivory.  The calves, that is, the babies…  Their children grow up to have post-traumatic stress syndrome.  A mentally debilitating  And socially devastating experience. Won’t somebody please think of the children before we take all of their teeth and sport some fine and fancy Piano keys?  Some imprisoned elephants randomly mutiny, trampling all of the workers under the big top.  And I think that is as a good a reason as any-

To stay away from the circus.

So here’s what I figure’s next.  These traumatized babies, they aren’t very smart.  So we’ll take them all to the zoo.  Each one will have a small pen in which it can run around and shit.  Literally.  And then this guy will come along and he’ll be named Zookeeper Max for this experiment.  Zookeeper Max comes up to projectbabyelephantone and remarks “Hello there, child.  I have brought you your food for the day.  And this animal dwells in its only existence, a corral, with not a single recognizable object besides a small black and white
Panda Bear.

The elephant wouldn’t know it’s a panda bear, obviously.  I mean, how is an elephant supposed to recognize a bear, when would they ever even see each other?  So this calf will mostly see it as a symbol of comfort.  Every morning it would wake up and Zookeeper Max would hurl tons of food and water into his pen.  It would be mostly grass, but probably random other vegetables and maybe a burger or something if he eats meat.  This baby would grow and be happy, and every day he’d recognize this panda bear who would be chilling on the other side of the gates.  The elephant would think, “friend.”

And then in the middle of the night the panda bear would get very sick because he accidentally drank mineral water and he was supposed to only have fresh distilled water.  And the panda would puff up and moan and roll around and panic.  Zookeeper Max would run down the hall, needles in hand.  He’d run into the room and hit that panda with its Epipen “so fuckin hard it’ll be ‘comin back to life’ to Yazoo.”  And Zookeeper Max would try and try and there would be no helping it tonight.  Ming, or Chan or Chou, or whatever Zookeeper Max named the damn thing would die a brief, painful death.

Zookeeper Max would cry.  As he’d drag this poor carcass across its cage, projectbabyelephantone would wake up.  Mortified, he’d watch as his only friend is dragged away lifelessly in the arms of the great feeder, Zookeeper Max.  What is a baby elephant to do?

He snaps.  Tusk first into the gate.  The gates crumple under his awesome adolescence.  Zookeeper Max is shocked; he flails his arms over his head, a futile block.   A tusk slams Zookeeper Max into a wall.   Baby elephant will not follow his guiding hand any longer.

Now what?

Now the escapee is a little dot in a big zoo.
And if it’s good enough for him, its good enough for me, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ringing in the Holidays


    I'm less than five years old.  I have to be at least three.  It's winter, and I'm still living in my first home.  It's a brick townhouse perched at the end of a long row of brick townhouses. 
     We moved out of that house on my fifth Halloween, and I was Wolverine that year, so I know for a fact that I had to be less than five during this memory.
    It snowed.  The whole neighborhood is white and fluffy and the hill outside of our house is a sledding paradise.  I want to make a snowman.  I want to make my first snowman ever, so I ask my father if he'll teach me.
    "Daddy, will you make a snowman with me?"
    "There's not enough snow."
    So I go to the window and I look outside and I say, "No, there is a lot of snow."
    I run upstairs and my father helps me get my winter jacket and boots and gloves and knit hat with a little bobble on the top of it.  I love that hat because I feel like Waldo from Where's Waldo.  It wasn't red and white, but the bobble was classy for a four-year-old.  I put on these waterproof snow pants that are designed to keep me dry and warm when I roll around in the snow, but I hate them because they strap over my shoulders like suspenders.
    We go outside.  Now, I'm not sure if it was because of the way the snow drifted overnight, or because my father didn't want to be seen building a snowman with his child, but he decides the best place to build a snowman was behind a dead blueberry bush to the side of our yard. 
    In the summer it always had a bluish tint to it, and it covered the power box for our street.  I would often hide in the bush and use it as a fort despite the fact that my parents repeatedly told me it was dangerous to play near the neighborhood's source of electricity.
    My father helps me roll up balls of snow from the side of our yard and one of our neighbors yards, and we stack up three perfect snowballs.  One, two three, and we have the basic anatomy of Frosty.  I'm proud of our work, and I poke button holes in his chest with my finger.  I ask my father if we have a carrot and coal.  He says no.
    "Do we have anything to put on the snowman?"
    He takes my scarf and wraps it around the snowman's non-existent neck.  I'm ecstatic.  I stand on the tiptoes of my rubber boots and attempt to poke holes in his head for eyes and a nose and a mouth.  Before I manage this, my father pulls me aside.  With his thumb he presses two eyes, a little nose, and a pleasant smile onto his face.  It is, at this point, the proudest winter day of my childhood.
    I tell my father how excited I am to show our creation to Mom.  He frowns and says, "No.  Don't tell your mother we made this."
    I'm confused but I oblige and step back a few feet to revel in the satisfaction of such a perfect, spherical, five-feet-two-inch snowman.  He needs a top hat, definitely, but we don't own one, so he'll just have to make do with a cold head.
    We stand there, my father akimbo next to our creation and me only a few yards in front of it.
    "Alright," he says.  "Time to knock it down."
    "Knock it down!"
    I'm dumbstruck.  It was my belief that snowmen were meant to live out their natural lives and then melt at the end of winter.  Apparently, this is not the case for our poor frozen friend.  I'm incapable of reasoning.
    "But he's smiling."
    My father's jaw hangs open for a moment.  Then he blinks.
    "Okay.  Now tackle him."
    "Just run at him and throw your arms up and knock it over."
    I wasn't an overly sensitive child, but I was a coward.  Whenever the dancing vegetables came on Sesame Street I would run away and cry.  I think it was the singing baritone broccoli that really bothered me.
    But I'm standing here staring at this snowman that took all of a twenty minutes to make.  Our snowman is still smiling.  He has no arms, though I had intended to find some.  To me, this was my personal Prometheus.  My masterpiece.  A dream realized.
    To my father, it was football practice.
    "If you don't knock him over, I will!"  My father is a hard ass.  I know he's not bluffing.
    "Wait!" I cry.  "I'll do it!"  Something inside of me was convinced that if I, and not my father, destroyed the snowman, then this would all be worthwhile.  I told you, I'm incapable of reasoning.
    I remember breathing.  The wind carried my breath, and as I started clumsily sprinting towards our creation puffs of cold vapor breezed past my eyes.  I was racing towards my newest friend like a linebacker on a mission and as my awkward boots lifted from the ground clumps of wet snow stuck to my heels.  We collided.  The snow stung my skin and my eyelashes were caked white.  I remember lying on my face, ashamed.  The deed was done.
    I roll over and the clouds from the night before still haven't left.  The sky is gray and still and archetypically January.  I eventually reach my feet and dust the snow from my shoulders.  My father is laughing.  A little ambivalent about the whole situation, I smile in an attempt to please him.
    "Alright.  Let's go inside.  Don't tell your mother."
    "Why not?"
    "Because she'll get mad."
    So we trudge back twenty feet indoors and he helps me take my boots off.  My mother calls me from my bedroom to change my clothes.  I scamper up the carpeted stairway and stomp into my room soaking wet.
    "Did you have fun?"  She smiles and gives me a hug.
    I laugh and tell her how much fun I had.
    As she helps me remove my sweater she asks, "So what did you two do?"
    I stare directly at her, silent.  She asks me again, "So what did you two do?"
    "We made a snowman."
    "Oh really?  Where is it?"  She is still smiling.
    If I had to tell the truth, I figured I should do it with pride, "I knocked it down!"
    She slaps me.  Right on the ass.  I get spanked for playing in the snow.
    "Why did you do that before I got to see it?"
    "Dad told me to knock it down and not tell you!"
    She spanks me again.  She isn't smiling.  She flips me around and points her finger, "Don't you lie to me."
    I'm shocked.  I didn't want to knock it down in the first place!  I only did it to please my father, and then my own mother gives me a spanking!  Of course, I can't explain this to her.  She didn't believe me, and that's all I know.
    I can't remember if she talked it over with my father.  I can't remember if she apologized.  I know my father never apologized for making me destroy my first snowman minutes after we had created it.  I wasn't too scared to be honest, I just wanted to make the man happy.
    I'm not sure if my parents even discussed the snowman, if it mattered to them.  I did learn something, though  From that day on I knew that if I ever came to a crossroads where I had to choose between love and orders, I would always choose the former.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fuckin Commie Hipsters

Once in a while I actually learned something in college. Sitting in the pews of a non-denominate chapel I listened to a terrific Philadelphian poet give some of the most valuable advice I’d ever acquire in my quest to becoming a writer:

Never get more than seven hours of sleep.

He offered more, but that little statement implies so much. Starve yourself rabid. Allow dreams to brew and try to ignore the spider webs dangling from the blue prints. Let no day go by when a white page is not inked with some sparkle of truth or beauty or trash. An excellent poet, he was, and I value his work over some of the most coveted pens in the world. On a winter night in a dead mining city in Johnstown, PA, when the weather was frigid and wet and all day long I tore movie tickets and brewed heaping trash bags of theater-style pop corn, that which motivated me was a washed-up, AARP-card carrying, long-unsuccessful beat poet in a glass and pine chapel somewhere near the border of West Virginia. He was not a good public speaker, and I was ecstatic.

I went to class. My roommates, my friends, they got stoned and mastered video games. Their kung-fu got to be much better than my kung-fu. Nevertheless, I went to class on said winter night in late January. I relished the five minute breaks in our two hour classes. I smoked my cigarettes. I chatted with fat pimply girls and weird film majors that would never see their careers take off. It was all very depressing. Blue, blue, blues.

One way or the other, I knew this was as beat as it would all get. Chilling up on a mountain with a tuition paid for by my father, listening to some rednecks write poetry about being a police officer on Cops… I just knew that if there was more, it would never be that ironically beautiful.

Halladay said, never get more than seven hours of sleep. He said that in times of his greatest doubt and confusion, he’d written his best work. To that, I am largely reliant upon faith. Sometimes, however, it works out well. A day of writing can be as exhausting and liberating as a day of bricklaying. The rush never captivates the experience, but afterwards, you look over the roads you have paved or the monuments you have erected and there is the most exhilarating sense of accomplishment ever to be experienced. The poet’s spoken words are rarely evocative. That said, if the poem can evoke anything, then it is a success. They should cast doubt. It is the goal of the writer to settle scores. In writing, the words can be truthful or beautiful or utter garbage. Text can hold so much power, but it is largely reliant upon poetic wording in order to exact the appropriate emotions. The truth is valiant, whether glorious or hideous. Beauty is passionate. It titillates the senses and demonstrates great form. Garbage, as one could assume, is the flotsam of the fingertips. It means little alone, carries no weight in infinite numbers, and just barely satisfies the poet’s primal need to create.

Either way, it’s hardly enough just knowing that there was once a great writer from Philadelphia who spoke at a lonesome university in south west Pennsylvania. I’m up late now. It’s almost two and I feel that I have much longer to go.

At some point I realized that all the Beat kids were missing something important. All those communists and collectivists and anarchists and socialists and evangelicals and especially those apathetic pothead hipsters, they all carried a spine fused from a new generation of passion. They raged against machines. They smashed pumpkins. They had bad religion and they were ready to claim they hated all of those bands. Beat, they were not. They knew the Beat. They’d “read their Kerouac” and they’d snubbed their noses at Bob Dylan every once in a while. What annoyed me, what really grinded me down to a pulp and got me to realize that I did not want to be Beat, was when I realized that these people, these masses, these peers and friends, would have ostracize the Beat as soon as they’d meet it.

This sheer angst, this violent opposition to individuality, this blatant display of intelligence being wasted on, what, a college education, discontent with their promised future careers, and misery? This was their whole plan: Every rebel, punk, beat, gangsta, yuppie I ever met, it all revolved around revolution and war and a strategically illogical solution. The evil corporations had to go down. The government has to step in. The government needs to butt out. The government needs to control. The government needs to abandon. The government must expand. The government must centralize. They all had different ideas and they all dreamed big and they all lacked focus. Every time I got into a discussion with any of them, they spoke like poets. They talked of ideals and morals and the wave of the future. They evoked powerful images and gathered violent tensions into one big ball and let it turn into a bullet at the end of the page that said

I wouldn’t do that to you, reader. I’m not writing poetry right now. Before I stamp the save button for the night, I must summarize the important connection between that which is Beat, and that which is Capitalist.

The Beat is a label. It is a definition. It is long dead in society, masked by a new image of counter-culture. The war on Capitalism is not Beat. The war on Religion is not Beat. The war on Drugs is not Beat. The war on Terror is not Beat. A war on anything, anywhere, is not Beat. Such a concept is vulgar. A peoples’ war demonizes one side and idolizes another, ultimately disposing of all discussion and controversy and anything which may serve the public.

Another great man once wrote a list of people who should be dragged out into the street and shot. He included the obvious choices, like fascists, of course. But the last denotation was, appropriately, “people who write lists of people who should be dragged out into the street and shot.” To claim that all Capitalism is evil merely because the certain method is corrupt falls much in the same line of thinking that a person who has a cold sore in November must sleep around.

Frequently, these Punks will thrash against anything which seems to provide for a reasonable future, as if living for anything but the present is amoral. I cannot ascertain where such a prejudice comes from, but I am certain it was not their laissez-faire decision to purchase their band shirts at the local shopping mall and not, say, Wal-Mart. The fluidity of today’s logic is likable to yogurt. It flows neither quickly or clearly. The rationale behind Capitalism is that of relativity. It is not the judge’s understanding of the law that brings down the verdict, but the communication of relative emotions between the jury and the lawyers. Capitalism, unlike socialism, requires relativity in order to function at a personal, private and free level. In order to make a personal decision between two people, there must be a contract that is approved by each party as beneficial. This is a relative decision that stems from personal self-interest. I’m not saying anything new.

Long story short, I came to this decision while I was peeing:
Without relativity, one cannot have a relationship. And without relationships, people stop coexisting peacefully and begin to fear. As their fears and stereotypes and prejudices become more applied to daily life, they become hateful and ultimately violent.

We can see this, today, with the careful dynamics at work between what is peaceful and liberating, and what is peaceful and enslaves. It is a fine line that requires constant darkening. In the past, when faced with poverty and war and famine and plague the growth and height of civil rights and democracy and a free market was marked not by the bombs that were dropped, but the poems that were written.
We must revisit the blue prints, and once again, we must trace the lines.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Since Dr. Steve has taken the liberty to consistently update this site, I thought I'd interject for a bit with some of my own confusing elaborations on projects to buy.

Get Chuck Palahniuk's Pygmy

It's absolutely fantastic. The man produces fiction the way the pope loses his crazy meds: frequently and in the most absurd ways.

Here we have the story of child-terrorist, sleeper-cell, Operative 67: Pygmy. He is accepted into an American host family as an exchange student from an unnamed authoritarian dictatorship. While in the United States he plans a massive terrorist event the likes of which have never been seen. Also, he learns to fall in love and not once utilizes an article in speech.

Like all of Palahniuk's books this one is as funny as it is dark. Limited to Operative 67's strained, Newspeaky dialect, certain sentences take a few read-throughs to fully digest. Nevertheless, each chapter ("Dispatches" as Pygmy calls them), are poetic and full of life. If you enjoyed Fight Club, yeah, you'll love it. If you thought Choke was funny, try this. If you know anything about any of the other books, then what are you even reading this for?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

O Poetry

It's a metaphor.

the louder the better she said as I unscrewed the plastic cap from my plastic bottle. time would tell if she was right but as for right now I'm panicking because her husband definitely heard us as he came up the stairs and there's a good three story jump down into the green green grass below. so I bounce out the window like a pale white rabbit and watch that bright green green grass fly straight back up.

and it's wicked in a way. but how can I resist such a pretty little name as Page. It rolls off the tongue like spitting marbles but god is it one hell of a name. cherubs would line up and die with gun in hand and blade in mouth to sing that name: Page. pure as a windmill's breeze Page can flutter from your fingers but never from your thoughts. Page is beautiful.

Page is saying c'est la vie when your sails have torn and the horizon stretches bluer than the throat of Robert Johnson. I've scaled walls higher than this, in my day, but never for such a Page.

so that leads you to wonder what Page could have possibly meant as I unscrewed the plastic bottle cap from the plastic bottle, when the only horizon was a line of vodka and the sick air pocket above it, and the ship was lofty and buoyant and headed straigh for a waterfall, when she lays before me on the bed with red sheets and a red comforter. time would tell if she was right, if louder were better, but I would not be there to hear the answer.

and so I'm flailing madly and falling fast. I can hear her throwing my blue jeans from the same windowsill and my does that permafrost look dense down there.