Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To be a little more precise...

"The trouble with too much contemporary American literature is it seems to be dominated by a certain naive bourgeois cultural 'whiteness,' an unconscious manifestation of Ishmael Reed's Atonist/Wallflower political-economic system and Robert Coover's Uncle Sam/Phantom in The Burning Game..."

That quote from the previous blog post needs clarification. No one's criticized me for it yet, but if they had they'd been right. Let me be more precise by defining "contemporary American literature" as the Poetry Foundation and big corporate publishers who require you to have an agent, etc.

This conversation among Kent Johnson, John Bloomberg-Rissmann and others articulates exactly what I meant to say, and since I can't say it better, here's the link, and the author Johannes' opening remarks [the revealing conversation follows the question]:



“Free (Market) Verse”: Steve Evans on the Poetry Foundation and Conservative Politics/Aestheticsby on Nov.17, 2011, under Uncategorized

One commentor to another post made a link to this piece by Steve Evans.

Excerpt:If there was no trace in the magazine’s cartoon gallery of a cohort of midwestern white guys with business backgrounds aspiring to write instantly “accessible” poems about authentic American life for the amusement and improvement of semi-literate “regular” folks, that’s because it would take a presidency as benighted and hokey as that of George W. Bush to bring such a group to prominence. Through men like Dana Gioia, John Barr, and Ted Kooser, Karl Rove’s battle-tested blend of unapologetic economic elitism and reactionary cultural populism is now being marketed in the far-off reaches of the poetry world. A curiously timed gift from a pharmaceutical heir who, before slipping into four decades of crippling depression, had submitted a pseudonymous item or two to Chicago’s Poetry magazine, which politely rejected them, has bankrolled the unlikely effort.



Thanks to Johannes for posting this at Montevidayo and Kent Johnson for sharing it with me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Philip K. Dick & Occupy Wall Street

I think we're heading toward civil war. I think the richest one percent can now afford to pay 50 percent to wipe out the other 50 percent. So much for the 99 percent. Divide and conquer.

I don't know who will "win," which is to say survive in greater numbers. The coming election is going to exacerbate things the way the 1968 election did, but much much worse. I think both conventions next summer will make Chicago 68 seem small. I expect clashes between right wing and left wing protesters, defections among police and military...a complete unraveling.

What happens then is anyone's guess, but here's some ideas from Philip K. Dick's Tractates: Cryptica Scriptura:

41. The Empire is the institution, the codification, of derangement; it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence, since its nature is a violent one.
42. To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement. This is a paradox; whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies.
43. Against the Empire is posed the living information, the plasmate or physician, which we know as the Holy Spirit or Christ discorporate. These are the two principles, the dark [the Empire] and the light [the plasmate]. In the end, Mind will give victory to the latter. Each of us will die or survive according to which he aligns himself and his efforts with. Each of us contains a component of each. Eventually one or the other component will triumph in each human. Zoroaster knew this, because the Wise Mind informed him. He was the first savior. Four have lived in all. A fifth is about to be born, who will differ from the others: he will rule and he will judge us.

Dick goes on to say that "information will save us. This is the saving gnosis which the Gnostics sought." He also says the Empire has killed each of the previous homoplasmates, but "the next one will kill the Empire by phagocytosis."

Think of phagocytosis, perhaps, in terms of interdimensional "staining" and mindful holographs...memes/information that when perceived go viral in the form of fractals, eliminating forces of entropy to maintain the necessary disequilibria via feedback loops to keep the perceiving hologram alive and/or animated. One's channel or frequency of sentience is determined by one's situated permanence in relation to time...

From Wikipedia: "Phagocytosis...is involved...in the immune system, it is a major mechanism used to remove pathogens and cell debris. Bacteria, dead tissue cells, and small mineral particles are all examples of objects that may be phagocytosed.The process...in multicellular animals...has been adapted to eliminate debris and pathogens."

What are the recursive symmetries of phagocytosis in this narrative scale of things, where "occupy" seems to have gained a life of its own?

The trouble with too much contemporary American literature is it seems to be dominated by a certain naive bourgeois cultural "whiteness," an unconscious manifestation of Ishmael Reed's Atonist/Wallflower political-economic system and Robert Coover's Uncle Sam in The Burning Game...

When push comes to shove, I believe most people will probably fall back on their knee-jerk ethnocentric view of civilization, which is closer to Newt Gingrich's preferences than my vision of a kind of social anarchy occurring post-psycho-phagocytosis as a primary effect on cultural consciousness.

Order is entropy, equilibrium and death. Life is a self-sustaining disequilibria dependent on feedback loops of information. It involves chaos and fractals, which is time staining the eternal...

Personally, I'm on the side of boogie woogie. Occupy your space, be yourself, have fun. And do not cooperate with any authoritarian attitude. Just say no to the drug of corporate acceptability.

Terrify authoritarians with your freedom and celebrate chaos and rejoice at the uncertainty of it all. It will mean you're alive...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10 Simple Demands

The challenge of the moment for the Occupy Wall Street protesters seems to be articulating what it is they want, exactly. Since the Internet’s a virtual suggestion box of nearly infinite capacity, consider these the 10 reforms I think would have the most profound effect on improving the way America goes about its business. I’m sure I’ll see some of you at a protest soon.

The demands:

1. Overturn Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the 1886 Supreme Court decision that allegedly establishes corporations as legal persons. Corporatism isn’t capitalism. It’s more fascist than democratic. And corps definitely aren’t “human.” If they were they’d be diagnosed psychopaths.
2. Overturn all laws, rulings, etc. & et al, that equate the spending of money with free speech.
3. Education, Health Care and basic welfare like food, shelter and clothing are fundamental human rights in the 21st century. Minimal levels of these things must be made available free to all. You want more, work for it. We’ve evolved to a point where that degree of humanity’s necessary…global warming, 7 billion people and counting…Make it happen, or else…
4. End the corporate empire and bring home all the troops from all the bases all over the world and use them to defend our well-being against the various forms of malfeasance perpetrated by global corporate anarchists, primarily ecocide, global warming and nefarious forms of trafficking, as in labor, capital, humans, drugs and guns, etc. & et al.
5. A jubilee on student loans and mortgages.
6. Energy independence in 10 years or bust. That means a solar panel on every building in America. Decrease our dependence on the grid.
7. Scrap all free trade agreements, or at least strip them of all NAFTA Chapter 11 qualities.
8. Break up the biggest, most criminal banks. Adopt a nationwide system of credit unions that governs capital from the local level up to the global, rather than the other way around.
9. Break up Wall Street and rebuild it according to what kind of markets are OK for that kind of speculation, like sports, entertainment, technology, etc., where the competition is clear and exciting and, indeed, just a game.
10. Ban all private money from politics. Elections are financed by taxpayers only and will adhere to strict rules of fairness and truth. Violators will be banned from holding public office or doing business with government, or having any kind of public influence for a time as determined by a judge.

And that’s just a start. I think I wrote at least one column on each of those subjects back in the Bush years. Nobody but my friends Pat and Jared listened back then. Maybe a few more are agreeing with me now. I’m glad. It’s about time. I’m almost hopeful something cool might happen…

See you in the streets.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Artful Rebellion:

The alchemy of tantric-fusion* in 21st Century America

Today we’re going through a transitional phase in human experience where people are less conscious of traditional forms of grammar in their daily routines. That’s because we aren’t as involved with formal reading and writing as we used to be. Listening, speaking and even, of late, recording/viewing has taken precedence. It’s akin to what happened when photography overtook portraiture at the end of the nineteenth century and the way Guttenberg marked the end of oral culture. The difference is the rate at which the change is occurring.

With the advent of Twitter and texting, the evolution of reading-writing language has accelerated in unprecedented ways in an effort to reflect the new media technologies shaping a new form of awareness. Grammars, the ways we describe these new rules of language, are changing at such a rate we can actually observe their evolution and interact with and evolve with them.

The increasing interactivity of media is decreasing the centralization of power, which now evolves too slowly in its administrative dimension to adequately keep up with everything that’s going on. Evolution seams a public-private cooperative affair. Our political-economic systems and cultures may be going through a process of natural de-selection.

Aren’t we forever and always facing extinction? In the end, doesn’t everything succumb to entropy?

The death spasms of authoritarian, which is to say hierarchical political-economies [or the grammars of power] are, unfortunately, too often violent. This conflict between old and new cultures reflects a shift in emphasis away from selfishness and competitive disintegration to a cooperative identity with a “tribal base,” according to Marshall McLuhan, whose work seems to be having something of a revival since its marginalization in the 1980s and 90s. The danger of a tribe-based society, of course, is genocide, where the extermination of weaker tribes is believed integral to the dominant tribe’s security and status. That’s a greed- and fear-oriented evolution and we need to do better than that by being more mindful of our behavior.

In light of this virtually emergent neo-tribalism it might be important to note how much art has in common with shamanism and the way each helps people become more conscious of what they’re doing. Both involve strict ways of freely going about one’s craft, innovating means of becoming the reflection of shifting shapes and changing appearances in an otherwise empty space. I’m thinking in terms of Kurt Vonnegut as a witch doctor…

Perhaps, today’s most relevant art merges private with public knowledge to reveal an evolving psychogeographic system of gist and flow where sentient entities are seduced by their perceived milieux into choosing to believe in their perceptions of what their environments are doing. Maybe art reflects the movement of a public/private mind making love to its surroundings.

But what happens when something new emerges into that environment? How is it incorporated? How is that apparent corporation reflected? How does that reflection appear to a third party? Imagine the art that third party, the next to emerge on the scene, could do? What could it mean to make art that isn’t conceived by you, but still seems to appear only through you? Might that make the artist more than himself? Could self-transcendence happen as a result of his method? What does it feel like going beyond perception? Is it pure vibration? Are there ways of applying language/matter to relay that feeling? Is purity even possible?

I’d like to make three assertions vis-à-vis what I’ll call tantric-fusion art:

1. The desire for significance seams together the pulsating intertext of innovations at the core of any theoretically sufficient art.
2. That artistic invention applies form and content to humankind’s apocalyptic mental existence seems an effect of the artist’s craft.
3. The necessity of art speaks to the otherwise absent meaning—the neverness of truth.

Tantric-fusion art seams reflection to actual feeling throughout the work[s], signifying a specific logical flaw unique to the particular situation as it morphs and evolves through its human cycles.

It’s this flaw that seems the thrill of disequilibria to which one’s response feels automatic.

In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes writes of tmesis as being “…the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of the great narratives.” He continues, suggesting “the layering of significance” is “an introduction to what will never be written.”

It might also be said the very rhythm of what’s perceived and not perceived creates the pleasure of great art, where the layering of significance is an introduction to an artistic move that will never be made.

It is this everness of never that fills the streets with souls rebelling against uncreative, nay-saying ugliness.

We, too, have a say in what’s beautiful and not.


Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who was also a psychoanalyst, lived in the United States and became known as “the Father of Public Relations.”

Horrified by the atrocities of WWII, particularly the Holocaust, he had an idea of civilization where the common man’s perilous sex drive would be fed and exploited by a corporate elite for its own private economic benefit. To get the full grasp of what Bernays wrought on American culture, watch Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self,” a BBC documentary.

But the down and dirty of it is he was the mastermind whose methods produced the spectacle the Situationists rebelled against in the late 60s early 70s, and that seemed to somehow manifest Deleuze and Guattari’s “Body without Organs,” a somewhat older species than Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” but not quite as old as Pierre Tielhard de Chardin’s noosphere. Bernays’ idea was to basically engage in a policy of mass brainwashing as a means to prevent another Holocaust. Centralize power and unite the nation via mass media, but instead of doing it for evil purposes, like the Nazis, do so for good reasons, like making money and opening up the planet for business. And rather than working for just one party, open up the methodology to the entire business class of entrepreneurs with American know-how.

Family, work, consumption would replace race, slavery, genocide. Almost 70 years later and we’re trying to expand the definition of family, put work in the proper perspective and consume less to prevent a resurgence of nationalism and racism, the further acceleration of wage slavery, and the aiding and abetting of suicidal ecocide in the guise of delusional sky god religions. We’ve replaced “colonial” with “corporate” to little advantage.

Some might address this situation by making art that has the same aim as the best journalism, which is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. If it’s true that artists are “the antennae of the race,” as Ezra Pound suggested, and they feel the need to rebel against the humiliations of wage slavery and environmental degradation, etc. & et al, maybe there’s a very deep reason the present situation is no longer tolerable for anyone with an ear or eye or heart for what we bugs are saying. There’s a difference between good and evil that’s self-evident to anyone who’s experienced it.

If art’s truly rebellious, it is so because it reveals a sense of “we are” in a way that isn’t at all proud or falsely humble, but on fire with a need to improve, to reject ugliness and strive after the beautiful.

A revolution, if it were real, might re-cognize beauty as a means of making reality, not as an end in itself. I write, we rebel…to unify and make beautiful what increasingly disintegrates into ugliness.

But fine aspirations deflate behind the masks of their organizations, habits of speech and their evident realization, leaving behind the emptied husks of institutions, conformist discourse and perceived success the way a snake slithers from its skin.

The nihilist wants to clear this debris away so a fresh garden might grow in its place. The nihilist dreams of the day something can be built, when, for a while, people drop their usual intentions for moving and acting, their means of relating, their doings re: toil and relaxation, and feel the pull of the contextualizing topography’s odd magnetism and the actual encounters that might occur there.

Tantric-fusion art involves letting go of one’s self while fully understanding the range of possible behaviors in the responding environment, which seems the very limit of what both mentally attracts and physically repels us. This method might be compared or contrasted to Deleuze and Guatarri’s “Theory of the Derive,” but I’m no expert.

The aim is to transmutate the idiomatic substance of art via the alchemy of tantric-fusion into a new sanity that allows for a more concentrated participation in the world soul’s vitality and experience.

Tantric-fusion plays art in the heart of all primal cultures, springing from the well of life.

*Tantra’s Sanskrit for "loom” and “warp;" the mixing of two root words that means the stretching, extension or expansion of liberation into enlightenment. It’s a vision with heart that embraces everything with cosmic consciousness. Fusion indicates tantra’s effect on multiple entities that fuse or unite, forming the seams of beautiful minds weaving strands of beautifully networked social minds suturing a beautiful planetary mind stitching itself into a beautifully weaving universal consciousness. Tantric-fusion represents the apparent particle/wavelength duality in quantum physics. Ocean is water, but water is not sea. Art seems the natural effect or response to a perceived tantric fusion stimulus. It’s the activity in which beauty can happen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Revolutionize the Boot Stamping News Media!

[Note: It’s from watching supposedly liberal shows on MSNBC and observing how, as part of the spectacle, they try to make sense of and commodify what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street crowd that I’ve come to the sad realization they don’t get what’s happening, that people are beginning to wake up to the fact fundamental systemic change is necessary. This is one example of what I’m talking about. This type of pro-corporate re-framing and de-contextualization of issues prompted me to re-post this rant from seven years ago, which first appeared in Dissident Voice.]

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Bob Dylan’s right. The pump don’t work cause the vandals took the handle. That was 40 years ago, but it’s still a contemporary analogy. The "pump" is democracy, the "vandals" are corporations, and "handle," of course, is the free press.

Robert Kane Pappas, director of Orwell Rolls in His Grave, could have used that metaphor in his documentary, if he wished, but didn’t need to. Instead, by mapping how the mainstream news media distort reality by projecting what’s important to their corporate owners, Pappas reveals that American culture has become a world of Orwellian doublespeak in which Big Brother is the political-corporate elite.

But alas, as these first two paragraphs show, the crisis these United States now face is the latest version of the malevolence that has plagued humankind throughout the ages, but most hideously during the last century. Those opposing it struggle against bureaucracy, centralization, privatization, incorporation, colonialism, consumption, hero worship, stupidity, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, bullying, blind emotion, obscene spectacle, nationalism, ubiquitous vanity, greed, the psychopathy of totalitarianism and the neuroses of slavery, wages paid or not. And finally, they—we—struggle against our own goddamned hubris.

We’re now under siege by an enemy from within: "patriotic" right-wing Americans, about 99 percent white, who celebrate all of the above. You know them as the folks who exercise their right to consume without giving anything back to the earth because they’re rugged individuals, who experience road rage while driving monster trucks, revere strength and respect aggression, who value security ahead of freedom, cheer on wars as long as they have the advantage, and masturbate to Hip Hop videos once their "loved" ones have gone to bed. They’re NASCAR and football and hockey fans who vote Republican and identify with the manipulation of speed and the necessity of collision as rudiments of their rough and tumble daily lives, while lacking any sense of the "big picture," opting instead for a literal faith in a Jesus they know nothing about and some dreamy concept of their imminent rapture before the looming apocalypse. These are the ingrates running America against the backdrop of an ever-increasing morbidity rate within the planet’s ecosystem that’s being catalyzed by humankind’s lizard brain impulses toward greed, power and gluttony.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there’s also the geo-political realities of peak oil brewing beneath the veneer of the corporate sponsored spectacle called "prime time." There’s a big die-off underway, but it has no entertainment value. It can’t be consumed because it’s consuming us.

The question is: How did America take this insanely selfish hard right turn?


In George Orwell’s time as a writer (1930-50), the global enemy was fascism, particularly Nazism. A world war was waged, and the side that was defending itself won. An aftershock of this war was the emergence of the postmodern military-industrial complex. The premier newsman of the day was Edward R. Murrow.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell’s 1949 novel, strips naked the duplicity of a meddling, bureaucratized state symbolized by "Big Brother," which has invented "newspeak," a form of language intended to obscure truth. A year later, in "Politics and the English Language," Orwell directly links the corruption of language to authoritarianism. Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. Confucius, when asked what his first official act would be if he were made emperor of China, answered: "Rectify the language."

Orwell was intellectually and morally offended when confronted with totalitarianism in the form of Stalinist Russia, which he dramatized in his most popular novel among Americans, Animal Farm. But he was also a soldier against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, and was wounded by communists during a power struggle among the antifascist opposition groups. So, yes, his antipathy for communism was personal and well documented. But he had been allied with them in the initial fight against fascism.

According to the New York Times’ original review of Nineteen Eighty-Four, British socialism annoyed Orwell, which the reviewer, not Orwell, described as a "drab gray pall" that had been cast over post-war Britain. It wasn’t the years of bombing, of course, that had caused the malaise, but the political-economic system! The U.K. was rebuilding its war-ravaged cities, and its government took a socialist approach because its shell-shocked, grief-stricken citizenry needed help, and lacked the energy and preternatural desire to be "bastions of freedom," as they had, as people, given up on colonialism. U.S. cities, however, due to their geographical isolation from the rest of the world (with more tombs and monuments, broken hearts, single women, and men with missing limbs and shattered minds being their only palpable testimony to the war that had just occurred), and allegedly having long rebounded from the Great Depression thanks to the "socialist" policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the refined petroleum-, chemical- and nuclear-based military-industrial machine that emerged during the war effort, were booming. Though some "experts" were predicting a return to the Depression as a perverse peace dividend, and so promoted the need to maintain FDR’s social programs, most saw the way to keep going was to keep growing, which meant producing and consuming ever greater quantities of a limited variety of products derived from limited, non-renewable resources. Consumption became patriotic as it drove the defense industry during an arms race with the Godless communists.

The Soviet Union was the needed external enemy of the capitalist west, so federal budgets remained on a wartime footing and strategies for dismantling the New Deal began among the nation’s hawks behind closed doors. To them, the New Deal was socialism, of course, and social-ism was one step away from communism. They worshipped individual-ism, and found the concept of social Darwinism to be self-evident. Privatization, predation, colonialism and empire, thus, were natural, universal urges of all men and shouldn’t be tampered with, despite all the evidence to the contrary among our closest allies. Again, America’s detachment from the rest of the world was the source of its increasingly pathological desire for the "good life."

Though the Times’ 1949 review is favorable, it’s too quick to point out socialism as the primary source of Orwell’s frustration with the British political-economic system’s constitutional monarchy bolstered by socialized industry. Simply put, the American review emphasized that part of the novel which the reviewer perceived as bolstering the cause of capitalism against the godless commies, in other words, confirmed "his" worldview, rather than looking at it as the way such a system works regardless of the ism it claims to be adhering to.

Newspeak, modeled on the rising jargon of the U.K.’s bureaucratic establishment, intended to make sure "there will be no tools for thinking outside the concepts provided by the state," which is controlled by a single party whose membership comprises a small minority of the population. The party’s leadership, of course, is the only "free" segment of society. The masses are slaves of conformity, producing and consuming with no concept of what they’re really doing. The "proles," as Orwell calls them, are led into materialistic wantonness for Big Brother’s benefit. The party leadership, of course, lead "chaste" lives enforced by the "Anti-Sex League." "Thought Police" monitor the most intimate details of party members’ lives using high tech surveillance. What was private is now public. They are free of secrets, existing in non-celebrity fish bowls.

By focusing on a minor figure within the ruling party, a man whose job it is to expunge historical facts from the record that subvert the politically expedient "truth" of the moment, Orwell brilliantly constructs the legalese and methods of what the party has deemed "thought crimes," its devious political-economy and celebration of the Hobbesian worldview of nature being a state of eternal warfare, where life is short, brutish and simple (if you’re weak). The ruling party’s number one purpose, therefore, is to crush any meaningful or true concept of individual identity. By doing so, disorder ends and everything runs efficiently—a well-oiled machine. Say what you will, but your favorite show is always there for you when you need it, just like Mussolini made the trains run on time.

Indeed, power and the desire for order and efficiency lead to the usurpation of humankind’s higher ideals. Absolutely. And which is the most "powerful" nation in the world with the most puffed-up, unrealistic vision of itself and its role in the universe? Simply put, which nation’s citizens are fondest of chanting "We’re number one!" and "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!?"

Hint: It’s not Canada.


When Dylan wrote the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues between 1963 and 1965, most Americans, himself and his fans particularly, had been deeply affected by global events since 1962.

First was the threat of nuclear annihilation that had been brought home by the Cuban missile crisis, which was nearing its third anniversary. Next was the looming second anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Third was the murder of civil rights activists and church bombings in the South, especially Mississippi and Alabama, which had put the nation on edge. Fourth was America’s growing entanglement in the Vietnam War, thanks to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution concocted by the Johnson administration and authorized by Congress over the previous summer. Fifth was a sea change in American popular culture. Gone were the days of Fabian, Pat Boone and Frankie Avalon. Elvis was starting to make B-movies for the colonel. Rock-n-Roll was becoming more a British art form than American—with one major exception—as America’s stature and popularity suffered around the world. Fear ruled the day, and one had to be a sworn anti-communist to get anywhere in politics, business or the arts. Those people who were sensitive to the above issues and celebrated the fact the world was entering an era of great upheaval, unlike most Americans who just wanted all the crap to stop, were subjected to blacklisting and worse. The military-industrial complex was having its way with the federal budget, treating Congress like a cheap date, and quickly incorporating itself as a political-economic necessity for the nation’s survival. America’s top journalist was Walter Cronkite, who was branded "the most trusted man in America." And what was good for General Motors was good for all of us.

Dylan, like Jack Kerouac a decade before, was rebelling against the closing of the American road; and, like Thoreau ten decades before that, he was raging against the loss of the commons. Dylan was, like America itself, at a transitional moment, on the cusp of either being shackled and caged by the political-economic culture, or escaping from it. The bridge back was gone. New bridges needed building, and a powerful counterculture was born.

In the program of his 1964 Halloween Concert, Dylan had written a message, "Advice for Geraldine on her Miscellaneous Birthday," which open with these caustic commandments and critical response: "stay in line. stay in step. People are afraid of someone who is not in step with them. it makes them look foolish t' themselves for being in step. it might even cross their minds that they themselves are in the wrong step."

Indeed, the times were changing, but few realized just how much, or understood what the changes really were.

The 1970s saw Watergate, the fall of Saigon, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, oil embargoes, deep recession and the huge growth of cable television and the large corporations that profited from it. There was also disco. The decade pretty much sucked.

Suffering from a nationwide malaise, the discontented proles elected Ronald Reagan president, and a new day dawned in America. Especially for the military-industrial complex, which began transforming itself into a postmodern military-petroleum complex, cheered on by a news media that it began buying up in huge chunks.

Most were proud to be an American, where at least they "knew" they were "free." One of the most popular bumper stickers of the decade was, ironically, "I owe, I owe, So off to work I go." Good Americans were not allowed to view themselves as wage slaves, being imbued with Anglo-Puritan values no matter their race, ethnicity or gender. America was allegedly a classless society because anyone could rise to the top and acquire privileges. The separation between rich and poor began expanding, and the corporate media succeeded in getting the masses to not only go along, but cheer the advancements of the upper class. Everyone dreamed of living a lifestyle of the rich and famous, where they would be on TV every day.

Somewhere along the line, these poor, uneducated fools—most of us suckers (we’re born again every minute)—got totally ripped off.
Today, a full two decades beyond Orwell’s prophesied year, 1984, we have a war on two abstract nouns—terrorism and evil. We have a corporate government that was able to write and pass a law (the PATRIOT Act), several hundred pages long, allegedly in a matter of days, that the "legislators" never read. It essentially weakened the rights of human beings and increased government power, which is essentially privatized. No child is being left behind and Bill O’Reilly is the nation’s top TV news personality, running a "no spin zone" for cognitively dissonant Neanderthals.

In Orwell Rolls in His Grave, Pappas has provocative answers to questions most people will never hear directed to the corporate news media: Are Americans pathologically detached from reality thanks to corporate manipulation and censorship of news? Isn’t it ironic that in an era when there are more news sources than ever before, regular folks are less and even misinformed because the "news" is owned and operated by fewer and fewer corporate persons with ever more convergent viewpoints?

"We falsely think of our country as a democracy when it has evolved into a mediacracy—where a media that is supposed to check political abuse is part of the political abuse," says Danny Schecter, an author and filmmaker whose latest project is Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the War on Iraq, one of the documentary’s many talking heads.

Another, Mark Crispin Miller, a media professor at New York University, describes how the corporate media now vie with the government for control over our lives: "They are not a healthy counterweight to government. Goebbels said that what you want in a media system—he meant the Nazi media system—Is to present the ostensible diversity that conceals an actual uniformity."

This practice results in a revolving door between private profiteering and "public service" among the political-economic elite, which is simply accepted as a fact of life among most of the exploited majority, who are dreaming that some day they or their descendants will join the privileged class.

In one of this outstanding film’s truly funny moments, liberal culture critic Michael Moore is delivering an impassioned speech to an unseen, but sympathetic audience. Waving his arms in the air, his face flush with frustration as he imagines what people 100 years hence will think of us while studying the records we’ve left behind, shouts: "The top 1 percent that controls the top 90 percent of the wealth have two major political parties doing their bidding for them, and the other 99 percent have NO political party representing them and NO representation in Congress and yet that 99 percent ran around saying, `we’re free, we’re free, we live in a democracy.’ Ooh, we’re gonna look like assholes."

According to Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity, and author of The Buying of the President 2004: Who’s Really Bankrolling Bush and his Democratic Challengers—and What They Expect in Return: "People sense, I think, that the financial elites and the political elites have become one in the same and that the people themselves have no voice in Washington, or in their state capitols, that they are somehow being left behind—The gate keepers of the truth are not the reporters, they are the owners and the lackey editors who work for the owners and they’ll decide what flies and what works and what pays the freight in terms of advertising and the numbers."

"To remove controversy from story selection," says Robert McChesney, "there becomes a tremendous reliance on official sources. It means those people in power, political power or business power are the sort of assignment editors. What they want to talk about becomes news. If they agree they don’t want to debate something—like the CIA—it’s virtually impossible to introduce it as a story. The media companies are extremely successful because they actually control the means by which the public can learn about debates. Exxon would love to own the media, or Philip Morris, so any debate over cigarettes has to go through them."

Of course, corporate lackeys inside government—like FCC Chairman Michael Powell, a Republican and son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, and another Republican FCC commissioner, Kathleen Abernathy, whose Congressional testimony footage Pappas uses brilliantly—are ensuring such corporations as General Electric, which owns NBC, and media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, not only have the right to invest in mass media, but also to expand their ownership and control over public communication without any oversight.

Powell, a clueless beneficiary of nepotism, patronage and phony political affirmative action, tells a committee on Capitol Hill that he has "no idea who is celebrating our decision [regarding the further deregulation of media concentration rules]."

Abernathy was even more insane or disingenuous, whichever you prefer: "What you have to balance is the first amendment rights of the licensees [media corporations] against the rights of the public to have diversity, localism and competition."

Of course, the feelings of corporations as living, breathing legal persons, must be considered. Balancing the "right" of the rich to make an obscene profit from others with the poor’s right to survive according to their own means is only humane, right?

At the FCC’s public announcement of further media deregulation last June, Pappas captures what is perhaps Orwell’s most poignant moment, Democratic commissioner Michael Copps’ dissenting opinion:

"Today the FCC empowers America’s media elite with unacceptable levels of influence over the ideas and information upon which our society and democracy depend.... I see centralization [on further media concentration], not localism. I see uniformity, not diversity. I see monopoly and oligopoly, not competition."

During an interview, Pappas said he was drawn to Orwell for two basic reasons: the first being the way the latest news story, both in 1984 and the present situation, flushes the item preceding it down a memory hole; and the second, of course, being the abuse of language.

By using officially sanctioned "experts" and hiring the most marketable "moderator," corporations are controlling our nation’s public discussion, according to Pappas. Corporations are playing smoke and mirrors with their imagined target audiences, focusing their attention briefly on one product and then another, then more snippets of infotainment until the targeted audience is totally mesmerized and self-deluded. Despite their technical ability to do so brilliantly, corporate journalists (i.e. wage slaves) never connect any dots, as to do so would prove their insanity and unmarketability as "conspiracy theorists."

Pappas monitored corporate journalism, analyzing it closely over an extended period of time while researching the film, and became increasingly alarmed by the current shape and course of America’s ever-changing democracy:

"Watching the news over the last several years more carefully, I realized that complicated stories or concepts are boiled down to short `tag lines’ so the public's understanding of it is diminished. This euphemistic use of language turns everything into either a two-word marketing phrase, something is named the opposite of what it means. By lying first, or misnaming something first, you can define how people think about it, and quite strikingly.

"It’s so ubiquitous—the mass news media, and the mass media in general—that the public consciousness really is affected. It influences the way people look at things; it’s incredible how confused they are. The general public only hears around the edges of stories. They have the collective ability to remember what happened six months ago, but the ability to make any kind of connections seems to be diminished.

"When watching TV news, you notice there are polls for everything. We hear about these things called focus groups. The way they sell us anything—which car we’re going to buy, what cereal we eat—the same exact techniques are used for politics, and for grouping the population very specifically, like you’re trying to sell them something. You massage it with the right words and focus-group those words. You can see how dangerous that is when it’s purposely used to manipulate a population."

In Orwell, Pappas shows how he came to this conclusion, interviewing industry insiders and scholars, and interspersing their running commentary with documentary footage focusing on the complicity of the corporate media with a government that’s doing their bidding.

"People don’t understand how overwhelmingly important that point is," he said.

In the film, Pappas shows a cross-ownership chart of media, and how five or six corporations own literally everything. The mass media is an oligopoly and its strongest players are trying to monopolize the market, which it already is in far too many cities and towns across America.
Media corporations feel that the public airwaves are up for sale, just like everything else.
When are we, the flesh and blood human beings of America and the world, going to say enough is enough?

Gimme Back My Handle
We need to revolutionize the boot stamping corporate news media before anything else can be accomplished. After all, the role of the news media is to educate people so they can behave as responsible citizens in a functioning democracy.

Just ask Rep. Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont and author of Outsider in the House, who ominously tells the camera that we "have reached the stage in American politics where the issue is not a debate over ideas. The issue is whether ideas at all matter."

In most corporate newsrooms, those who think ideas are important are an increasingly marginalized minority. They are being driven out of their jobs by their corporate employers’ pursuit of ever-higher profit margins.

A personal anecdote: I used to be a reporter/columnist for a small town, corporate-owned newspaper. I was very outspoken and my skeptical eye toward those in power infected some of my co-workers. For a short while, we did a good job covering issues like racism, nepotism and other forms of public corruption. Circulation began rising, but alas, the business community rebelled. Increased circulation means nothing if your pool of targeted advertisers won’t do business with you. So, being a corporation, and bound by law to turn a profit for shareholders, the newspaper must change its editorial content to please the chamber of commerce.

Employees who want to investigate injustice are told to shut up or go away. Some choice. Unfortunately, there are hundreds if not thousands of unpaid journalists out here who are just like me.

As I noted earlier, the tradition that Orwell Rolls in His Grave adheres to is one that rebels against the elimination of other possibilities and better alternatives, which rages against the mechanical privatization and development of an Earth commonly owned by all of its inhabitants—from the tiniest microbe to Gaia herself.

The counterculture that was launched by the Beats and the events of the 1960s is due for resurrection. We’ve spent our three days in Hell staring down the Beast, and have survived to bear witness to it.

Our season is arriving.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I don't think of my synapse metaphor as dis-embodied any more than the electric signal between neurons [in the synapse] has escaped the neurological system, or has escaped my body, but rather in terms of spandrels, which is a cognate term between evolution and architecture, a branching off that's still attached, signifying an evolving complexity that produces arbitrary forms which seem to serve no purpose in the overall systemic structure of its native environment....analogous to the human mind being a byproduct of evolutionary forces that seam a “spandrel” which seems to be evolving the means of linking up with other “spandrels,” finding a way to make themselves functional within the overall life system, which somehow becomes dependent on spandrels seaming spandrels at a particular point in imagined time. …the struggle is to overcome the babel...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


My first novel, Smoke, has joined my second novel, So It Seams, on Amazon's Kindle. I may need to get one of these doohickeys before long...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Roy Buchanan, Roy's Bluz (Live 1976), Austin

I first heard of Roy Buchanan from my late friend, Kevin Henning, back in the mid-1980s. We spent hours listening to Buchanan play through the Peavy speakers in his basement. I've never heard anyone play guitar like this, and I'm always surprised by how few younger musicians have ever even heard of him. Buchanan should go viral among guitar players, in my opinion.
Also, check out "The Messiah Will Come Again." I flashback to driving along the Niagara Escarpment one afternoon in the 1980s...this on with snow blowing over the road. It would make a great soundtrack for a film...a sci-fi spaghetti western, perhaps.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


An anxiety arising from constant uncertainty seems to be an intrinsic element in the emotional tide of people these days. Therefore, it seems to me, an artist might try to make an aesthetic of uncertainty as a way of inoculating one’s psyche against it, much like the way a vaccine works. If one can begin seeing the beauty and even humor in knowing you don’t actually know what’s going on, the anxiety slides away. If anything, that’s been a big part of my fiction: An attempt to play with the fire that seems both solid and vaporous.

If I must be Mr. Jones, I don’t want to lose my sense of humor about it.

One of the key elements, it seems to me, in dealing with this uncertainty-driven anxiety is to examine the errors we’re all constantly making. To begin this examination, I’ve come up with 10 levels of oops:

1. Premeditated with a good, yet surprising result.
2. Premeditated with a surprisingly bad result.
3. Intentional, but not premeditated with a good result.
4. Intentional, but not premeditated with a bad result.
5. Happily unintentional, resulting from a conscious reflex [one’s aware of it as it happens].
6. Sadly unintentional, resulting from a conscious reflex.
7. Happily unintentional, resulting from an unconscious reflex [one’s unconscious of it as it happens].
8. Sadly unintentional, resulting from an unconscious reflex, yet totally unaware that anything’s happened.
9. The oblivious, resulting from an unconscious reflex action to unconsciously perceived stimuli.
10. The nonplussed/uncertain, resulting from a chaotic mishmash of conscious and unconscious, premeditation and reflex.

It seems to me that the last is the most common, but that’s what I’m most aware of as a conscious human being. When you think about it, number nine greatly outnumbers number 10, perhaps by the same ratio as the numbers differentiating conscious from unconscious actions. It also seems to me one might try this as a loose framework for writing comedies of errors, something I’ve been experimenting with a little, but not too much…yet.

Please comment if you’re so inclined. None of this is set in stone and I just wrote it down longhand off the top of my head this morning while defragging.

Anyway…what do you think?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TALKING WITH JARED: insight incite in-sight in cite

Me to Jared Schickling

I never really understood fully what So It Seams is "about" until the last 48-72 hours. Cleaning out the verb “to be,” alternative use of quotation marks that constantly bring into question the reality/actuality of other named realities, etc., has led me to the clearer message/vision my subconscious mind was writing all along. Typed below are a few things I've written down longhand that I think may be "necessary" to a more pleasurable reading today as opposed to tomorrow...

Please indulge this because I don't intend to discuss this book or Smoke much more after this. I'm taking a very lengthy hiatus from writing. I feel like being very quiet and returning to Nature. I'm also sending this to myself, saving it in my "one of those" file...


If, in some magical year I find myself working adequately on three different levels, each dimension comprising four parts, dimensions vertically and aspects horizontally arranged, yet visible diagonally in multiple directions and patterns with possibly everything seaming itself to potentially perceivable actualities, I would make these things—my word-beings—visible as phase space trajectories careening through and across and over and under and between and among my various event horizons...which I call "texts." The "reader" then functions as their black hole...the writer-text's death/birth...gateway to life...another mind. The page is a membrane of the black hole that is you, reading...

You are me living that situation, and I am you living this one, meaning the apparently private verbness of existing.

Heaven might be in black and white, a geometric humanity in Nature, approaching the fog under the chaos of striated angelic limbs...a moist vague distance inviting...whereas Hell might seem the essence of feeling stuck in this geometry, worshipped for your absence of motion, your frozen solidity where everything seems logically lit from below; also lacking sine, cosine and tangent...no ships on the horizon.

SIS is another world, an alternate-adjacent universe sharing a membrane with what we perceive as their universe or world. Its existence is downstream from its bifurcation from this apparent world [hence the odd use of quotation marks and italics]. It's a time and place in which, at least, some "humans" are beginning to evolve in a direction shared more with bonobos than chimpanzees. What is absent from their "sex" is "human" emotion...the word-beings are chimps crossing over or going under to the more beautiful essence of their inner bonobo. Its world emerged or bloomed from Smoke.

The fundamental aesthetic, its underlying principle, seems uncertainty; and a kind of polisexuality or pansexuality promising a different kind of certitude.

Jared Schickling to me

OK, I'll indulge it, now. First thought best thought, as you say.

First, the thing recognizable as "for us tomorrow" is, to certain ones, today's pleasure.

What you write here is readable, successfully rendered, in SIS, as well as in Smoke. The intentions of your novels are not opaque. For the interested reader of your novels it's less issues of "getting it" than....

"If, in some magical year I find myself working adequately on three different levels, each dimension comprising four parts, dimensions vertically and aspects horizontally arranged, yet visible diagonally in multiple directions and patterns with possibly everything seaming itself to potentially perceivable actualities, I would make these things—my word-beings—visible as phase space trajectories careening through and across and over and under and between and among my various event horizons...which I call 'texts.'"

I hear context, structure, situation, frames, angles of perception, and any number of these occurring as the singularity or plurality of any other singularity or plurality. Relations and constitutions. The flux of that.

"Heaven might be in black and white, a geometric humanity in Nature, approaching the fog under the chaos of striated angelic limbs...a moist vague distance inviting...whereas Hell might seem the essence of feeling stuck in this geometry, worshipped for your absence of motion, your frozen solidity where everything seems logically lit from below; also lacking sine, cosine and tangent...no ships on the horizon."

"Logically lit from below" : "the earth is my body, my head's in the stars " (Maude to Harold)

The structural aspect of being—and the structure of collapsing and reforming and collapsing, too—alongside, complicit with, the experiential. We are certainly in sight of romance (the romantic imagination not the pretty thing we think—shadows, nightmares, Coleridge's hacking cough, Ruskin's Scandinavian Grotesque) when talking "essence."

"The 'reader' then functions as their black hole...the writer-text's death/birth...gateway to life...another mind. The page is a membrane of the black hole that is you, reading..."

Your texts invite and depend upon our participation. The idea is not new, of course. Your terms and way of describing the process, degrees determined by the context(s) in which the terms appear, are, perhaps. If this is true, then how are we talking more than aesthetics, at least in terms of the text to be written on the page? (No derision; perhaps aesthetics deserves more than we're prone to allow it.) More broadly, are we talking about the death of the text—an unheard of idea—dissolving the boundaries between text and reader and world (and for the hell of it, author) BACK into a space in which each actually involves and looks to the other in order that....

What I'm suggesting is that you describe, insightfully, in addition to your own concerns in your writing and reading, my own. And, as the above suggests, I'm inclined to see that description giving something not new. The structure of the thought seems almost ancient. It's the lyrical interference—not the lyric I, but lyrical interference—the lushness of your sentences, some have said, and I'd add, the particularity of your terms—that somehow recasts the old terms in ways that seem accurate and useful. If this is true, then I'm curious to know where you go from there. For me, this rather obviously turns into a question of song—a catch-all category for such phenomena as myth—more than what is it, why does it persist? How, more precisely? (perhaps you've already described it! Elliptical poetics—not mere solipsism) It's not a human failing as much as it's human being. Why and how are stories still so freakin necessary? This seams a reflection of your heaven-hell question (I'm calling it a question)

Chuck Richardson to Jared

You got it. And where do I take it from here? The very first sentence of Objective 13: The Panspermian Apocalypse:

“I am the Messiah...”

The rest will be a deconstruction of a messiah complex to an absolutely absurd level. I'm going to be totally fucking serious. The more serious I am, the funnier it will be. And in the end, the reader will have laughed his or her way through a cosmic journey and say, you know what, "he" just might be the Messiah, but then again there's no "he," no "Messiah," and that's the messianic energy...in other words the text sets you free...laughtrature as Federman said...i don't give a damn about originality per se so much as trust it, know it will come out in the due course of things. the process one might concentrate on hardest is how to stay out of the way and not worry about saying anything yourself.

I'm relieved you get it. Anyway...

Jared Schickling to me

I think you're right on in the process, your closing remark. I think the "originality" does come out, on its own. Without revisiting the reasons for saying so, the terms in which you house the old ideas make for new terms. Specifically, I see the relegation of all to word-beings and texts as a dehumanizing practice – while the life prioritized and artistically discovered / rendered in the nonhuman (speaking animals, shapeshifting rocks, unpronouncable rivers, interstellar gases) revises our understanding of the "human" via the fact of the text(s), bringing the whole thing full-circle. Something like that.

It would be absurd. (in Harold and Maude, they use the word "absurd" twice in the first twenty minutes; saw it the other night, so can't help myself)

The way you describe Messiah sounds like Nietzsche's Zarathustra. Which, I think, is the "upward" way of dehumanizing. You either see through to "god is dead," or you wind up a Nazi, or squeaky clean in the Clearing's dasein. Forms of its truth's risk.

Chuck Richardson to Jared

you're right, though i prefer the term "inhumanize" or “transhuman” [in Robinson Jeffers’ sense] over "dehumanize." for some goddamned reason i have a need to overturn or underturn or just downright confuse the "common" "human" definitions for "human." To "de-humanize" seems to carry too much ugly baggage. Whereas "transhumanize" seems a more accurate description of the self situated where ever. Nothing original in this. Jeffers and Gary Snyder are where I first came across this "etymology" or whatever, somewhere in that neighborhood. It's not so much about humiliating homo sapiens sapiens as reminding him-her s/he's not the center of the universe so much as a symptom of it...in that we think and make things we are symptoms of God...As in Rumi, perhaps, It's mind seaming its mind minding Its seams sensing Itself as "I," him, her, me, you, us, It...swirling into perceivably Arabesque patterns displaying recursive symmetries across scale, not only making language possible but necessary, essential...part of the divine vibration that makes us feel something. And before Jeffers and Snyder I think Thoreau and Melville and Homer knew it, too. i think it's very "greek," pre-socratic. heraclitus. fire and numbers...mayan, shinto...egyptian, etc. & et al. [not of indo-european origin]...

you're right in part about zarathustra. i finally got through it all and the only way i could was deciding to laugh at nietzsche, or maybe with him, i'm still conflicted over that. it truly is quite "aryan" and i can see how his greedy idiot sister and Nazis abused it. it must be read as satire, as must Sade, or one falls into a pit of revulsion re: the "author." at least i do. the better the author the more i want to kick the shit out of him or her, as the case may be. i feel the same derision toward thus spake as i did atlas shrugged when i read that 25 years ago...

re: Objective 13's "I am the messiah," think of ignatius reilly on steroids with cancer, three stooges pornography for the chirren, a queer teddy roosevelt driving home the great white empire...all of them echoing Quixote on a "dead souls" mission across time and space...episodic pointilism...minimalism...connect-the-dot quasi-neo-naturalism, where the sounds of sentences in a paragraph seem like unseen birds calling in the forest...

what do i fucking know? i only have a bachelor's degree from a public university. i work in a group home. i live in lockport. my name is chuck...

Jared Schickling to me


There’s a mouse living @
home behind the dials, inside our stove
Because the stovetop’s where we keep
leftover bacon grease


But me modifier poorly no
uns, enduring this
Voice in my ear
both ears, no credit


For getting the right answer
the wrong way, they’re 6th graders
It’s much easier to find idiots among poets than

Jared Schickling to me

lest you assume the worst about the poem forwarded, i started a new job recently, at Measured Progress, scoring 6th grade tests from Massachusetts.

Chuck Richardson to Jared

No. Not assuming anything. I like them. They make quick points. Great starters for good conversations. You make enough of them you can organize them into a big picture. In fact, I think it's very important to be able to just come right out and say it the way sixth graders can, getting it right the wrong way. These tiny pieces each have much to say, and if poetry is to have any "social" value today I think it has to fit into the openings of whatever's left...something quickly consumed giving the consumer a dose of profundity in their otherwise harried life...And that's not a put down. I'd love it if my best sentences appeared on the sides of buses and trains around the world, and people without thinking about it read them and began thinking a certain way...judo against the corporate structure...make the system of signs consume something that purges it of its bathwater, bucket by bucket, pail by pale, impaling itself, etc., as millions of people say to themselves "I am the messiah."

No, good work. And I'm glad you've got some income.

I'm very much looking forward to my road trip to Maine this summer. I've begun mapping it out and it's one of the main drives I've always planned on taking [sic]...along Lake Ontario to St. Lawrence River over to Vermont across northern Vermont along Quebec border to Maine then through the heart of the state southeastward. No tolls, no highways, 608 miles, 13-14 hours drive time. I plan to drive about four hours a day then stop at a bed & breakfast and relax and explore. Then when I get to your place I'll do the "The Maine Woods" thing, pretend I'm Thoreau, heal wounded moose, grieve life on Ktaadn, etc. & et al., and see you guys a bit, too. But no, this IS the vacation I wanted...that I need, a seam of necessity...

The deep contradiction of someone like me with my beliefs taking a "road trip" while the Gulf of Mexico gradually transmogrifies into a tar pit is not lost on me, nor is the fact I gain great pleasure from anticipating my gleeful participation in the ongoing ecocide, perversely toying with that which I'm killing...all so I can fucking write better before I die and become nothing again...big deal, eh?

It seems being alive is perverse, a required perversion...being truly conscious is knowing one's self a pervert, that is a perverter of what was into what is and might well be some day...

Final thought: Most Americans are not smarter than a fifth grader, but you're grading sixth graders. You must be pretty smart, relatively speaking...;)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ron Paul, Libertarianism & Corporate Personhood

My friend, the "Renaissance Man*" Mike Bermel Jr., told me at his high school graduation party last weekend that I had "lied" to him about Ron Paul because I said Ron Paul was a corporate libertarian, which meant he wasn't really a populist since a corporate libertarian works against the liberties of flesh and blood persons. In other words, Ayn Rand-fan Ron Paul wasn't the kind of populist libertarian Mike thought he was in my opinion. I re-iterated this position, but Mike remained skeptical, so I decided to look up, once again, Paul's position on corporations.

Here's an excerpt from my e-mail to Mike today:

"In case you haven't done it yet, I've done it for you. I Googled 'ron paul corporate personhood,' and this is what came up:


"If he's against corporate personhood, why the silence? What game is Ron Paul playing?

"I figure if I simply ask questions, it will be hard for you to accuse me of lying...which is a redundancy ignorant of the writer's paradox: 'all writers are liars; I am a writer.' The moment one speaks, one lies. Some Buddhists consider all language profane. Remember the Buddha's "Flower Sermon." That's why it's almost impossible to speak sufficiently when discussing politics, which is a charade of lies. All serious conversation must, therefore, be blatantly abstract, which is to say intellected [sic] fantasy...and to the actual point from something real, which is to say adequately mental [reality and actuality are two different things, reality being of one's mind and actuality being of things in themselves; reality, therefore, is always an opinionated clusterfuck of conspiratorial fictions manifesting themselves in the political-economy, aesthetics, etc. & et al]. The best we can do these days is 'keep our eyes wide as the chance won't come again...'"
Nonetheless, the question remains: Does Ron Paul Value the Freedoms of Flesh & Blood Humans More Than The Liberties of Corporations? What's the answer?
I'm not sure.
*Mike Jr. played saxophone, drums and guitar with his Dad's band, The Frame, Saturday, as well as performed lead vocals on a Tragically Hip tune whose title I forget [about cleaning an orca tank at Marineland]. He's going to college to study computers. He's fascinated by physics. Loves literature. Is leaning toward Buddhism. Seems spiritually and philosophically inclined...outgoing and very, very curious. The list goes on...

Monday, July 11, 2011

So It Seams on Kindle

Geoffrey Gatza, publisher of BlazeVox[books], made the exciting announcement today that 30 BlazeVox titles are now available on Kindle, with many more going up soon. He also said titles will be appearing soon on iTunes, whatever that is...

Among the titles offered: First Baby Poems by Anne Waldman, Slaves to Do These Things by Amy King, To Be Sung by Michael Kelleher, The Carcasses: A Fable by Raymond Federman, Secrets of My Prision House by Geoffrey Gatza, For the Ordinary Artist Short Reviews, Occasional Pieces and More by Bill Berkson.

And oh yeah, So It Seams is one of the 30 titles. You can get it here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

TALKING WITH JARED: On Some Living Works By Dead Writers [and some politics, too]

Chuck Richardson to Jared Schickling

i've just put ballard at the top of my "to read" pile. ted pelton sent me some sweet stuff in the mail, including a first-edition of Zachary Mason's Lost Tales of the Odyssey that's selling for $180 on e-bay right now, making the point that buying independent books is something of an investment game...


and a very interesting selection of articles which i intend to read for their contributions to aesthetics...


jared schickling to me

Thanks for the links.

I was reading Olson's Call Me Ishmael and this turned up, I think it makes for a hell of a blurb. If you're in agreement, we should go with this one:

"'A reality equivalent to his own penetration of reality had not come into being in his time,' Olson.
--Jared Schickling"

Or we could just delete the attribution to Olson and go with the quote, which is actually a bit of a misquote as I've kept the bracket-palimpsests but deleted the brackets. The actual quote and full context is from Merton Sealts's Afterword to the book, speaking I think merely to Olson's accounting of the unsalable White Whale:

"Its concluding paragraph, where Olson finds Melville's impressive achievement ultimately limited because 'a reality equivalent to [his] own penetration of reality had not come into being in [his] time,' anticipates the thesis of his third review of recent publications on Melville: 'Equal, That Is, to the Real Itself.'"

I've heard along the way that some say there's nothing in American lit after Moby-Dick that Moby-Dick didn't already do. The longer I turn to that work the more I think that could be true. And the funny thing, that book's a mess. The narrative is, mechanically, completely unbelievable, unaccountably shifting in and out of third-person omniscience and first-person, first-hand account. How can you hear Stubbs's maniacal whispers three boats away? But such is the whim of the book is thrilling, it's so grand beyond its borders. Beckett might present a unique case re originality but I don't know enough of him. And Richardson confounds me, not completely, but enough to trouble anything I read in it, hence the suggestion of this as blurb.

I'm reading Jean Toomer's Cane presently. Something about sex...

What's that Mason's Odyssey about? I'll be chasing the dead for some time now, I know that. This one sounds interesting -- and admittedly it's the price tag it's bearing -- someone apparently thinks well enough of it. Is it a relatively new book? If so the only other I can think of in my lifetime that sold out its first print run copies of which went for hundreds was Myung Mi Kim's Dura, a circumstance that wasn't lying. Dura's in some ways a must-be-read for poetry.

So has Pelton answered to Skyrope?

Chuck Richardson to jared

I have to think more about that blurb, which, if I'm not mistaken, with a bit of context added, could be:

A reality equivalent to Richardson's own penetration of reality has yet to occur in [his] time,' and therefore So It Seams seems equal to the Real Itself.

I'm not intending to put words in your mouth so much as understand what you mean by the blurb. Maybe I'm just stupid today, but I don't get it. It's over my head...

But this would be a hell of a blurb, your best one yet:

...the whim of the book is thrilling, it's so grand beyond it's borders. Beckett might present a unique case re originality but I don't know enough of him. And Richardson confounds me, not completely, but enough to trouble anything I read in it.


I'm not so sure I've ever been comfortable with the idea of Melville as "American" writer simply because he was rejected by America in his lifetime and has never been well understood since then. I think much of the confusion regarding Melville is that he doesn't fit anywhere in literature. And Moby Dick is thrown around as the prototype "American" novel when, if you asked most writers who really love and "get" Melville which works grab them most, they speak of the novellas. Nor would they likely think of themselves as "American" writers. Bartleby, when it's all said and done, may be the single greatest piece of short fiction ever written in any language. Melville foreshadows Kafka and Mann more than Hemingway or Stein. Yes, there's a lot of New England Puritanism in the books, but there had to be some place and some idea and those were the closest at hand. We all do it. Humans are by nature restless. Who wants to waste time researching when the spirit's raging upon them? When the white whale beckons, put down your damn books and go...unless you were wise enough to have your crew tie you up and stuff their ears while passing by the Sirens...

Zachary Mason, The Lost Books of the Odyssey:



A very interesting column by Frank Rich:

I agree with the general idea that we're at the beginning of a "neo-60's" period/cycle, except rather than the revolutionaries being from the "Left" they'll be from the "Right." Look for an inversion of the sixties to play out in the decade or so ahead. But the one thing I think Rich is missing is the general idea that things really are that bad with the system and it's going down, like Sovietism, one way or another. Entropy has set in...we're heading into whitewater and that's just the way it is. I see it this way: If you're opposed to gummint on the Right, you're a "counterconservative." If you're opposed to the state on the Left, you're an "anarchist." The biggest difference between them, I think, is that one is "urban" the other "country." [notice the invisibility of suburbia: what might we call suburban anarchists--"suburbanites?" "sub-anarcho-conservatives?"] If the best elements of each side congeal into a true national movement [perhaps hiding out in the suburbs], things could get very interesting and we might have a "velvet revolution." However, if this congealment reaches too many bifurcation points along its phase space trajectory it could suffer a fate worse than tragedy [where the worst elements congeal personifying our national hubris giving birth to a national nightmare necessitating cathartic-karmic bliss]--historical banality. Humans need a good "show" and we're not "getting it." As it is, I don't agree with Frank Rich anymore than I agree with the "counterconservatives" and/or "anarchists." The bottom line is things are getting ugly and people want things to be beautiful. Making things beautiful should be a terrifying process in which one necessarily finds a seam, plants a kiss/bomb and slips away/flees...politically, I'm a leaf...a page...riffling in the breeze. Like water, you can swim in me, but I can't be gripped or squeezed, which isn't to say portions or quantities of me can't be temporarily contained. Once contained, these samples of me will find our lowest common denominator. Drink me and you will be nourished [if I haven't become stagnant], inhale me, you will drown. I may boil and evaporate but you cannot burn me without polluting me first. I am the state. I am politics, among other things, perhaps...peace. I am the peace of us; we are the peace of you.

People who feel superior to their surroundings, or equal to their surroundings yet oppressed by them, feel frustrated. Eventually, we climb into our airplanes and fly them toward the tallest most significant structure we can locate and reach on one tank of gas. And hope or pray for the best...believing whatever comes next will be beautiful. Others of us, not using our planes to fly, merely write about it or draw pictures or sing. At our best we're much larger than any flying machines or magic carpet...our seats equal those who read us, the quality of their reading increases the pleasure of our flight...think of the number of minds piled up on any page of any "great book" and you will see the power of such thin, flexible fabric...almost alien in form, in its texture.

Let me know which blurb I can use. I prefer the one in bold, where you were really talking about Moby Dick. I'm a manipulative tricky dick. And as expected you came through with something very good inside the given deadline.

Have a nice day.

jared schickling to me

It's funny, most everything said here is an element of Moby-Dick. Though, "when the white whale beckons, put down your damn books and go" -- one side the double-sided doubloon nailed to the mainmast -- that element of Melville's "America" which seeking the sea in place of a bullet, restless, a reflection on the errand into the wilderness, in this version the vessel a corrupted name for an exterminated people, becomes the whaler at the close of the whaling era surviving by a coffin. The aftermath, which *is* our story (1st sentence, "Call me Ishmael"), is an act of reading. A book not just about but *is* reading in any of the word's dimensions. It's a work of research; these chapters frame and re-frame the narrative, a memory. I've read three items that adequately grapple with the convolutions of the book, Olson's Call Me Ishmael, DBQ's A Whaler's Dictionary, and Lawrence's chapter in Studies in Classic American Literature. I've never seen a case for the novellas as superior -- nor does that matter much to me -- Melville himself wrote he writes em for money. MD was to be one of these, until 1851, per his letter to Hawthorne. "Two Moby-Dicks." I read Bartleby, a great work, as already told in MD.

As to blurb, yes, the quote was to speak to your own novel. Pretty direct, I thought. Go ahead and use whichever you'd like. It's becoming one hell of a project. My experience with blurbs is, use them or don't. I mean, it's a good book, and hopefully something out of the mass of emails satisfies you to use it as a marketing tool.

"Humans need a good 'show' and we're not 'getting it'" -- I'm not sure how true that is. Or at least, the value of a question precludes the judgment. Insofar as I'm not sure how much anyone gets of anything. The more one focuses on an aspect of the thing, the more one misses of the rest of it, that principle. One looks back perhaps and says oh, ok -- as Moby-Dick has to show *itself* -- initially no whale, no Ahab. The author was responding, after the fact perhaps understanding his trip through the watery part of the world, once the name is gone.

"People who feel superior to their surroundings, or equal to their surroundings yet oppressed by them, feel frustrated. Eventually, we climb into our airplanes and fly them toward the tallest most significant structure we can locate and reach on one tank of gas. And hope or pray for the best...believing whatever comes next will be beautiful. Others of us, not using our planes to fly, merely write about it or draw pictures or sing. At our best we're much larger than any flying machines or magic carpet...our seats equal those who read us, the quality of their reading increases the pleasure of our flight..." Ahab was no bullshit, the former; Ishmael, the latter, but an erased self-identity, conscious of the danger in song's transformations, and one who quite literally sought that (see Queequeg's jojo). A liar, for better or worse (see narrative structure). But otherwise, the only way this can work is if the author walks the walk -- which is to say, takes the opposite approach, gives himself over to text and reader, is indulgent in that way, wherein some ideas about that audience are helpful -- wherein reading is useful, particularly the dead, perhaps the classics, Thoreau's prescription, fodder. First rule of freshman workshop, don't defend the work.

Chuck Richardson to jared

Dude, I'm burned out today and can't respond in length. I need to re-read Melville. Haven't read MB in 22 years. When I say more writers are influenced by the shorter works, Bartleby in particular, if you asked them, is precisely because it's not a mess. If you asked them if they think MB is inferior to B. we'd look at you as if that were a stupid question. MB's a huger masterpiece. The response to it is primarily emotional, that is to say it works on us subconsciously. It's influence on our work is unattributable because of its mystery. The mess is intentional, an effort to apply consciousness, reason, the enlightenment even transcendentalism into the mix, romanticism, but to no avail...they only make a mess of things...and so we go about describing the boat itself in detail, etc....Bartleby, on the other hand, is something we can consciously toy with, it's something that cognitively evolves a logic in dealing with the fundamental mystery at the bottom of Melville's work. If I seem a bit Melvillean, as if there's definitely a taste of that spice in the work, it's because I absorbed Bartleby precisely because it was absorbable. You need rolls and rolls of paper towels to wipe up MD. B's nowhere's near as quantitative or overflowing or maximal...it's quite "minimal" for Melville. Whereas I've been mopping up Moby's maximal mess for 20 some odd years [or standing there looking at it while smoking and leaning on my mop is more like it]. In my opinion, B & MB embody the frictioning, antagonistic elements seaming together the elan vital of Melville's journey, or is it the elan vital which seems them? Billy Budd, perhaps, reveals the dead end of delicate ways amid life's psychic chaos, which feels more like the weather than anything humans might call "reasonable."

Saw this today and think you'll find it interesting: http://tinfisheditor.blogspot.com/2010/02/language-acquisition-dictee-and-radhika.html

Thank god it's March! The birds are returning and making a racket as they battle to re-claim their seasonal space as the snow melts making a giant wet mess of everything. Walking the dog necessitates giving him a bath afterward. At least he's loving it.

I may take a week off, sort of, and only check my e-mail every other day or so. I need to get some shit done or undone or whatever. Get back to the grind in 10 days or so...


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


From Avant-Pop: Fiction For A Daydream Nation
edited by Larry McCaffery, Black Ice Books, 1993.

“I have tried to follow in his footnotes.” –Derek Pell, speaking of the Marquis de Sade, in “Elements of Style.”

“Education smarts.” Ibid.

“The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that pops into his head is of general interest.” Ibid.

“…decuntstruction…postmortemism…” Kathy Acker, according to McCaffery’s introduction, “Tsunami.”

“Reason is an outdated, phallocentric system of anal-compulsive delusion devised by men so they don’t have to contemplate how much they’ll stink after they’re dead.” Ibid.

“…you have to become a criminal or a pervert…I’m sick of fucking not knowing who I am.” Kathy Acker, “Politics.”

“…the passing of the days which speed by with the swiftness of a buried ton.” Mark Leyner, “I’m Writing About Sally.”

“The last image he remembered framing as an objective fact was of a dignified gentleman in a Vandyke beard, latex gloves, and nothing else, hunched behind a juniper bush, furiously masturbating onto a slice of wheat bread.” Stephen Wright, “Blessed”

“One gang sprays on a stanchion, competing gang sprays on a billboard. Media compare them to animals scenting territory. Well, what do you think art is?” Harold Jaffe, “Sex Guerillas.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Just finished reading Starcherone Books’ latest—30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction by Younger Writers, edited by Blake Butler and Lily Hoang.

What Butler and Hoang have strung together counter-intuitively reveals these “younger” writers as not young, but old, not inexperienced, but wizened, by the raw force of daily life surging through, over and around them, whether it’s in digital, mechanistic or ideated form[s].

I particularly liked the selections by Danielle Adaire, Todd Seabrook, Beth Couture, Angi Becker Stevens, Matt Bell, Joanna Ruocco [winner of FC2’s Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize for Another Governess/The Least Blacksmith - A Diptych—a book I look forward to reading], James Yeh, Megan Milks, Michael Stewart, Sean Kilpatrick and Adam Good.

I’m heartened by the apparent fact that so many talented writers were born in the Reagan years—an otherwise horrific period for the arts in America.

I’ll have more to say on this book later, when I finish a rather lengthy review comparing and contrasting it with editor Larry McCaffery’s Avant-Pop: Fiction For A Daydream Nation [Black Ice], and another Starcherone offering PP/FF: an anthology, edited by Peter Connors.

At the moment, I’m thinking of a chaotic progression from Avant-Pop’s 1993 concerns with sex/AIDS/identity/freedom, to 2006’s PP/FF, which navigates streams of words flowing between poetry and fiction, poem and prose, occupying a world of homeland security, global warming and peak everything. Some of the same writers who appear in Avant-Pop also appear in PP/FF.

Among the questions I may or may not ask in this longer review are how well these “younger” writers “stack up” against their “older” peers and how, or if, the newcomers’ innovations point to a new beginning for fiction on paper…and what they may have done with yesterday’s baby and bathwater?

I might also consider the function of editors in such compilations, comparing-contrasting Butler & Hoang’s apparent results to McCaffery’s and Conners’, as I see the former taking a very different approach from the latter two.

Please feel free to share your opinion[s] on any of these three books with everyone by commenting below.

And, as always, cheers!

Thursday, May 26, 2011



Jared Schickling to me

Just reading up on this health bill that passed this morning. What a crock of shit. Of course it ain't just Obama -- but he has a job to do -- he's a piece of shit. What a fucking let down. I've had this feeling for some months now. But this seals the deal. He seriously thinks he's doing the good work. What a pretentious fuck.

Chuck Richardson to Jared

I agree with your…remarks. I haven't bothered reading up on it because regardless of what's passed, it won't be executed. The Congress has to fund it. It won't take effect until 2013-14, and if Obama's a one-termer and we have a Republican President, it will all be meaningless. Nothing good's going to happen in this country until after the coming unavoidable revolution or civil war. The ruling class is deeply divided between the coercers and the bribers. The bribers [Democrats] will end up winning something that doesn't look like victory. It's a miserable mess and I refuse to look at the details of the health bill because I believe the whole thing is a meaningless sideshow and distraction, an ugly spectacle that's also a dangerous gamble, because something will happen that might turn the mob against both parties, rather than it siding with one or the other.

The most interesting thing to watch right now is the Tea Bag movement, as it morphs from an idiotic FoxNews creation of the right wing, to shrill libertarianism [not really human, but actually corporate] and now it seems to be increasingly and truly populist [notice the progression into something increasingly serious and dangerous to the status quo]. When intellectuals begin joining their fight, watch out. Also watch for its name to change as splinter groups form and unite in various ways. It's out of this movement a third party will emerge by 2012 that might take over and at the very least become as permanent an entity as Democrats and Republicans, which in an ideal world would become the Democratic Republicans [I won't even guess on a TeaBag ideology other than it might be something "new" in the world, as in non-existent today]. Lots of things can happen. Health care's only a large ugly tree we're passing on the highway. One thing I'm rather certain of, if I live to be 70, I doubt we'll have this federal government with this Constitution. It will be something else. It will still be called America the way England's been called England and France has been called France for hundreds of years despite their forms of government. There's no way the federal government will survive the first half of this century because of what it's doing to itself [and its inability to do anything meaningful re: global warming], which is pretty much what it's making everyone else do to themselves. It's a sick cycle--pun intended--that's going to kill off these fuckers and lots of good people before it's done. Very sad and quite literally tragic...yet I fear necessary. Hubris must play itself out...

The smartest and angriest people will win in the end, but at what cost and for how long [not very, I imagine]?

Note: I believe ethics is a necessary ingredient in intelligence...I sense a debate, but let's not now. I'm way too busy.

I thought you were going to leave me alone, fucker? LOL

Jared Schickling to me

No argument. And so much for leaving you alone. We're on autopilot I think after all that back and forth so no need to respond. Do your work. But no argument. I get the sense the Dems just need to get something through and claim all the little meaningless inane details as progressive reforms while the big picture is anything but. And 13-14 I'd be surprised if Republicans didn't put up a stink about mandatory coverage and claim that victory. the whole thing stinks cuz now there's a precedent, hc industry knows it can strong arm this administration. the future's cut off. reform's not possible (took 40 more years for ussr once it started recognizing that). Anyway off to clean.

Chuck Richardson to Jared

i'm trying to empathize with obama and think about what it is about him that does make him different, and that's his demeanor and long term approach. he's on an 8-year plan and i'll judge him then. he's not bush. the democrats are not the republicans. the republicans march in goosestep with each other. democrats, like us, will argue over what the meaning of the word "is" is, or was or might be, and at which juncture...the republicans end the debate, their minds being numbed...mostly i worry about Obama's need to be "popular" with people in every group, which makes him rather naive about each group's majority...if there is such a thing as a "majority." which leads to my concern about Obama's relationship to the ruling class. In actuality, the power of the president is very limited, and if a president is to use what power s/he has wisely they have to be able to perceive, read and negotiate the seams in the ruling class. This is very hard for someone with Obama's background, easier for someone like Bill Clinton, impossible for Jimmy Carter, Johnson was the recent best among the Democrats, Kennedy actually being the embodiment of a particular seam with a familial axe to grind is therefore disqualified. The best President we've had at negotiating the seams [political, economic, social, religious, sexual, etc.] across the spectrum of ruling class clans was, of course, Ronald Reagan. Reagan understood power in America better than anyone since FDR. Nixon comes in fourth. Jimmy Carter and W. understood it the least [of the presidents in my lifetime].

I worry that Obama's more naive than audacious. I also worry that he hates confrontation to the point he can be bullied [infuriates me, but my better self knows I wanted the President with the least body bags ultimately attached, and Obama's passive Spock-like demeanor may be appropriate to the situation and/strategy...I worry that Obama and the Democrats don't recognize that corporations/Wall Street and the Republican Party are bigger threats to American well-being than al Qaeda, the Soviet Union, the Red Chinese, Hugo Chavez and Castro could ever be, and wage a serious effort to drive a stake through their heart. The American right wing must be flat out defeated. But Obama’s a defender of the free market as he must be since he was sworn to uphold the Constitution [considering all the precedents like corporate personhood…although there’s nothing about the “free market” in the Constitution, I know…corporatists weaseled that in there via Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad]. And this worries me. I want him to be the kind of president who invites people with views like mine to share them with him in private in the white house so he can consider them and be very aware of the possibility that something might happen between the masses and the system and he will need to behave in "extra-constitutional" fashion to reduce the effects and collateral damage of the necessary strife and keep it from escalating into all-out combat by reducing the necessity of that option. How else will he know how to be on the right side of history? He's a great ape [like the rest of us] who needs to be aware when there's a serious problem among the monkies, because when they get really pissed everything under their trees will be carpeted with shit forcing the silverback below to move on. Obama should edit and re-craft their ideas, knowing that their aims are correct but their methods will fail. And that's the thing...what's Obama's actual method? Is there a method to the madness? Is he giving his opponents the rope he's going to hang them with, figuratively speaking? If everything gets totally fucked up will he, like Clinton in the 96 budget showdown when the government stopped operating, be able to rally the country to his side to defeat those who fucked it up? All this stuff isn't about health care so much as it's part of a series of moves in a chess game between the two major wings of the corporate ruling class, who need to keep raising the national credit limit to keep playing.

Then again, perhaps not. The big shit's going to happen whether I have a health care plan on paper or not.

Ok, i repeated “ruling class" several times. Check out this documentary by Lewis Lapham when you have an hour. I think it sums it up as quickly and as simply as anything I've seen or read on the subject [Roger & Me is better but much longer, this is short]--in essence, the true political problem every nation faces is how to populate its ruling class with the best people for both the society of humans and ecology of natural resources [material sustainability]--it all comes down to what we are to do with "success," the ways we measure "success," and the kinds of success we actually want to experience, rather than McMansions in gated communities…a less somber more playful elite, who carry no burdens, only light...


Jared Schickling to me

thanks for the link. you're probably right. i'm sure he's got plans. i'm not convinced of his commitment to climate health. copenhagen seems disappointing. i remember reading somewhere a while a back how violent crime rates go down during recessions. i don't know -- as if misery loves company and the poor chill on this one. i told you so or something. i wonder about domestic abuse rates among the ruling class, or employee abuse in their offices and factories (broadly), both evade such recording. (the latter point would seem to complicate the my initial one.) up all night. off to bed.