“If you’re right-brained, you’ll see a fish. If you’re left-brained, you’ll see a mermaid.”
Myrtle Adelweiss looked at the assemblage of gestural lines in the picture. In the image they formed, she saw no fish. Neither did she perceive a mermaid. What she saw was the head of kangaroo.
What did it mean? Was she right-brained or left-brained?
One day, Myrtle was at work, at Nordnik High School, coaching the varsity football team. While demonstrating to her beefy players the correct way for a linebacker to plunge ahead at the snap of the ball, she received a concussion from a slab of gristle named Artie Snigginbotham. Myrtle was rushed to the emergency room at Sleater-Sinai-Sloater-Kinnering, unable to recall her own name.
The attending physician, Dr. Elaine Bryant O’Brain, did an MRI of Myrtle’s skull. Then an ultrasound. Then a spectrograph. Then an encephalo-shmeffalograph. Then a spirograph. Then a titration test. Then a Ph test. Then an EEG. Then a BB King. Then an insufferabullitis portmantobleronagraph.
Every image, regardless of what test was done, showed one miraculous fact: between the two hemispheres of Myrtle’s brain lay a third lobe, nestled between them like a summer sausage between two napping, hairless, Sharpei-wrinkled guinea pigs. Dr. O’Brain called it “The Third Lobe.” It became known in neurological literature as The Adelweiss-O’Brain Lobe. “The Third Lobe” was cooler, though.
But what was the function of this extra loaf, or lobe, in the brain of Myrtle Adelweiss? How had this “third loaf” been acquired? How long had it been in amongst the payload of Myrtle Adelweiss’s cranium? Did it confer any other advantages to her besides the obvious one of allowing a third interpretation of an ambiguous figure meant to elicit one of two specific interpretations? What good was this third loaf, if any?
For the next three years, O’Brain conducted a wide-ranging study of people who saw a kangaroo head instead of either a mermaid or a fish in the picture that had given Myrtle Adelweiss a bit of agito. Various types of brain scans revealed that the majority of these specimens had the summer-sausage-shaped third loaf.
What else did they have in common? There was no single phenotype, genotype, ethnicity, religion, or economic class they shared, although the preponderance of specimens were of what was once known as “the white people” and belonged to an economic class of owners of modest homes and owner-operators of small businesses with three or fewer employees, most of them stakeholders in corporations consisting only of a single employee: themselves.
Most in the sample of some 50,000 individuals identified themselves as:
1. thinking for themselves
2. loving their country
3. being more compassionate than average
4. being more intelligent than average
5. being more health conscious than average
6. being of above average health
7. having a greater sense of fairness than average
Remarkably, a large percentage of the control group, those without loaves, answered the same way. It was the last two questions where the difference was starker.
8. considering themselves members of an oppressed group
The only members of the control group, those without a loaf, who answered this way were actual members of a group self-identifying as other than white, Christian, able-bodied, heterosexual, or men (born men, more specifically).
The last question, question 9, was the key marker for difference:
9. believing the nation needs the guidance and discipline of a strong, stern, authoritarian leader
No member of the control group answered that they believed the statement. Every member of the loaf-bearers, or “loafers,” did.
That was the difference. Focusing closer on this particular question revealed another difference: When asked if they considered compassion a quality of strength in a leader, all the non-loafers answered affirmatively. All the loafers answered that compassion was a weakness, not just in a leader, but in a citizen.
One loafer summarized it this way: “At least Hitler had some backbone. Gandhi was a pussy.”
This might lead one to believe a cognitive dissonance might have been pointed out in their answer to question 3: that they considered themselves more compassionate than average. On closer questioning, however, the loafers’ definition of compassion applied only to such feelings extended to those within their own group, however they might define those limits. Not so with the non-loafers.
In her conclusion to her abstract on the paper she published in The Journal of Psychiatric Conclusions, O’Brain summarized the loafers’ philosophy thus:
Laws and authorities should protect those belonging to our group and control those outside our group.
What exactly was it about this loaf of interposed brain matter that either exploited or caused these beliefs? The hypothesis was that the loaf acted as a kind of selective prism for signals between the hemispheres of the brain. In a normal brain, such signals were transported from hemisphere to hemisphere through a clump of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. At one time, severing the corpus callosum was tried as a treatment for epilepsy. It was abandoned when experimentation revealed side effects, such as the inability of the subject to write and speak the same word when shown a different word to each eye. The communication between brain hemispheres turned out to have many subtle necessities in everyday understandings of perception.
In the loafers, the corpus callosum was wrapped in the flesh of the intervening loaf. The loaf edited the signals between the hemispheres, censoring all but the perceptions that might lead a person to conclude otherwise than that an out-group was a threat to one’s in-group, and that an authoritarian leader was required to restrict the activities of the out-group. Further, danger to the in-group was magnified or amplified, or exaggerated, at the expense of other mitigating information.
The most mysterious part of the mystery came eighteen months after the study, when subsequent examination demonstrated that the loaves had disappeared. None of the loafers showed the presence or even a physical trace of the loaves. Unfortunately, the kind of thinking the loaves had vitalized did not likewise disappear.
Elaine O’Brain now theorized that what remained was a phantom loaf. Like the illusion of a limb that amputees may experience, the loafers retained the heavy-handed editor of perception in the form of an invisible prism. A prism of the mind, as it were.
She therefore suggested changing the nomenclature from “loafers” to “mental prismers.”
Although all of O’Brain’s records of the material existence of the third loaf were destroyed in a group of suspicious thefts and vandalisms everywhere those records were kept, the phenomenon of the mental prism is SuperTrue®, and remains a threat to civil society to this day.
And this has been another Moment of Truth. Good day!
Since the beginning of time, money has been known to evaporate into thin air. There’s a saying: “Time is money.” It was originally said by managers to their subordinate laborers in order to urge them to work faster. What the manager didn’t reveal was that the money he referred to belonged to the owners and shareholders, not to the workers. Their wages remained the same regardless of the speed of their toil. Mathematically speaking, the faster they worked, the lower their real wages, because they accomplished more in the same hour for the same amount of cash.
Denial of remuneration to labor for its increased productivity in the latter-20th and early-21st Centuries was the most widespread case of disappearing money since the advent of paid labor. Like most mysterious disappearances that negatively affected the living standards and buying power of labor, rather than injuring the wealth accumulation of the ruling, owning, and speculating classes, however, it has never been the subject of a paranormal investigation.
This story is not going to change that.
Case in point: The National Republican Senatorial Committee, or NRSC. It was later renamed the Nuanced Rick Scott Committee, which allowed it to retain the same initials. The name-change was counter-intuitive, since being named after Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott had long been considered a public relations negative. Even Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott was known to agree with that assessment.
In 1987, Senator Rick Scott was on his way to becoming a big deal in the movement of private buy-up of healthcare services. Ten years later he’d become the CEO of the Hospital Corporation of America, one of the first private hospital companies in the legendary empire known as the United States of America. However, after only four months he had to resign as CEO of HCA due to a federal investigation into Medicare and Medicaid fraud at the company.
The fraud was so fantastically huge that HCA was eventually forced to pay the government 1.7 billion dollars in criminal fines, penalties, civil damages, and other settlements. Many of the fraudulent actions the DOJ found had had to have been signed off on by CEO Rick Scott himself. A lot to accomplish in only four months as CEO.
Maybe because he was so accomplished at fraud, the GOP made Rick Scott chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and allowed him to name it after himself. Whatever the reason, they may have rued that decision.
In the highly fraught election cycle of 2022 of the Common Era, the NRSC had raised a respectable 173 million dollars to be used for Republican Senate campaigns. By July of the same year, that money had dwindled to less than $28.4 million, a reduction of about 93% of their so-called war chest.
Where had all the vanishing money gone? To quote a story in the Washington Post:
“The NRSC’s chairman, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, has taken heat from fellow Republicans for running ads featuring himself on camera and releasing his own policy agenda.”
The obvious conclusion was that Rick Scott had used the funds for his own purposes. Given his shady background in the healthcare industry, not to mention his unfortunate resemblance to what scholars believed the then-decades-deceased Klaus Barbie would have looked like after a month in one of his own Vichy concentration camps, it’s easy to see why suspicion would fall on the homely Floridian.
But the details painted a more nuanced picture. (This is why investigators of the paranormal always look at the details: in case they help explain things by way of painting pictures possessed of lots and lots and lots of nuance.)
Let us remember that Rick Scott had never been found to have embezzled money from the Hospital Corporation of America. He was not a common thief or even an uncommon thief. The stain on his reputation came from his association with the nuanced crime of fraud. An uncommon amount of fraud. Lots and lots and lots of nuanced fraud. 1.7 billion dollars’-worth. Billion with a “B.” To call him a mere fraudster would have been to oversimplify the matter. 1.7 billion dollars’ worth of nuanced crime is not simple. It’s major-league. It’s top of the heap. It was not just a stain on his reputation. A stain that big was pretty much the entirety of his reputation, and certainly overshadowed anything else he’d done in his life.
It also may have explained why the NRSC changed its name. With 93% of its campaign funds devoted to highlighting Rick Scott and his unpopular policies, changing the name, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to the Nuanced Rick Scott Committee was simply honest. It was almost certainly done to thwart the media’s linking them with their chairman’s over-shadowing reputation as a titan of nuanced fraud. “There’s no fraud here,” they seemed to be saying, “We are honestly fraudulent. We’re named after our famous chairman! Like if Communist China had changed its name to ‘Mao Country.’”
So the mystery remained a mystery, as so many remaining mysteries do. Can money simply disappear without a trace? This wouldn’t have been the first time. $23 trillion dollars of defense spending went missing in the violent destruction and failed nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 21st Century. And who knows how many trillions had been stolen over the years from the United States’ working public, not to mention the public at large?
But who cares about all that? No one. We’re talking here about money meant to retain wealthy elite incumbent Senatorial seats or turn Republican challengers into wealthy elite United States Senators. As vanishing money went, this was vanishing money that really mattered.
And as a mystery remaining a mystery of vanishing money that mattered, it will remain, until further investigation, a mysterious matter of SuperTruth®.
And this has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
It was in ancient times when Sapperstein, a teenage pot-smoker, used to cruise up and down Woodward Avenue in the environs of Detroit. He would listen to classic rock on FM radio. His main concern at the moment in question was, “Is Jethro Tull heavy metal or heavy wood?” This was before the various metals became segregated into genres of their own: death metal, krautrock, nerdcore, etc. In a way, Sapperstein was ahead of his time.
He jolted to a stop, coming to full consciousness of the traffic around him just in time to avoid rear-ending a restored classic Pontiac GTO. He almost dropped his pipe. Unknowingly, he’d accidentally hit the “band” button. The radio was now tuned to an AM station. A male voice emerged, speaking in crisp, insistent salvos of rhetoric. “Feminazis,” the voice said. “Reverse discrimination,” it said. “Tree-huggers,” the voice of the man mocked in his flurry of affected disgust.
What was this disembodied spirit? It was infectious. It didn’t infect Sapperstein, but Sapperstein’s father became obsessed with it. Soon the voice was everywhere, and imitators flourished. The landscape of discourse changed for the worse as regulations were dissolved in the service of capitalism’s desires. This history-making voice went by many names, but we now know him as “Lush Rimjob or something, the drug-addict from Missouri.”
Within half a century, the Rimjob ethos had swept the world, and it was a short journey, from the bloviating bag of fecal matter who sprinkled his polemics with lies, to entire networks of so-called news based entirely on lies. That evolution is one of the many reasons, if not the key reason, we find ourselves in the Era of SuperTruth®.
The Sappersteins of the world, and everyone else from his historical context, eventually grew old and ceased to exist. There arose in the West capitalists lauded for turning intellectual property, usually that of others, to their own profit. And from among these so-called thought-leaders, success-gurus, and oracles of progress came one called Elon Kuru III.
Elon was a devotee of Kurtzweil, who predicted the advent of a “singularity,” when synthetic cognition would leave the minds of human beings behind, intellectually and physically. Elon believed he could join that elite mental rapturing. To that end, he had his consciousness encoded and uploaded.
Years thence, utterly elsewhere, far from Elon’s crystal, wars of desperation were storming. The starving, choking, burning, bleeding rabble clawed and trampled each other in vain struggle to prolong their unenviable lives, like the damned souls in the Inferno, or a crowd locked in a theater afire. Civilization was moribund, its long age approaching its terminus. Humans led the way into extinction, but soon would follow the animals. The last of the elephants, giraffes, big cats, great apes, baleen cetaceans and the toothed whales would soon follow – and not long afterward, every mammal a person could claim distant evolutionary class kinship with.
Details. It was inevitable it would all be gone. Down the drain of oblivion. True, the force at fault was the social behavior of Homo sapiens. Ants couldn’t have done it. Worms couldn’t have done it. Beavers couldn’t have done it. Only humanity could have so dominated and subjugated the biosphere as to bring it down completely.
But Elon Kuru III was safe in his private simulacrum. The enriched condensate-crystal giga-processor onto which he’d uploaded his consciousness was indestructible for the entire extent of eternity that a human could imagine. Powered by the multi-spectrum radiation of the sun, the hydrogen demise of which would launch him out of Earth’s orbit and send him on what his physicists had calculated would be at least a four-billion-year journey to come to coast around and around the lip of the gravitational well of the red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri, his existence was assured for another couple-three trillion years, give or take. And by that time he’d have figured out what to do next. Elon was effectively immortal.
Striding down the simulated Rue de J’n’-Sais-Quoi in his smartly-tailored McQueen kurta of silk, his Guccis and silk trousers cocooning his perfect feet and legs, he could feel the entirely reasonable weight of his penis against his inner thigh. Its dimensions were his to decide, and he was proud of the good taste and restraint he’d demonstrated in the matter.
Not that he would have anything to prove to a sexual conquest. All the women in his world were as attracted to him as he was to them. And, in preparation for long-term psychological vicissitudes of an immortal mind, projected by his private psychoanalysts (now most likely dead in that all-too real world Elon had left behind), the male cast of the simulacrum looked, as did the females, all the different ways a young, sexually-attractive person could. And they were no mere automatons, these twinks and bimbos, not at all. They were as close to individual, unpredictable refractions of a luminous, complex personality as any AI could generate.
For example, this heartbreaking beauty he is meeting at the sidewalk restaurant for champagne and oysters, on a corner a few blocks from St. Chapelle. Estelle is her name. Originally from Austria. Mother North African. Strawberry blond hair with olive skin and green eyes, a light pink shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, the hint of a lacy bra peeking up. She sets her hardcover copy of Middlemarch on the table as they take their seats. He has never read it. She goes on at length, quite delightfully, about it.
Already he’s challenged. Literature to read. People who love this but hate that. All the many flavors of lipstick to taste, shapes of lips to explore with his. She has joined him on his side of the table, solely for kissing purposes. How chaste, yet carnal.
They both ache to consummate. Or, he assumes she does, whatever that might mean in the imperceptible shifts in verisimilitude. They decide to take a walk to see the St. Chapelle windows. Patience is now effortless for him. The joy and ease of delicious withholding rises in him like fragrant breath in his lungs. They have all the time in the world and then some.
He wonders if his perceptions and responses are being manipulated by the Artificial Intelligence he inhabits, but he doesn’t wonder long, because he is not a self-reflecting, thoughtful person.
Eternity, he says to himself, is not going to be unpleasant in the least.
This had been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
image by Phillip Random Reay
On the extremely dark satirical show, “The Boys,” about psychotic superheroes and their corporate and military ties, the white supremacist leader of them all, Homelander, a kind of Superman knock-off, announces to a broadcast audience of hundreds of millions, “I’m through being persecuted for my strength.” Although having been a murderous, narcissistic rapist throughout his career with impunity, he’s now had enough. From now on he’s going to say what’s on his mind. “I’m not one of you. You are weak. I’m better than you. I’m through apologizing for that,” he says.
It's a timely speech, given that we, the ünterpeople, who believe we should at least have a partial say in the color and texture of the tyranny governing us, are being backed up against the wall by the self-designated übermenschen. In Nietzsche’s dichotomy, the übermenschen, the selfish and self-aggrandizing who believe they deserve more and need follow no morality but their own, are realists, and the rest of us, who aspire to a society out from under the boot of such oppressive narcissists, are dreamers.
That’s a strong rhetorical current in US popular discourse. And it’s not solely the province of the right wing. Recall how often the pejorative phrases, “Bernie will just wave his magic wand,” or “leftist progressives want to give everyone a pony” have been repeated by centrists to bash the less-than-acquiescent left since 2016. Prepare for such rhetorical slime balloons to be wielded again over the next two years, kind of like a magic wand, to sprinkle condescension over every demand from their base a Centrist Democrat doesn’t find it expedient to support.
In the “strong” view, then, the “weak” are meant to drudge along, serving and slaving, pleasing and groveling, sickening and dying, never complaining, never resisting on pain of injury, deprivation, or death. And this they call “realistic.”
So, who’s the real dreamer? Those who want to contribute to society however much or little they’re able and be given back enough to thrive pleasantly, or those who want to rip us off without our objecting? Those who want “be all they can be” regardless of who they destroy
along the way, lift themselves above the herd as heroes and kings, and achieve riches and ease beyond their wildest fantasies at the expense of communal peace and the preservation of a beautiful world that belongs to all? And without the rest of us speaking a word of condemnation, let alone criticism?
Who’s really living in a fantasy here? Who is weaving a fairytale? There are atheists who mock those who worship invisible divinities, but these same atheists turn right around and worship humans as if they’re divine, taking a flesh-and-blood person and imbuing them with godly powers. Those who give to charity to gain merit with a god or to align with the values of a long- dead spiritual leader seem to me less childish than someone who demands millions of weak people starve quietly so the person they idolize can be rewarded with ungodly wealth.
The show I mentioned at the top, “The Boys,” plays the satirical game of asking, “what if a destructive social idea were actually true?” In this case, the idea is that the self-proclaimed übermensch is real and deserves more. What if they actually were über? What if your delusional Nietzschean fantasy were true? And the answer the show discovers by exploring its satirical thought experiment is, “if there were real übermenschen, and they were privileged the way our pretend übermenschen are, things would be even worse.”
It's a perceptive statement on how the capitalist myth of social Darwinism indoctrinates its subjects.
The Golden Age of streaming entertainment has given us other popular allegorical condemnations of capitalist inequality. The Netflix fantasy from Korea, “Squid Game,” in which contestants are compelled to fight to their deaths to entertain the überwealthy, diagrams the infantilization of those overburdened by debt. Apple TV’s “Severance” illustrates through a science fiction narrative device the Marxist concept of alienation of labor and the way we submit to and collaborate in our own enslavement.
These three offerings, as I said, are popular. They articulate persistent obstacles society stumbles over by bowing to profit-driven priorities and a manufactured aristocracy. Other offerings, of
course, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” HBO’s “The Watchmen,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us,” along with variations on survival-against-the-vicious-mob of this-or-that socio-economic group allegorize other issues with varying levels of nuance. Such dystopias had a rebirth with “Children of Men” back in 2006 and have been accumulating ever since, but really pointed dystopian critiques of capitalism have been a long time coming and were certainly never expected to be this popular.
The rise in popularity of anti-capitalist dystopian fictions is understandable. After all, the fossil fuel industry that’s been ruling the world economy for over a hundred years seems poised to topple. While the end of petro-tyranny is both inevitable and welcome, humans are innately aware that such a giant cannot be felled without taking a great deal of civilization and possibly the planet down with it. Capitalism is poised at a critical and dangerous brink, and we all know it.
So, naturally dystopias critiquing capitalism are popular. It's more difficult to fathom why such critiques have not taken hold in the actual, supposedly factual news.
Or is it difficult to fathom? News in the USA has never adhered overly close to events in the real world, especially when such events demonstrate how abominable US policies are. So, the relationship between the US military, the teetering fossil fuel industry, and the threats to civilization from climate change and global heating are never made much of.
You won’t see Anderson Cooper, Tucker Carlson, Brian Williams, Jake Tapper, or any mass market anchor-talent elucidate the way a manufactured spectacle of colorful millionaires and billionaires enjoying their privileges feeds the militarism of our economy, siphoning resources from public schools, public shelter, and public health.
You won’t see any mass-market anchor-clown detail the over-burdening of our economy with debt instruments while making the connection to the way usurious debt conduces community and domestic violence, let alone how it dissolves familial and communal relationships in less extreme ways, increasing social instability.
The Onion might touch on how dehumanizing it is to work at a meaningless job under threat of becoming homeless, but you won’t read about it in the New York Times.
And that’s because it’s all too real. The owners of news don’t like hearing the truth about themselves and the nation and world they own stock in. They’re much more comfortable with alternative truth, where everything old is new again, everything black is white, every day is night, and every fantasy is real. Reality doesn’t sell unless it’s fictionalized. Reality can only be tolerated by the owning class if it’s positioned as an artistic product.
Is it possible the dreamers of a live-and-help-live society have had it right all along? Yes it is. Does the craft of channeling one’s imagination hold more possibilities for moving the people and creating popular rebellion than the art of spinning reality to fit a nation’s propaganda does? We can only hope. I’d like to think so. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the wooden stake that is the hammer. Very difficult to use.
It snuck up on us one day while we were listening to Pete Seeger and reading the diary of Anne Frank, and listening to Bessie Smith and reading Edward Said, and listening to Chumbawamba and reading Frantz Fanon. The agents of rot swarmed in. They came at night. They used the silence and darkness to conceal their purpose and their protocols.
Or, maybe it was obvious. You were listening to Martin Luther King, Jr. inspiring you to action against the smug, violent, comfortable bosses, leaders, and owners. The FBI and the Ku Klux Klan could be plainly seen hovering around him, making threats that had nowhere to go but into execution. And then he was killed. Everyone was getting assassinated except the people who really needed assassinating. They were cruisin’ for an assassinatin’. They were clammoratin’ for an assassinatin’. They were dunning for a gunning. But they never got it. Only the decent people did, plus John F. Kennedy.
Rachel Carson, Joe Hill, W.E.B. du Bois, Jacques Cousteau, Virginia Wolfe, Malcolm X, Eugene V. Debs, Shirley Chisholm, Fanny Lou Hamer, Ho Chi Minh, did they all live in vain? Were they all killed by werewolves? The current thinking is that they were. Were they all killed by the same werewolf? Current theories say, “probably.” Does that mean they all live on as werewolves now? Yes. E.O. Wilson recently became a werewolf, in case you missed it.
What exactly is a werewolf? A lot of ignorant people will try to tell you. On a podcast called “Supernatural,” a not-very-persuasive voice named Ashley Flowers tried and did a crap job. She began by asserting that “we always cast extremely attractive men to play them in movies, like Michael J Fox, Hugh Jackman, and Taylor Lautner.”
Okay, Michael J. Fox was in Teen Wolf. Taylor Lautner was in that Twilight garbage. Hugh Jackman? Is she mistaking Wolverine for a werewolf because of his suggestive facial hair? No, right, he was a werewolf in Van Helsing. I didn’t remember that either.
The writer of that first clause, “We always cast extremely attractive men to play them in movies,” must have a pop culture memory the depth of Zambonied fruit leather. The original actor to play the Universal pictures wolfman was Lon Chaney, Jr., not a glamorous ingenu by any measure. Actually, downright homely. Then there was Bela Lugosi, in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, who I don’t think was cast for his looks but for his affordability. Somewhere in there was Henry Hull, star of Werewolf of London, also of indifferent attractiveness. And the most recent actor to reprise the Universal Pictures character, Lawrence Talbot, aka the wolfman, was Benicio del Toro, portraying in hilarious fashion an emotive late-19th C Shakespearean actor, depressed and brooding.
What was the point of the “extremely attractive actor” thing on the podcast, “Supernatural?”
“Supernatural” is in the Parcast distribution family of podcast products: slickly produced, brief, and shallow. Intellectual symptoms of the monetizing of mediocrity.
The folkloric stories told in the werewolf episode seem chosen to allow for easy segues. They aren’t bad, per se, or even poorly told, but they don’t add up to anything. Ashley Flowers suggests, through ventriloquized mouth sounds, that there’s something universal about the full moon making people squirrelly, but there’s nothing universal about it, nor does every folkloric werewolf story revolve around the full moon. She also suggests that the stories are about how an animalistic nature resides in all of us, but that’s confusing, because clearly all of us aren’t very attractive actors. Nor have most of us or even many of us made deals with the devil or been bitten by a werewolf or been a seventh child. Universality is the opposite of what these stories point to.
I – who write my own text, thank you – am going to focus on the cursedness of the werewolf. The werewolf is unhappy. He or she – let’s call it “they” in the current fashion—they is lonely, an outcast, unable to form relationships for fear of killing their beloveds. In a way they are allegorical closeted queers. They believe themselves unable to overcome their curse, nor are they able to admit it to anyone.
Going further back in folklore, to the Middle Ages – though the transformation of humans into beasts, predatory and otherwise, dates back to before the common era – we find a conflation of two outcast characters: the werewolf and the wild man of the forest.
Both creatures, often mistaken for one another or simply folded into each other until they’re indistinguishable, live on the outskirts of society. Unlike very attractive actors. They come out only furtively, to abduct children or feed on livestock, or abduct then feed on livestock or children, which, I admit, very attractive actors do, but afterwards werewolves quickly disappear back into their wilderness. They live just out of sight, maybe even below the surface of city streets, or in parts of the city or countryside considered unfit for decent citizens to frequent and certainly unfit for any so-called respectable lifestyle.
An aside here: there are two works I have memories of, speaking of conflation, that have folded into each other in my mind. One is a Richard Wright story, “The Man Who Lived Underground,” and the other the Ralph Ellison novel, Invisible Man. I can’t remember which story had a man living in an underground chamber, the walls of which he’d studded with diamonds. In any case, both works are about outsiders.
And the heroes I mentioned earlier were also outsiders of a kind. Each of a different kind. Monsters in the night forest, pushed to the periphery, shunned by those who arrogantly call themselves the “decent,” those who want us to believe they’re upholding normalcy and respectability. Patriotism. Healthy values.
Rachel Carson, Joe Hill, W.E.B. du Bois, Jacques Cousteau, Virginia Wolfe, Malcolm X, Eugene V. Debs, Shirley Chisholm, Fanny Lou Hamer, Ho Chi Minh, Pete Seeger, Anne Frank, Bessie Smith, Edward Said, all werewolves. Finally pushed by the overweening of the overwieners to march forth into the daylight in their hairy forms and speak up for what they believe in.
Marx used the vampire as a metaphor for the rich. What he didn’t say, but sort of implied, was that there’s a war between the people’s werewolves and the creepy cabal of wealth-hoarding vampires who hide behind masks of decency. It’s an age-old war. It keeps flaring up. Whenever we think we’ve exposed the vampires to the sunlight and burned them out of our midst, or at least been on the verge of doing so, the vampires assassinate our werewolves.
We find they were always one step ahead of us, infecting a self-selecting segment of the population with vampiristic slavishness. The infected ones worship the master vampires, while we on the other hand have empathy and realistic respect for our werewolves. The masters incite the infected, first against the werewolves, and then against us, we for whom the werewolves have spoken out and allowed themselves to become targets.
Our heroes have always been socialists, ecologists, anti-colonialists, feminists, anti-capitalists, queers, and werewolves. Oh, of course one or another of them may have lost their way now and then, been a less than perfect werewolf, made regrettable decisions that ended up benefiting the vampires. But most never sold out to the vampire establishment. Most never got the chance, and if they had had the chance would have snarled at it.
Some of you are saying, E.O. Wilson? A werewolf?
Yes. Maybe he was an unwitting werewolf. Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau, and E.O. Wilson are typical unsuspecting werewolves. Most periodic theriomorphs become so unwittingly. They might not discover what they are until the third or fourth transformation. Certainly the curse of lycanthropy takes one by surprise. If it doesn’t, perhaps what you think is a werewolf is just a scheming, glory-seeking charlatan, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, the majority of whom don’t last long before betraying themselves.
Pete Seeger? Yeah, Pete Seeger. I won’t argue that there are many wannabe werewolves who are just little were-Pomeranians or were-chihuahuas, prancing at the dog show. But Pete Seeger was not one of them.
Your Edwin Teller, William F. Buckley, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Rumsfeld are classic vampires, born careerists whose every move is intended to justify their sickening vampiric desires.
And those desires, and the justifications for them, never truly die, do they? They rise again and again from the grave, at first in somewhat unfamiliar forms, but they soon become all too familiar.
Why speak of things in this allegorical way? I have my reasons. It’s particularly relevant since QAnon identified the CERN Large Hadron Collider as a Hell gate. I want us all to be ready for the onslaught of vampires and their ghoulish slaves, their familiars, their Renfields, their Q- holes, their infiltrating agents. I don’t discount any possibility when it comes to vampires conducting evil into our world, even dumb ideas invented by their spider-eating lunatic slaves. Those vampires are clever. They never stop scheming. We won’t be able to defeat them completely until we elucidate all the ways they worm in and rot the edifice of public understanding for their own purposes.
All that’s really important, though, is that we remember, the goal is to choke off the flow of blood to the vampires. All blood to the people.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the curse that is the drink.
I’ve been feeling pressure to be optimistic lately. My friends encourage. A listener, a communist mailman in New Jersey, insists. Henry Giroux opines. My mother sent me a book by Jane Goodall called, “Hope.” It’s a lot of heat.
I have no choice but to go to my happy places to seek out this elusive optimism. The happy places in my mind, of course. I can’t bring you to my happy places in the material world. I could so endeavor with words, but those words would be the product of the experiences of my happy places cycling through my mind as I compose them. So, one way or the other, you’re stuck with the happy places in my mind.
Here’s an amusement: a friend told me, “People can now eat pig hearts or get them as transplants, but they must choose only one of the above.”
I replied, “What if you get the transplant, dine for a couple years on aromatic herbs, truffles, and oils, and then have it removed, prepared, and served to you?”
He suggested that some scientists, more hungry than ethical, have been urging pig-hearted transplantees to eat a lot of basil and to be sure to leave their organs to science. He also said that the restaurant he’s creating the new menu for wanted to do a pig heart dish, but due to the new demand for pig hearts the price has skyrocketed.
Hearts are notoriously rubbery and full of cartilage. He and I once made calf’s heart soup in a medieval convent converted to a residence for social workers in Kilkenny, Ireland, and that sucker took hours and barely became remotely chewable. As for his restaurant menu, I told him he’d be better off with a softer organ. “Although that’s not what she said,” I quipped at the end.
Speaking of tender organs, recently a friend of ours, an old writer almost exactly twenty years my senior, by the name of Jay Wolpert, passed away. He wrote the 2002 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black Pearl.” He loved cinematic sword fights in a swashbuckling vein. He was a big fan of Stewart Granger in 1952’s “Scaramouche,” which he screened for us back when he still could remember who I was. I don’t know what a swashbuckle is, and I don’t think he ever told me.
I met him in the last few years of his life. We eventually had a lot of friends in common from the place in Laurel Canyon where we all used to get coffee before the Covid scourge. I’ve talked about this place on the show before. Jay would share his apple Danish with his large dog Levi and give everybody hell in that funny Jewish old guy way. The coffee place has since been overrun with fascists calling themselves libertarians, who took over while sensible people were staying away. Now the coffee place in Joni Mitchell’s canyon is lousy with fascists.
During the first big lockdown, when things were taken a tad more seriously than they are now, at least by some of us, we canyon coffee people would meet on Zoom every other day and chew the fat. Only a few of us. One aged but lively couple lives in London but has a daughter in the canyon they fly here to visit. It’s the same situation with another aged but lively couple in New Zealand. And there’s one woman who’s Irish yet somehow works in Munich but lives in Atlanta. Time zones are an issue, but we make it work.
Anyway, Jay, the old writer, was a real Jewish show-biz character. He could’ve been in Sid Caesar’s writers’ room if he’d been born early enough in the last century. But he began to deteriorate due to old people’s delirium, even before the time we defaulted to Zoom, during which his Alzheimer’s got far worse, and it was very sad, and eventually, as I say, he died. Last week. And we in the canyon Zoom coffee club watched his funeral, it seemed like a reform or conservative Jewish funeral, definitely not Orthodox.
The funeral was this past Sunday. His widow, Roz, his two daughters, I think, and his best friend, Tom or Bob, all gave excellent eulogies. They were all heartbroken but expressed vividly how he’d made their lives happy.
The woman in New Zealand, we’ll call her Parvati, is a unique character herself, and the story goes that after meeting Jay at the canyon coffee she told her husband, Rex, “I’ve fallen in love,” and she and Rex, who’s still her husband, both still tell that story. This woman was raised in an orphanage in India, was adopted into a Kiwi family and became a flight attendant and dresser of hair. And she’s one of those people, I don’t know how you become one of these people, but she has become one of these people who just thinks everything she comes across that’s wonderful is just soooooo wonderful. She will say this. “Jeffrey, I’m the type of person who when I meet someone I adore, I just treasure that person,” anyway, she gushes about beauty and marvelousness and sometimes I make fun of it because, of course, I’m emphatically not that type of person. But you should really make friends with that type of person. Don’t make friends with too many people like me, because I will, well, I don’t really want to tell you what I will do, let’s keep a little mystery in this relationship, shan’t we?
So, this Kiwi woman, Parvati, as Jay’s cognition was deteriorating – it hit her very hard. And when Roz, now his widow, would come on Zoom or relay through someone else the way Jay was deteriorating, now physically as well, Parvati was very unhappy. The day we found out he died, she was engulfed in sorrow. She took Jay’s life and marriage and career and children and grandchildren and wife’s burden and dog into account, filling an ocean with the tragedy of the loss of all that, and engulfing herself in the deluge.
As I say, the funeral was broadcast for people who couldn’t come, because that’s world we live in now, and we all in the canyon coffee club watched it live on Sunday. And Monday we were all on Zoom and this Indian-Kiwi woman, Parvati, seemed to have processed it all. And she brought into the room so we could look at it a tiger lily plant, which she’d chosen because it was sturdy, and she’d tied a small piece of wood to it as a crosspiece. She’d done this quite a while ago, and she’d found all these monarch butterfly chrysalises in her garden. She’d been observing the monarch caterpillars all summer, and she later found their chrysalises on fennel stalks. And she’d cut the fennel stalks and fastened them to this tiger lily cross, and some of the chrysalises she had fastened to the wooden crosspiece with what we persist in calling Scotch tape, but what people in other English-speaking countries call cello-tape or something, or at least they do in New Zealand.
And Monday morning, she brought before us this tiger lily cross with all these chrysalises dangling from it, and some of the butterflies had emerged and were drying their wings. About five had come out and were in various stages of recovery from their metamorphosis. And it looked like there were at least twelve more to go, and she expected all of them to come out by the end of the day, and I’m sure they did.
As she held the cross, she described what she could see, looking so closely at them, the butterflies’ abdomens inflating and contracting, pulsing to push their wings open, pulsing to push them to new life, and crystal drops of fluid dripping off of them, as the orange and black and white mosaic wings slowly opened and closed.
I’d seen people keep one chrysalis in a jar or a terrarium and protect it until it “came to term,” so to speak, but I had never seen anything like this and couldn’t have imagined it. As she described what she was seeing, and we saw what we were seeing, she also threw in some remarks about loving nature and how marvelous and how she was protecting these creatures from the wasps in the garden that wanted to turn them into food. There she held this Charlie Brown Christmas tree- like cross with chrysalises and butterflies, sun-colored wings slowly fanning.
The monarchs, you know, were reported declining on the Mexican end of their migration, in the central highlands. The eastern monarch migration is the big one, the long one, the one during which four generations of monarchs pass their torches. A lot of people in the US started planting milkweed, and encouraging others to plant milkweed, to fatten up the monarch ranks, milkweed habitats in the US having been shriveled by an array of effects from our world’s being dominated by a salivating, rabid menagerie of profit interests. No one knows for sure if the milkweed helped, or even if it was necessary, forest depletion south of the border and climate change consequences in Mexico and Texas possibly causing the decline. Even the decline is debatable, thanks to the difficulty of counting butterflies and the many competing agendas pushing and pulling at the data here in the Golden Age of warped narratives.
The monarch migration means a lot to a lot of people. It has meant a lot to me. I was with a girlfriend up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back in the 1980s. We were camping near a place I’d gone once before and enjoyed, it was part of Great Lakes maritime history, and we were also in search of a small green wooden booth called Clyde’s Hamburgers, which we found no longer existed, but the camping and swimming were excellent, and we were treated to a majestic squall line rumbling over the lake, over us, flashing its lightning, dragging behind it a heavy thunderstorm. And in the morning, as we were walking out of the woods, millions of orange, white, and black stained-glass butterflies were floating around us like autumn leaves.
With that firm organ, my sturdily-constructed heart, rubbery, and not unlike that of a pig, happy in its happy place as a pig in its own, I am doing the work again, because I’ve tried this more than once. Like planets and suns do with gravity, the massive inhumanity of humans toward everything good stretches dents in the fabric of spacetime. But gravity is considered an extremely weak force, compared to the other forces. Even a butterfly can defy it, temporarily. I hope no one expects more from me than they would a butterfly.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink. This is a pep talk for me, but I suspect others can use one, too.
I was reading an article about how entrepreneurs like the Fyre Fest guy and the fake blood machine woman have conned investment cash out of venture capitalists. One of the startup companies mentioned was WeWork, a real estate company, I guess, specializing in incubator- type spaces or something, where people working on a project together would live in the same space, maybe, or just inhabit the space somehow, but the space would be specifically curated to cater to a group who wanted to be, I don’t know, entrepreneurial or some shit, like maybe the type of people who would develop a company like WeWork, the company specializing in spaces for groups of people getting together to come up with companies like WeWork.
Companies that are con-jobs specifically structured to take investors’ money fascinate me, because they demonstrate how fucking brainless capitalists are, and how expecting vacuous greedy twatism as a philosophy to somehow improve society can lead to hilarious disasters. WeWork started out with a hefty valuation of $47 billion, one that dwindled to, I think, currently, do not quote me on this, five dollars and forty cents.
What caught my eye, though, was a phrase in their phishing literature that attracted investors: there was a “kibbutz-like” atmosphere at the company, or in its buildings, or some such garbage. Whatever you think about Israel, a kibbutz is a socialist socio-economic relationship between its members, often built around a few small industries, crops, and livestock. There’s a seniority system, but at every level the fruits of labor are shared out equally, and decisions about just about everything are made democratically. Children are all raised together, so they are like siblings. A lot of siblings.
The thing that surprised me is that anyone would consider a kibbutz or any socialist enterprise an attractive advertising analogy. But then I got to thinking how successful many left efforts have been in the marketplace.
Greenwashing is, of course, when a vile corporation, the sole purpose of which is to make as much profit as possible, pretends to the public that it cares about the environment. Greenwashing it a huge part of any polluting company’s PR budget.
Likewise, sensitivity across the gender, ethnicity, and racial spectrum. “Wokeness” as the rightwingers who despise liberals would have it.
Corporations are the marketplace. Advertising is by far humanity’s greatest expenditure on education. And all that fake education is a worldwide effort to sell compassion on the part of entities for whom the impulse to be compassionate doesn’t exist.
Of course, in the realm of advertising, aka propaganda, compassion and wokeness appear fake, because all corporate education is indeed fake. Liberalism and many left issues – even decent treatment of workers, as long as it isn’t too specific, like unionization and benefits and wages – have been co-opted by the lyingest organisms in our society.
For this reason, such issues have become stigmatized. The people who want to blame government and liberals for everything only have to mention an issue, such as caring about wildlife habitats, or caring about child nutrition, or caring about getting teachers decent pay – they only have to mention such issues in a way that echoes the capitalist’s shallow rendering to convince a great mass of people of the shallowness and valuelessness of the individual human beings who actually care about such things.
This is why we have to focus on the one problem with capitalism that it can’t co-opt: capitalism is destroying civilization and the planet. Capitalism must be destroyed for the sake of civilization and the planet. Obviously, that means we must continue to culturally criminalize imperialism. But I can foresee corporate capitalism co-opting anti-imperialism too. Corporations already have public relations materials about how much better they make the lives of people in the nations they steal resources from. Smiling Nigerian child actors receiving iPads in their schools, while meanwhile, in real life the military, paid by the oil company, mows down Nigerian protestors.
We’ve already gone a long way toward culturally criminalizing being super-rich. Mocking the three billionaire space stooges is pretty much mainstream. It’s going to take a lot of work to bring that criminalization from cultural stigma to material stigma, but the longer capitalism sticks to its doctrine of private property accumulation, which by its nature it must, the more visceral and material that crime is going to feel to the people.
We may never get the working-to-middleclass superpatriots on board. They’re kept satisfied by a SCOTUS that’s been bought with dark money because the Koch, Karlyle, and Kargill (KKK) Supreme Court makes the same theocratic culture war noises the jingoist superpatriots do. And no, we shouldn’t tailor our declarations or actions to avoid being mocked by them.
But their propaganda calling out the fake compassion of the left, supported by the fake- compassion propaganda of corporate feudalism, affects those still wandering in the old paradigm of “we can fix all this with good ol’ American stick-to-it-iveness and gumption!” We have to give the right as few tools as possible to spread their message, and the tools they have we must take away.
No more applauding the wealth accumulation achievements of someone just because they’re a person of color. Wealth accumulation is not admirable. And yes it’s great that there’s a First Nations woman who’s now Secretary of the Interior. But is it? Is it really? How about we judge her actions on their merits, not freighted with her people’s heritage, as if that has merit that attaches to whatever policies she chooses to pursue no matter how destructive or ineffectual. If the policies she follows are wonderful, well that’s wonderful. If they’re not, we don’t have to pretend to be happy that “at least it was a Native American who sold out the Sacred Lands and water to the oil companies.”
It’s been said so many times that it’s almost a truism: the majority of people in this country support progressive policies. And the generation coming up is way more on board with actual socialist solutions to our problems, especially as they are the only solutions that can reasonably be expected to work.
Incidentally, this Generation Z – can we just call all generations Generation Z from now on? There’s a popular idea that we should call the generation just being born Generation Alpha. That’s completely uncalled for. Until we fix it so human civilization will survive into the future, all generations from now on should be called Generation Z. Because any generation from now on is likely to be the last. If we get through the next half-century with a reasonable expectation that humanity will indeed have a future, I’d be fine if we called the generation starting in that new world “Generation Alpha.” But to call any generation anything that seems more like a beginning than an end under the current circumstances, which promise only to grow more dire, is a categorical error.
If your politics doesn’t center working to turn around the climate disaster, the mass extinction, mass human impoverishment, and the persecution of poor people, it’s just irrelevant to what we need to be doing, in my opinion. And the solution to turning around all these catastrophes hinges on wealth being used for purposes other than to enrich a small fraction of privileged humanity. That suggests a full overhaul of the global economy. I don’t care how we get there, but that has to be the goal.
Petty arguments about who gets to be on postage stamps are totally relevant when one is discussing postage stamps and who has historically gotten to be on them. The argument about who gets to wear the Tiffany diamond necklace is fine and relevant if you’re arguing about necklaces and the status connotations of the wearer, their identity, and the place people with their identity have traditionally been relegated to in fashion history. But don’t act like Beyoncé wearing the Tiffany diamond necklace constitutes progress toward a world where society refuses to allow people to go hungry or be forced to sleep under highway overpasses without access even to a legal place to relieve and wash themselves. Let’s not act like a Secretary of the Interior being Native American automatically makes a livable future for plant and animal life a more likely scenario than it was before she was installed.
Obviously, right now, nothing positive seems probable. But that’s all the more reason to do triage on the actions and language that can bring the world we want closer to reality, however unlikely that reality might seem at the present moment.
That’s a goal of mine. I’m working on making it real in an economy that sort of doesn’t want me to live if I rebel against it. Goals. I’m not great at them. But I believe I can learn.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
When I have one of those bullshit jobs, I perform as if born to the work – that is, if anyone’s watching. But a job position is a character one puts on at the beginning of the day and takes off at the end. And the worse the job, the shoddier the disguise, and the quicker it rips, loses buttons, disintegrates, until I am indecently revealed as an imposter.
I don’t respond well to commands. I would emphatically not be a good soldier. I wish everyone else in the world could say the same. Aspiring to be a good soldier is not admirable. It might be necessary at any given point in history to be a soldier, and of course one ought to do the best one can within any circumstance one finds oneself enmeshed. But that’s entirely different. The value of being a good soldier, for the sake of soldiering itself, obedience itself, and hierarchy-honoring bushido or esprit de corps themselves, is nil.
Nil! Nil I say. Nada. Naught. Nuttin’.
Nevertheless, I soldier on as a soldier in the Socialist Leisure Party, a party that esteems soldiering even lower than I do, despite myself being the party’s leader. I am a worse leader even than I am a soldier.
Even worse, I’m not a revolutionary. I’m on the fence. That’s right, I said it, I’m on the fence and proud! I might join the revolution if it appeals to me. Right now most of the revolutionaries I’m encountering do not impress me as people able to prevent their revolution from being hijacked by those with destructive designs, and by destructive, I mean destructive of life on the planet. Some might see my position as just an excuse not to take up the difficult struggle against the structure that exploits most people around the world. Maybe so.
But right now it’s a strategy to avoid following pointless commands and being coerced into doing BS jobs. It’s a nice fence I sit on. I like the view. It’s not the luxury fence the name of my party might lead folks to expect, but that is an aspiration for the future.
In the future all luxury will be public. Palaces and museums, currently private libraries, the castle Jimmy Page lives in, all privatized hot springs, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Basquiat, the whole of Vatican City, all lands currently controlled by any religious body, Samuel Alito’s baby skull collection, and anything Elon Musk has will be ours, plus his head and genitals to be paraded through the public square on a Brazilian barbecue sword and sacrificially burned. If your revolution has different goals, then of course I’m not going to jump off the fence to be part of it no questions asked. Let’s hear at least an elevator pitch of some of the goals.
And don’t say, “Worker control of the means of production.” There’s more to life than work and production. There fucking better be. It’s a fine first principle. But whither from there? What about non-productive wealth in every from?
No one needs their own palace to conduct affairs of state and allocating such property to oneself is counterrevolutionary and selfish. I don’t expect every leader to be a selfless, altruistic ascetic, especially when capitalists still hold the majority of the means of destruction. But revolutionary leadership, if one arrogates to wield it, must exhibit some meaningful difference from that which it replaces. It must arrogantly exemplify to capitalism visceral, visible aspects capitalism is incapable of either denying or displaying. It must visibly spit into capitalism’s face what capitalism cannot inhabit in even a superficial way because it threatens their discourse of power. Without such public humility on the part of those who would govern, the people can never truly consent to be governed. Without their consent, all power from above is colored by coercion, disobedience punishable by starvation, or exposure, or imprisonment.
More substantively, if your politics does not ultimately center fighting the ongoing climate, pollution, and extinction disaster, and the criminalization and exploitation of, the cruelty toward, and the stripping of dignity from poor people around the world, I’m going to assume that its ultimate motivations are selfish.
Complaining about how many government regulatory obstacles there are to your making money by Air BnBing part of your property does not promise a positive political position.
Complaining about what “mental midgets” your students are, and how liberal-dominated public education has failed them – without seemingly having ever taught a population you don’t see as examples of such stunted minds – demonstrates more about your ego, intolerance, and lack of ability to connect with others in a caring way than it does about the real abilities or potentials of those you perceive as beneath you. Or maybe you’re just addicted to complaining. Believe me, I get that.
Likewise, enabling hawks of privatization to commandeer the prevailing discourse, whether through inaction or by weak or conciliatory action, is ultimately selfish. Also likewise, refusing to support popular movements of the poor to alleviate their own poverty. Arguing for and giving material support to the poor are steps toward revolution, and refugees are by definition poor, and the selectively over-policed are by definition poor, and the concerns of the poor are by definition revolutionary.
You may believe one single highly motivated superman or junta of supermen can always do better without input from the rabble. But the more you chip away at the commons and take power and wealth away from the people who will inevitably have to live with the consequences of the superman’s actions, the farther you take humanity from a decent society.
Of course, I come at these concerns as an artist. And a pervert. And an art lover. And a pervert lover. I am not going to relinquish these concerns and loves, and I don’t see them as selfish or counterrevolutionary. I see them as integral to the project, as integral as Emma Goldman believed dancing was.
I am the dancing bug. Look upon my glittering carapace, ye mighty, and despair.
Or, y’know, kill me when the time comes. If you’re really in a position to imminently transform the current world into one with an egalitarian economy and a responsible relationship with the environment, and I’m an obstacle to that, please kill me.
Incidentally, Please Kill Me is the title of a famous book about the LA Punk scene. This entire tirade, then, is a callback to last week’s complaints about Exene Cervenka and other musical celebrities’ betrayals of the people’s interests. Exene Cervenka’s name makes me wonder why she didn’t start her own band and call it Cerv-Ex.
What a missed opportunity. Unlike me, there are a lot of perverts out there who think it’s fine to miss opportunities to make positive change. So, all I ask is, if you decide I must be disposed of to make way for the new world, please kill them first.
But remember, if any of my Jeremiad has struck you as harsh: we are even now completing our yearly passage through the season of the Dead. During this season, some of us wear costumes, some of us to honor the dead, some of us to mock the living or the quasi-living. Costumes, of course, are superfluous, because our very incarnations are costumes. Our identities ourselves are costumes. This is where egalitarianism begins and ends. And I don’t care who thinks it’s liberal touchy-feely foolishness, each of us deserves a participation trophy in the costume party contest of existence.
You, too, are already a winner!
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!
Welcome to your Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
Recently, I had one of my epiphanies, and this time it wasn’t due to the onset of an unexplained seizure coming on simultaneously with a mild stroke. Here it is: I think Hollywood could make faster progress in getting more women into key jobs behind the camera if it stopped killing them with trains and guns once they got there.
But more on that later.
Over the weekend I went to an excellent rock show. One of the best I’ve been to in my life. The openers were The Blasters, a longtime favorite Americana roots rock band fronted by guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, Dave Alvin. Then a lesser-known band I will not name came on and did not disappoint because I wasn’t expecting anything. And then the stage was turned over to the headliners, X, a legendary 80s punk band fronted by vocalist Exene and guitarist/vocalist John Doe.
I wasn’t much into punk in the late 70s into the 80s, so I only knew X by reputation, and they exceeded what I had been led to expect. They were musically tremendous, and lyrically, at least the lyrics I could hear, pretty poetic.
At one point John Doe, who I believe still has the preference for progressive politics he evinced in the 1960s going to anti-war protests, said, “When the election comes around next year, remember to get out there and vote!” and, a bit strangely, I thought, the woman next to me shouted sarcastically, “And don’t be racist, why don’t you throw that in there?” That was a head- scratcher.
But a little deeper into the set, Exene said, “Happy Birthday, Brandon.” I suspected I knew what that might mean. Near the end of the show she said, “Let’s go, Brandon,” and a portion of the crowd cheered. Someone shouted, “We love you, Exene!”
I, on the other hand, said, “Oh, fuck you.”
See, earlier in the day, a statistics-cherrypicking rightwing gun rights libertarian who spouts his dreck ad nauseum at the coffee place where I hang out sometimes had invaded a Facebook post of mine. The post I posted was this:
“So, how do we head off the fascist dictatorship coming after the 2024 election? Any suggestions?”
His comment was this:
“Why ya’ll so concerned? Dem senate - Dem House and Brandon is doing a fantastic job - No? What more could you ask for.”
My response was:
“Who the fuck is Brandon? Surely the best-informed man at coffee should know that the current president's name is Biden.”
The Brandon trope, for those of us not in the know because we’re not drooling developmentally disabled toddlers, is a reference to Brandon Brown. He won an automobile race, and while he was being interviewed, the crowd started chanting, “Fuck Joe Biden,” because of course, whenever someone achieves something worthy of applause, your fans’ first instinct is to shout out profanity about a politician they don’t like. Y’know, like when Yo-yo Ma played a beautiful Bach suite, the crowd used to yell, “Trump is a rapist.” Of course, it was true, but even so, inappropriate as a substitute for “bravo” or “nice cello suite, Ma.”
Anyway, the reporter interviewing him said the chant was “Let’s go Brandon.” So, “Let’s go Brandon,” means “Fuck Joe Biden.” I guess the reason the little coffee chimp didn’t respond to me is because he was busy giggling to himself like a pre-teen girl in a clique of mean friends who have a secret cruel name for an overweight classmate they ostracize. Weird that adults act this way, especially as a form of ostensible political rebellion.
Exene is a well-known conspiracy theorist who thinks school shootings and incel massacres like the one Elliot Rodger perpetrated are false flag hoaxes. Her brain’s pretty much poached from years of partying like she was famous but feeling she was never famous enough, the poor pickled cooze.
The tradition of self-righteous pop music stars is as old as recording itself, and the large number of supposedly rebellious figures who turned out to be right-wingers shouldn’t be surprising at this late date. I found out back in college that black lesbian icon Joan Armatrading was a Thatcherite, so when I found out former drummer for The Velvet Underground, Mo Tucker, who came to Chicago in the 90s and, at the Empty Bottle on Western, did one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen in my life, was a W Bush supporter, it wasn’t such a shock.
Likewise Johnny Ramone, whose love for the rotten right went back to Nixon and beyond, prepared me for the fact that the lead singer for LA punks, The Effigies, became a rightwing, Catholic, W Bush-supporting prosecuting attorney in Illinois, which fact in turn prepared me for rightwing, Trump-sucking Johnny Rotten, who in turn prepared me for Saturday night at the Greek, when twisted conspiracy cooze Exene said, in childish secret MAGA NASCAR code, “Fuck Joe Biden.”
That my giggling, mean-girlish coffee acquaintance was likewise emotionally retarded was also not a particularly earth-shaking reveal. It almost engenders affection, like the kind one has for an ugly, two-legged dog. Exene, the Johnnies, and little Sailor Goon, they’re just cheering for their team. And they picked a bad team. A lousy, nasty, cheating, racist, cowardly team. Theirs is a shady team, like the 1988-90 Detroit Pistons, The Bad Boys, except the Pistons were lovable villains who won on their skill and teamwork, whereas the team these white-supremacist Hello Kitty rejects are cheering for can only win by wrecking the home court of any opponent before the game starts, and they are not the least bit lovable. Not even as lovable as Bill Laimbeer.
No, these revelations, while annoying, were not mind-blowing. They didn’t even constitute a mild breeze across the cranium.
What blew my mind was when I found out that the first AD on the set of Rust, who reportedly handed Alec Baldwin a loaded firearm and announced it a “cold gun,” resulting in DP Halyna Hutchins being fatally shot, was also the first AD on my movie, Basmati Blues. I know that guy. I wanted to check in with him when a friend from the production told me, but he had deactivated his Facebook account for understandable reasons.
Let me say that on our movie he was eager to please and happy to get the first AD position, he ran an efficient set, and because there was so much other nuttiness going on typical of movie shoots in India, and we had no weapons on our set other than a lathi stick Indian policemen use for hitting their victims, I can only tell you that he did an excellent job for us. As for harassment, I don’t remember him ever touching me inappropriately. If he did, I must’ve liked it.
The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragic result of union norms and safety precautions being scoffed at, and if IATSE doesn’t strike now, I think they’re making a mistake. Work on a TV or movie set is never going to be a regular nine-to-five job, but there’s a union because the work can be dangerous and taxing, and if the rules already in place aren’t being followed, a strike can only help re-cement them in the minds of producers and the culture of the industry.
Unfortunately, the bad team, you could call them Spanky and the Oversize Rascals, has its sticky fingers in this pie, too. The Oversize Rascals are against unions and safety regulations, and wormed their attitude into the workplace pretty much from the beginning of cinema history. So, cheerleaders for the Oversize Rascals aren’t just coyly cussing at the Democratic President, who nobody really likes that much anyway, they are against workers’ rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights.
And that just makes their babyish games that much more pathetic and disgusting. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good grief!