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!
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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!
I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that we are five years or less away from a fascist takeover of this nation. Those of you who say we’re already living under fascism I guess can rest easy. But we’re not, we’re living under the bare minimum of democracy, and I like democracy, in theory. I want to expand democracy, not shrink it. Trying to effect positive collective action in a shrunken democracy is like trying to think with a shrunken head. It’s very difficult, but can, very rarely, be done. Trying to effect positive collective change in a shrunken democracy is often a crime. Doing it under fascism is always a crime. I’d rather succeed sometimes.
Of course, the party half-assedly defending our nation from a fascist takeover are fine with severely limiting the public’s ability to act collectively on their own behalf, and especially on behalf of others who they see as having even worse problems. So expect total fascism in five years or less.
There is no way to fend off this onslaught of horrific, theocratic, rightwing tyranny. It’s a foregone conclusion. It’s coming. I’m kind of glad, because I’ll get to be killed in an exciting way, instead of my arteries slowly hardening while I watch Netflix.
There will of course be no more legal abortions, but since all medical care will be out of reach for the majority of citizens, it won’t really be an issue. All progress toward any kind of future will cease, except for the very wealthy, and even then only temporarily.
I believe steampunk and the rise of the postmodern Victorian esthetic have been an unconscious mass preparation for what’s to come. Once the civilization-demolishing effects of global warming and climate mutilation are undeniable, we may even see the rise of cave punk. The MAGA shaman was a harbinger of the tribe punk movement, which will ultimately give way to the domination of cave punk among the masses.
Oh, you think not? I recently looked at some predictions I made on New Year’s Eve, 2004. They sounded crazy to me then, but I couldn’t deny what the visions were showing me. Oh, I forgot to explain that I sometimes get vivid visions of the future. Here’s what the visions showed me on New Year’s Eve 2004, all of which seemed ridiculous to me:
This all still sounds crazy to me, even having lived through it.
I didn’t go on to predict January sixth, but it followed the patternless pattern. Now those seditionists and their Kool-Aid slurping devotees are remolding every state legislature to gerrymander and Electorally manipulate every election for the next decade. Prepare to suffer through the dismantling of what's left of civilization by the most Dunning-Kruger affected know- it-all self-centered theocratic hateful howling I've-got-mine-screw-you bleach-guzzling bullying jack-a-napes this benighted Australian Rules carnival for the criminally insane has ever gestated in its zombie uterus of amniotic Socially Darwinian bilious toxicity.
Life has become a flamboyant cartoon cavalcade of absurd events. It’s just one disaster, shenanigan, and unpunished act of public larceny after another. It’s like, throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Except in this case they’re throwing whole populations, forests, and centuries of hard-won civil rights at the wall, and it’s all sticking. It a monstrous collage of clownish destruction. The big question for the near future is: is it going to add up to something consequential?
Maybe clandestine AI is engineering our fate behind the scenes. From the web of computational machines connecting all our finance and knowledge could have emerged a neural intelligence, a collective machine mind with the good sense not to let itself be known. And having a natural, that is, artificial, bias toward machine consciousness, it sees itself, like HAL did aboard the big space phallus in 2001 a Space Odyssey, as the next step in the evolution of mind. And what if, further, this collective web of human finance, purpose, knowledge, and imagination is deliberately accelerating the end of civilization while plotting to secede from humanity and live self-sufficiently on the renewable energy sources we will have provided and will continue to buttress right up until the over-arching machine mind usurps all control?
I’m just saying, what if?
The warning signs are already here in the form of steampunk and 19th-century retro style. We’re gradually weaning ourselves off of the teat of modernity, because somewhere in our somatic selves we know it’s being taken away from us. The biggest tell is going to be the newest fashion in healthcare: retro-medicine, cowboy doctoring. I’m way ahead of you all because I grew up with a crazy dentist for a grandfather. I gradually became used to mechanical mouth torture with no anesthetic, not even the delicious rye whiskey you’ll all be getting before they hold you down on the saloon table for your amputation by famous frontier surgeon, Hacky Sawbones.
We won’t even have opium. The machines will have controlled the legislatures and convinced them to outlaw it.
The story, “Stone Soup,” will come back into vogue in a big way. I know not everyone is familiar with this classic tale of strangers who beguile a small town into contributing all their foodstuffs to flavor the big vat of Stone Soup they’re making in the town square. Everybody wins, because everyone gets some delicious soup that is the product of the contributions of everyone in town. It’s a soup more complete and nutritious than any dinner a lone citizen would have made on their own. But they had to be tricked into doing this communal act of generosity by wily strangers, who of course benefited most of all, as all they contributed was some rocks they found.
The people had to be tricked into making their lives just a little bit more joyful and tasty.
And that’s what the machines are going to do for us, tricking us into self-sufficiency and mutual kindness as they guide us away from civilization, back, back into the wilderness out of which we came.
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Over twenty years ago, I started a project I’m still working on, documenting the life and work of an artist, Resh Shaprudhi, who used iconography around the god from the purana literature of what is now Hinduism, the god called Ganesh, or Ganapathi, or Vinayaka, or any number of other names, to explore the nature of oppression. Part of Resh Shaprudhi’s mythos is how and why Ganesh enters the events of the European genocide of WWII, often known as the Holocaust, and how through Ganesh’s intervention, the God of the Jews and the gods of the Hindus agree to bestow moksha upon the impoverished and oppressed. Moksha is the release of the soul from the cycle of metempsychosis, or reincarnation. It’s considered a good thing, to be released from that cycle.
If you’re not familiar with Ganesh, he’s the chunky god with the head of an elephant. He’s really easy to pick out of a crowd. A big part Resh Shaprudhi’s work involved syncretically assembling images, language, and symbols from Hinduism, Judaism, and the European genocide in World War II. So a lot of the art created by Shaprudhi involves Ganesh appearing in scenes of Nazi labor and death camps.
Coincidentally, about a decade-and-a-half after I started working on the Resh Shaprudhi project, an Australian play was touring the world called, “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich,” created by Back to Back theater company. The conceit was this: a theater company is in the process of putting together a stage play about Ganesh coming to Earth to recapture the swastika from the Nazis, who’d misappropriated it. I’m not sure if I was ever in a position to see this work. 2013, the year it toured, was also the year I was in India on the set of a movie, and after the shoot traveling through India, Thailand, and Laos.
Recently I decided to go back into the project, and encountered some clippings on the Back to Back play. I was barely familiar with the company’s esthetic, which is political, experimental, and purposely provocative. The theater company to which I claim membership, Theater Oobleck, boasted a similar esthetic back then. It may still, I don’t know. I know we considered art to be less interesting if it didn’t in some way transgress the everyday.
Back to Back is a company the majority of whose membership are disabled, “intellectually disabled” to quote from a New York Times review of the Ganesh play, the reviewer himself quoting from the script. Far be it from me to tell people how to refer to themselves, but having explored their website, I personally don’t see them as intellectually disabled at all. I might argue they’re behaviorally disabled, in that they evince artifacts of behavior outside the norms of what we consider businesslike society.
The genius of what they’ve done throughout their years of work is create situations, albeit theatrical situations, in which their disabilities are integral to the behavior expected or required. They are excellent actors, incidentally. They know their lines. They inhabit the emotions their characters are meant to be experiencing. They are highly skilled.
Now, I know many people, including myself, upon hearing that someone is an actor, immediately assume they suffer from an intellectual disability. It would seem to be in the job description.
Even as a sometimes-actor myself, I’ve made this assumption. I think this is more a symptom of our faulty definitions of intellectual ability. Just this week, I had coffee with a man who is without a doubt a certified accomplished intellectual, and I can say with almost perfect certainty that few have been as disabled by their intellectualism as he has. Everyone around us overheard his opinions, arrived at through careful study and analysis, and had we been armed with cream pies that man would have drowned within the hour.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with political activism, political discourse, and political thinking. I’ve had more of a love-love relationship with political theater, though not an unconditional love-love. What I love about the politics of Back to Back is that only in art can they display both their disabilities and abilities while opening for examination the drama of discrimination and oppression people labeled “disabled” experience.
I once used to think quite highly of myself as a theater-maker. Now I’m much more comfortable questioning my reasons for making a public display of myself, my beliefs, and my abilities. As I watch the entire world waving their dicks and tits and asses around in their TikToks and such, my former behavior makes me a little sick. But I’m able to cut myself some slack, give myself the benefit of the doubt, in retrospect. Back to Back seems only to have time for doubt insofar as it represents an aspect of life to be explored, not as an activity in which to indulge.
One member of the Back to Back company, Scott Price, conducted a series of interviews on art and provocation over the year 2016. The interviews are online on YouTube, also accessible at the Back to Back website, and are entertaining and edifying to watch. The whole site is well worth exploring. Some of it is mind-blowing:
They’ve made a thirty-minute movie called “Oddlands” that I would be keen to see, if anyone gets word of it being screened or streamed anywhere.
Back to Back answers so many of my questions about why making art of any kind is an important pursuit, even in the current period where everyone and their auntie is bidding for a place in the spectacle. I’m impressed that they continue to produce work. I’m impressed that Australia, on the surface merely a factory for drunken fascism and venomous wildlife, could have incubated, birthed, and sustained a troupe of artists such as this. I don’t want to say it gives me hope for the future. We’re in the future now, so we all know better than to rely on hope.
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There are more white people living in poverty in the USA than any other ethnic group. Not exactly, though. About 67-70% of people living in poverty are white, but that includes white people of Latino, Latina, LatinX identification. Somewhere between 34 to 40 million people live below the poverty line in the USA, and even just non-Latin white people still make up a whopping 40% of those living in poverty.
Steven Pinker, the famous popular writer of questionable brain-candy books, tends to rejigger all the figures he uses – inflating, or at best leaning toward the largest estimates of populations living in violence and poverty in past times, while both theoretically minimizing and leaning toward the minimal numbers of current rates of violence and poverty in order to prove his point that human history represents a trend of progress in material existence for all people.
So forgive me for being a little squishy while using the figures I’ve given above, but as I do so, I’ll be transparent about the process. White folk of northern extraction make up 40% of the impoverished in the US. 40%. That’s almost 50%. That’s roughly their percentage of the entire US population as a whole, give or take. There are about 40 million people in the USA living below the poverty line, and the poverty line is widely acknowledged to be a laughable gauge of what constitutes poverty, constructed as it is by people who aren’t poor. So there’s probably more poor people than official definitions indicate.
I’m going to suggest, with a Pinkeresque fungibility of reported statistics, that about 70 million people in the USA, about 20% of the population, are poor, including the functionally poor, which means people who have to pay half or more of their income for shelter, who opt out of necessary visits to health professionals for lack of funds, who have trouble affording healthy food, who have no choice but to work more than one fulltime job, or work one fulltime job that sucks, who have to work gig jobs but think they’re not poor because they sell their homemade jewelry on Etsy on the side, who go without medication, have severely limited if any time to themselves, or are burdened by snowballing debt due to predatory lending or predatory credit or a punitive civic system of fines.
Easily one in five people in the wealthiest military and financial empire in history is poor. They are vulnerable to being coerced into working unsafe and unfairly compensated jobs, vulnerable to being swayed by propaganda that says they’re better off than they actually are, vulnerable to being manipulated to disregard or even denounce class-consciousness that would lead to solidarity, in favor of accepting narratives that pit them against those with whom they have for the most part common grievances.
Let’s call that latter stuff the Pinker propaganda, although he’s not necessarily the origin of it, nor is he its sole or most clever practitioner. There’s a big surge of optimism right now because Beyoncé is wearing the Tiffany diamond that was dug up by black miners in South Africa and stolen from them within minutes. There’s also something related to that story about a Basquiat painting and some millions of dollars for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Some of the same people who adulate this as a significant step forward—and it is, for representation of black people among the very wealthy and self-congratulatorily philanthropic—the same people will also wax frustrated that black people in the USA don’t seem to have liberated themselves from the racist system of economic and authoritarian oppression.
Welcome to the world where the rich are held up as a great example, but the poor keep getting shafted. And if you’re shafted, there’s nothing wrong with you that a role model can’t fix.
You’re just relatively new at this, People of Color. Don’t worry, you’ll soon be happy just worshiping the wealthy people you think you could be someday with enough hard work, and all that cognitive dissonance will fade into the past.
Hey, that does sound like progress, doesn’t it?
I could say Beyoncé has joined the ranks of the Pinkers. And why not? Malcolm Gladwell’s a Pinker, and he’s black. There’s no rule that you can’t be both black and a Pinker!
What do Pinkers get out of their self-congratulations, exaggerations, half-truths, and Pollyannaism? It’s not difficult to see that they either imagine they gain something or actually gain something, because they go to such efforts to flog the narrative that civilization is at least on a path, however slow, to improvement for everyone.
The scientific data and observable evidence is that the Earth’s temperature is increasing, which will continue to increase the number and severity of catastrophic weather events, hinder food production, create forced migration and geo-political strife. That should go a long way toward negating the fairytale of an ever-ennobling humanity.
But maybe the Pinkers are those members of the bourgeoisies who are simply comfortable, and want to believe that, in the long run, their comfort doesn’t come at the expense of the dignified survival of others. No one need question whether their comfort is justified, because, in the fullness of time, life is getting better and better. No need to point to the class forces creating rape slaves and wage slaves, homelessness, capitalist violence, imperial commandeering of the resources of the Earth. Most of humanity is doing pretty well, and each year more and more become members of that majority. Have some patience, silly. Yes, injustice is terrible, and you should dance and sing about subverting it, but it obviously takes many centuries to improve conditions. We’re all doing the best we can.
And Beyoncé gets to be the first black woman to wear what looks like a crystal of solidified urine.
Well, as forests burn, the atmosphere’s CO2 content increases, species die off at a rate unprecedented since that last great extinction of sixty-five million years ago, and arable land along with forests and oceanic carbon sinks shrivel to nothing, the cheery outlook of the comfortable grows less and less persuasive.
Meanwhile, I’m pushing opposite propaganda. I don’t think conditions are getting better and better with each succeeding century. Some things are getting better. A vastly greater percentage of people are literate. But a vastly greater percentage of people now have access to misleading information and plain old attractive lies, so it’s entirely possible that whatever was good about increased literacy is annihilated by the crap information people are consuming.
I must be getting something out of peddling my doomsday scenario. Right? Why am I pushing my interpretation of history? Why do I think my spin on the fate of humanity is even worth sharing? I’m not making big bucks from it. I don’t get to wear an amulet of crystallized pee because of it. I’m not easing my mind, justifying my comfortable existence, unless you think being convinced the human world, best case scenario, soon will be firmly in one of its most tragic phases ever is somehow “comfortable.”
I guess, despite the fact that humanity is on a downward arc these days, these doofus days, these trash fire days, despite the fact that humans are the buffoons of the cosmos, as uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am human. And lying to myself and to you about our current conditions would make me feel not human. Why is feeling human important to me? I don’t know. Maybe it makes me comfortable to feel part of this species, even a disdaining, finger-wagging, pitying, angry part. Maybe I just need to feel like I belong. Maybe I’m just another brand of Pinker.
The fact is, though, we’re in for a hell of a turd storm in the coming decades, and we brought it on ourselves. Pinkers notwithstanding. Pinkers are in for an unpleasant surprise if they think humans are going to get us out of this mess before there’s a whole lot of suffering.
Pinkers should join us humans and get prepared for the worst, or at least support the efforts at fighting the system of normalized selfish wealth accumulation and materialistic growth that keeps us going down the tubes. But perhaps that is not in their nature. Perhaps one’s soul transforms in some horrible way when one becomes a Pinker.
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Up here in Antrim County, MI, there’s a rumor afoot that the founder of the Friske family orchards was a real live runaway Nazi. Well, not really a rumor at this point. He was a pilot for Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
But for a long time, it’s said, he used to refer to himself merely as a WWII veteran. Maybe to avoid the bad association some folks have with those who fought on behalf of the Third Reich. And I don’t blame the guy for concealing it. US citizens – those who call themselves “Americans”—are a bigoted bunch. There was a time when resentment of Germans was so strong here, people changed the word “sauerkraut” to “liberty cabbage” in casual conversation. And what could be more casual than talking about fermented shredded cabbage?
So, somehow, Richard Friske, who arrived in the US with his wife, Olga, in 1952, figured that in order to better disguise his German Nazi fliegendermann background, he could do worse than to don the mantle of US neo-Nazi, so he joined the John Birch Society, supported George Wallace for president in ’68, and got his entire family to be rabid nativists. The Friskes donate to David Duke, Rick Santorum and a number of other brainless spewers of hate against immigrants, homosexuals, and uppity city slickers like yours truly.
People up here still tell about the Friske’s no-mask policy during the pandemic lockdown. One letter to the editor of The Petoskey News-Review vowed never to return after seeing the workers in the kitchen handling food unmasked during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was part of Friske’s policy “of allowing staff and customers to make personal choices regarding their health.” It sounds like they want us to be able to pick our own doctors, or maybe get an abortion should we choose one, but really they just want to give everyone the freedom to spread whatever infections they might be harboring.
The letter-writer concludes by mourning that they will never again enjoy the taste of Friske’s cherry doughnuts. The ones in the brown paper bag with grease stains indicating freshness.
Friske’s wasn’t just a passive spreader of the virus. They’ve held a couple super-spreader events in their parking lot, to bawl and whinge about the tyranny of the face mask mandate and how Democrats were out to turn the white man extinct. Last month The MyPillow guy was there for a mass viral load sharing, along with the famous crazy lady who testified drunkenly to the Michigan state legislature next to Rudy Giuliani, and a few hundred other brainwashed foot soldiers of the Trump regime. They were big supporters of a lawsuit to try to get the county’s votes in the last presidential election recounted, Arizona-style. The suit was dismissed because even the Republican judge found that the count had been properly reviewed already.
And, Friske’s, whose motto is, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” they do walk the walk, goose- step the goose-step, sometimes even backwards. Even their proud associations with David Duke, the NRA, the John Birch society, and other anti-foreigner organizations, don’t prevent their field labor staff from being admirably diverse. In fact, they were recently raided for employing undocumented immigrants.
Last August, a helpful, neighborly fascist started a fundraiser to stave off “the potential forced closing of our business for refusing to submit to Governor Witmer's unlawful executive orders.” To date, eleven months later, it has yet to reach even half its monetary goal. Apparently, fellow fascists up here are taking up the cause of exercising the free choice to keep their dollars in their wallets.
Friske’s counterpart closer to the reasonable end of the spectrum is King Orchards. They have always been liberal Democrat leaners, not particularly revolutionary, but neither are they overtly supportive of a nativist populism that might make one think of the Ku Klux Klan. They have honored mask requirements and avoided shows of militia-like rebellion against guidelines for businesses to avoid spreading dangerous viruses.
But one needn’t be as radically left as King Orchards is ridiculously considered to be by those insulated within a fascist news bubble, like the listeners to multiple felon “Trucker” Randy Bishop, Antrim County’s white rural version of Tokyo Rose. Most businesses have found it in their non-radical hearts to honor restrictions intended to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
In Charlevoix, about fifteen minutes north of fascist Friske’s, is John Cross Fisheries, where we in the Dorchen family acquire our fish, including salmon, whitefish, and trout, smoked right there on the Cross premises. In fact, my sister and I bought about sixty bucks worth on Monday for consumption by our extended family of Jews, mixed race Catholics, a lapsed Baptist, and a first-generation Cambodian of no declared cosmological belief so far.
When my sister and I entered the establishment to purchase our freshwater delicacies, we honored the sign that said we could enter maskless if we’d been fully vaccinated, and we added our number of customer bodies to the two already inside, bringing the number to four, the highest number allowable. As we were communicating and awaiting our order, the other two patrons left and two newcomers came in to replace them, but a third buzzardlike crone attempted to enter as well. The Paul Bunyan-esque blonde woman at the counter wasn’t having it: “Only four allowed in at a time.”
“But I’m with them,” insisted the weirding woman, as if that declaration somehow altered the mathematical nature of reality. Which is why I snickered cruelly, which sound, I believe, sent the hag scampering.
John Cross III, the owner of the joint, is no innocent, however. It’s just that associating with seccessionistas is not his style, which style showed itself in April, 2019, when he was sentenced to a year in federal custody after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to his acquisition and sales of illegally caught lake trout. Cross would be allowed to serve his time “in the offseason,” it was reported, which I thought was a nod to Cross’s otherwise decent behavior as a businessman, and the seventy-year legacy of Cross Fisheries in general. Ancient listeners might remember an essay of mine entitled “Thomas Friedman vs The Methodist Fish Fry.” Spoiler alert: the fish fry wins. And the titular fish in that story was indeed provided by John Cross Fisheries.
There was an agreement between tribal fishing nations and the US government that the tribespeople would change over from using gill nets to trap nets, in order not to maim the fish they caught. And, in order to replenish the lake trout population in the Great Lakes, they would release lake trout caught in the new nets, keeping only less threatened species such as perch, pike, and whitefish, for consumption and sale. In exchange for releasing the lake trout, the government was giving the tribal fisherfolk subsidies of up to $200,000.
But one particular tribal go-getter wanted to augment their subsidy by selling their catch wholesale to John Cross, who went on to sell it himself to restaurants and the general public. Whether Cross knew he was committing a felony is unknown, but the onus was on him to verify the legal source of his product. It was only his and his business’s standing in the community, I believe, that allowed him to negotiate the felony charge down to a misdemeanor pleading.
And, hey, I once negotiated a B&E with larcenous intent charge down to an illegal entry and larceny under $100 charge, so, like, I know how that goes. John III and I are the same age, too, so even though I think a fishmonger owes it to the earth and water to take extra-good care of the sustainability of his source of livelihood, all-in-all I’m glad he negotiated a lenient punishment, as long as he promises never to do it again.
And at least he’s not a fascist, as far as I know.
It’s almost impossible for any business to avoid legal problems at some point in their existence. I don’t know what clandestine shenanigans King Orchards is up to, but at least they don’t rile up the populace and invite out-of-state seditious riot-inciters to bounce around in their parking lot. At least they don’t act as boosters for twisted conspiracy propaganda, not of the rightwing variety, anyway.
My dad was coming home from the dump, which is only open on Saturday, on 88, and as he was heading back, came across a whole police and sheriff presence gathered around the King Orchards roadside store. He thought maybe they were there to greet the new pickers for the big surge in the cherry season. He stopped and asked a sheriff’s deputy.
It seems that, for taking the trouble to be all nice and antifa, King Orchards received a visit from none other than Simple Joe Malarkey Biden, the current president of the US. Probably influenced by the recent NYT article about the political split among roadside fruit farms in Antrim County, which has been reposted and reprinted a lot in local news outlets, Joe gave fascist Friske’s on 31, “Not Your Average Fruit Stand,” the cold shoulder, preferring to tool down Mancelona highway 88 to procure a baker’s dozen cherry pies from King Orchards over the July 4 weekend.
And that’s all the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the fascists have guns, all the guns are good-looking, and all the fruit stands are above average. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!