Half of Nothing Passes or The New New Math.

Stupid should, I think, hurt a bit.

I, myself, was a bit of the touch the stove kind of kid. My parents always picked me up, dusted me off, checked to see if I was okay, and then promptly laughed at me. The term ‘dumb-ass’ never really had to be explained to me. I had an inherent knowledge of that nomenclature.

In sixth grade in the scholastic Mecca of St. Cloud, Florida I was instructed, along with my classmates, to create a utopian society, replete with laundry soap based, three dimensional, topographical representations. Utopian impossibilities aside, my society was based on an underwater, dome-based city. I had no intention of making a soap map of Logan 5’s city under the sea. I refused in my portly pert manner. I got my first C in that class, having received an F on that assignment for not completing the task as presented.

I didn’t much care for that teacher and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that she didn’t ever really feel the need to put me on her Christmas card list as I furthered towards adulthood. That’s cool. She did, however, have every right to blast me on that assignment. I told her to go to hell in my way and she responded in kind. I’ll fault that old bat a few things from those prepubescent memories, but she’ll never receive recrimination from me for that grade. I deserved what I got on that dumb-ass assignment. Today, I respect her now more for that F than I ever did previously.

Do you have kids? Are they in school? Are they missing a bit in English or composition or in math, but still showing promise? C average, maybe? Are they doing their homework? They may not need to.

Here’s a lovely bit of something: certain schools have started the policy (and it’s sadly nothing new) of instituting the minimum grade of 50 for nothing at all. Let’s restate that: your child, in many systems, can get fifty points out of a hundred for doing precisely fuck-all. In simple mathematics a child turning in work of a hundred questions at a single point apiece can miss forty of them for a grade of 60%. A child turning in nothing at all (not even their name signed to a piece of paper, mind you) can (again, in certain systems) get a score of 50%.

Now, I didn’t play T-Ball, but I did participate in some Boy’s Club activities and those cats never gave me a medal for coming in last. When I heard of kids getting trophies simply for playing I balked accordingly to my generational understanding. Benchwarmers didn’t get congratulated. They got to hope to play in the next game.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, am I writing about this?

How about some parameters? I don’t exalt humanity without reason. Pythagoras worked some shit out. Socrates got a whole method named after him. Einstein looked at an elevator and stood the world on its ear. Stephen Hawking always found more routes into the house than his sister, admitted he was wrong about black holes, and wheeled himself soundly into the position of man not to be trifled with (preposition, I know, but that teacher balked me, too). Humanity’s all too prone to that weakness of character. The reason I don’t list famous failures here is that there are damn few worth noting. Failing is its own demise. Fucking up is only worth noting if you’re on Jersey Shore or some equally nefarious setting. We applaud it in the present, but rarely remember it for long. Stupidity tries, yes, but it’s built only for the short term (unless you’re Custer, of course; certain things linger).

Even Edison sang: I didn’t find a way to make a light bulb; I found a hundred ways to denigrate Tesla.

I’m drifting.

Rewarding our children is no mark of sophistication. Do you know that schools overseas will often pull the child to the front of the class to the chalkboard who don’t know how to solve the problem? Do you get that? The kid with the trouble seeing gets up and the kids who do know help out from the back. Something so intrinsically, so seemingly, simple to get the lesson across. (That’s a sentence fragment, should you be wondering, with a comma splice.) Damn it. 50% for being lazy…and an idiot. (Did you see it that time?)

My problems with public schools previously have always been a measure of art or of extrapolation as opposed to rote memorization. My problems have been related to the fear of the word “fucking” in Slaughterhouse 5 or of “Goddam” in Catcher in the Rye, or of Zeffirelli showing Juliet’s breasts. “Fuck all,” I thought, “are we all some kind of goddamned puritanical heathens?” Never did it occur to me, even as I did it, mind you, that not turning in my work would result in a partial grade, up to and even beyond the halfway point of effort. Back in my day we didn’t fail with an above average grade. In my day, we failed with aplomb. We failed with a measure of self-interest and defeat. By gods, we failed with a certain style. We didn’t fail half-assed and masted for warm weather. We stood the storm, argued, lost, and found measures of extra credit that would keep our argumentative asses out the same grade forever. We did what was required and our teachers mocked us in their haven of a smoke-filled, coffee-riddled teacher’s lounge.They did this, I like to think, so we wouldn’t continue to be the continual fuck-ups that plagued them in class and become the sort of people that they wouldn’t mind standing in line behind at the suddenly ubiquitous Wal-Mart. To borrow a phrase: I’m just sayin’.

Here’s my deal: if your child is lazy, then that’s cool. If your child has the ability to function while being lazy, then that’s super cool. Lots of smart people are lazy (it’s the draw of being really, really smart). If your child is both not smart and lazy simultaneously, then, maybe, they should be outed and ousted, pranced to the front of the room and pushed to raise not even to the cream, but, at least, to the passable portion of the crop. Kids have problems, they do. I’m hip to that, but if we don’t hold them to some standards they may well just become that jam in the society that holds up the lines at Wal-Mart. They are sponges, you know. Kids soak up far more than we give them credit for. Quit giving them credit for shit that we expect of each other every day. Bosses rarely give an A for effort. Again, just sayin’.

Your love of your daughter or your son is not in question…well, actually it is. Awarding children in any manner for not learning is no way to lead them to water or any form of intellectual pursuits. Feeling good about yourself at fourteen is important, no argument; but being an idiot at twenty-eight is a travesty. Making any child feel worthwhile for doing precisely dick is a tragedy. Typing just such a statement, while appealing to my philosophy of the infinite, saddens me terribly.

In my life, I try to be as kind and polite to any aberrations of decency and/or logic, questions of taste, intelligence, or any substance of qualifications of being, but I will never endorse a teacher allowing a student to slide simply because their ass is in a chair. If you do so, feel free to ignore me or to respond with any vociferousness you might conjure up with any hatred and/or vehemence that may or may not apply. I’d like to hear your argument for a half-assed free ride in the modes of thought and learning. I really would, but forgive me if I don’t respond. Idiocy, I can only hope, is its own isolation.

Idiots Rule

Posted in Uncategorized

Porn (With a Whole Lot of Nothing New).

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult

I think I was all of fifteen years old when my father accosted me one day and said, “Don’t leave your porn in the VCR. Your mother nearly shit herself,” and handed me that coveted VHS find of that teenage year. To my credit I never forgot to remove the tape ever again.

Possibly a year previous I had come home from whatever glibly goofy shit I was doing and my mom caught me at the door with, “your magazines are on the bed not because you’re in trouble, but because the cat crawled behind your headboard to have her kittens.” True to her word, my bedspread now showed in full glory all the spank material I’d thus far managed to collect. I had no idea how to react; then, too suddenly for my comfort, my father walked in and sat on the bed, thumbing through my magazines. “Oh, Club,” he said opening to a busty redhead, “I remember Club.” I sat unmoving, wondering how to respond in any manner to anything at all in that rather alien afternoon.

How is it that I have never written a blog about pornography? I feel strangely remiss in having not touched on this base at all yet. I’m sure I’ve spouted off on sex in some manner or another, but porn? I can recall not a smattering of that sort of smut in the previous pennings on this page.

For what it’s worth, I have few issues with porn in general. And, relax, this is just the disclaimer paragraph. I’ve no intention of delineating my preferences or fetishes, or in creating some kind of Santa sin wish list. I come not to praise Caesar nor bury him. I neither endorse nor condemn pornography here. This all comes from something I heard Deborah Roffman say on NPR’s All Things Considered.

If you didn’t click the link and listen to the audio offered within that page, Roffman, at one point, offers up a story of a conversation between two sophomores (let’s recall the root of the word, while we’re at it, and, further note that she starts by saying it was an exercise; more on that later…). These two young males talked about how lucky they were to have access to internet porn. “How did previous generations learn about real sex?” she quotes him as saying.

Let’s go ahead and reel on the knee jerk reaction to that statement. Learning about real sex from internet porn? Insert your own exclamation of profound disappointment and incredulity here. Go ahead, say it aloud; it feels better. Even if the kids are listening I give you permission to intone ‘What the fuck?’ in that same voice you use when you’ve just found that your daughter’s new puppy just shat in your shoe. Who confuses porn with real sex? Well, maybe kids do. And maybe I’m eschewing a bit too many too true stories by delineating between the two, but, for all intents and purposes, I’m talking here about those new to sex, specifically not the seasoned warriors with safe words or adult ambulations toward what might seem nefarious in certain, more polite, circles. I’m not talking about adults with an adventurous side or tried and true lovers embarking on new-found territory. I’m talking about kids who, I’m more than willing to bet, don’t know that DeSade was a rather repetitive novelist and that Masoch wrote Venus in Furs.

Kids, man.

Somewhere around fourteen years old, surrounded by my slowly, oh, so slowly, accumulated ill gotten gains of pure porno, my father (with my Club magazine beavered wide before us) told me, “You know this is not sex, right? This is pornography. There’s a difference.” Now, at that age, I was not overly sold on myself. I knew that Cherry on page 32 was not going to be my first sexual experience and had no disillusions that I might walk into a small town café and run anything near the same escapade as that sailor with the two waitresses just a few pages later. I nodded and mumbled numbly to him during the whole conversation, but, here’s the rub: he took the time to assure both he and me that I understood the difference.

It seems such a simple question, but do your kids know? Trust me on this: they’re hearing it somewhere. We all had that friend that knew more than we did and, in my case, it turned out that kid was filled with simple misinformation and more than a little bullshit bravado. I remember a teenager telling a ten year old me about what happened when you took a girl’s virginity. I’m just saying, guard them all you want or are able to, they’re still soaking up everything anybody else is talking about. At what age does doubt become the norm? Does it ever?

We talk about imprinting. A goose was once imprinted with a ping pong ball in its youth. It spent the rest of his life trying to impregnate a small plastic orb (there’s also a story of a baby giraffe and a jeep, but maybe for another blog). Few humans would succumb to such extremism, I should think, but I still wonder. I remember the shower scene in Dressed to Kill and Bo Derek on the beach in Tarzan the Ape Man and dear old Blue Lagoon before I had any stirrings of sexuality. Care to guess what movies I still enjoy to this day? Certain things shape us.

The imprinting bit spooks me. What of the first sexual experience? How much can it be said to define your sexual character? I doubt the likelihood of a sudden generation of people having scores and scores of intimacy issues, but I do wonder at roughly a generation of kids first learning of sex through old Ron Jeremy clips. These kids’ll grow, I do not doubt, to level the physical field and eventually recognize the emotional components of such acts, becoming no worse or better than the kids I grew up with. And, don’t get me wrong here, my youthful escapades were not entirely prurient and sublimely blithe and wholesome, but neither were they marred by cameras, trust issues, or general degradation. That said, I still had a lot to learn from those rompish teenage years.

As ever, when I talk of children, I think of my niece Abs and her newly added brother Jerry and of two more, one of which who’s far more likely to run into this scenario. I can accept them seeing porn, but I can’t accept them accepting it as the norm, as real sex, as an endearment or honest basis and build, as any way they should act or react in that situation. “You know this is not sex, right? This is pornography. There’s a difference.”

I’m tempted to play the devil’s advocate and point out that Roffman was conducting an exercise with these students. Putting anybody on stage is dangerous (take it from an actor). These kids could have been spouting anything with impunity for representing what a teacher wanted to hear. That’s fair. It’s even a distinct possibility, but I’m sadly recalling the outbreak of syphilis in Conyers, GA.

What the fuck, again, right? If you’ve watched that documentary you may well remember a young girl showing the sexual positions of numerous young teens at parties with her stuffed animals as stand ins as she wasn’t comfortable describing them to the camera before her. Orgies, daisy-chains, and gang-bangs before you can legally drive? Oy vey.

Now, I’m no prude, but I’m also thirty-eight. My experimentalism is a damned sight different than that of a fifteen year old. Neither do I think that kids can’t handle any harsh truths or off-colour material, but I worry that maybe all some are getting is the off-colour stuff. The glamorization of Jenna Jameson was a little off to me. I’ve nothing against her, but I’d rather her not be the success story that any young loved one aspire towards. Had Langston Hughes wrote The Negro Speaks of Strippers I sincerely doubt it would have carried the same weight of history and depth of soul…however, ee cummings did sonnet prostitutes, but I digress. I simply don’t like the idea of anyone learning porn before sex. Later is their own business.

I’m loathe to even begin to start into the conversation of sexual assault in teens mentioned in the NPR bit above as I’m still having trouble with the idealism that maybe kids really can’t tell porn from reality. But, that would pan, wouldn’t it? Is assault simply a part of not being able to recognize sex from intimacy? I babble on about prefrontal lobes, but, Jesus (and pogo sticks) do we now have to worry that children learn the ABC’s of the bases from the porn thematic pay off of fellatio, cunnilingus, coitus, money shot?

Maybe Roffman’s got it. Maybe she hit the nail on the head. Remember, though, that porn is nothing new. Porn is historically the first to embrace any new technology. I’m thinking that we’re missing some dirty cave paintings only because of the possibility that censorship is the second oldest profession. Regardless of how out of hand it may get (I dare you to think of a fetish not already out there, really, I do), sex is going nowhere and is not really changing much in however many thousands of years you may believe that it’s been around.

Don’t mistake any of this for anything new. My worries bear no more weight from algebraic x thousand years past. We think we’re stumbling into new ground with our problems and our immediate links and all our velcro, but the fear is nothing new. The question still remains, though: how do we teach our children better?

This song is both inappropriate and completely apropos to this blog.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Raven Writes.

The very fact that I’m far too tempted to kick this off with a completely senseless and resounding “fuck” should give any reader a fair pause as to my general ability or worthiness to speak on any subject, however mundane or inconsequential.

I decided, however, not to start off with such blatant and unexplained vulgarity and open by writing about the desire to ante up with a simple “fuck.” The random usage of crude vernacular has no bearing, whatsoever, on the meat of this piece, other than to accentuate the fact that I shouldn’t even be writing this piece in the first place.

Indeed, let’s review: I am currently not living off of any profits from writing, I cannot aver slyly to my building fan base and strong internet presence, and my rejection letters are so nondescript that one can only infer that they were cut and pasted to me by the address line. I am merely a cat that likes words and decided long ago that, regardless of pay, I’ll continue to hack and slash with pens and keyboards at things that tickle my fancy with words that taste pretty.

Cut scene to an interior shot of a kitchen and a young woman that I find to be intelligent, a little sassy, and more than a tad groovy. We’ll call her Raven for little reason more than it amuses me to do so. While sipping my seemingly ubiquitous beer Raven confesses an interest in writing and asks a rather open and possibly only polite question as to options for a career in such. Asks me. Oh, dear Jesus (and pogo sticks). I respond as best I think I can at that moment, but I’m stuck on it now. Here follows some things I’ve been dwelling on; advice on how to write from one who is not successful at all on that front.

My dear Raven, I apologize before-hand on contributing to your failure, but here are the things that did not work in the slightest for me, but have attributed greatly to my pleasure in writing.

1. Read. Duh. It’s the pat answer, but read; read everything: the things you love, the things you hate, the things that make no sense, and the things that are self-evident without someone else’s input. In between books, plays, poetry, newspapers, and magazines read cereal boxes, instructions on toothpaste tubes, and, yes, even sparkly vampires, then question them continually. Find those authors that carry their voice so forwardly and so successfully that they cannot be denied. I specifically recommend to you: Hunter S. Thompson and his gonzo journalism (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, of course, but also Great Shark Hunt), Kurt Vonnegut (maybe starting with Cat’s Cradle, but I second guess myself wondering if you should try Timequake and work backwards), Tom Robbins (I’d say kicking off with Still Life With Woodpecker is a good idea), dear old Robert Anton Wilson’s Historical Illuminatus trilogy is great for the blend of fact and fiction, Dorothy Parker for wit and metre,…enough; read greedily.

2. Write. Duh, again. What else might you do? Write daily; a line, a poem, a page, a pun. Use the best thing you have in everything. Do not save a good line or idea, trust yourself to have another; you will. Some anonymous blogger recommended that and I cannot agree more. Do not hold back and explore. As a writer you’re actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, director, hero, villain, and, no doubt, scapegoat. Beg, borrow, steal from others, impersonate them, draw inspiration from them, mock them, laud, and/or deny them. Everything comes from something. In this equally greedy need, write in every frame of mind, but edit only in the clearest (and when you get this practice down pat, teach it to me). I say further, write in every manner that appeals to you. Write concisely, write nonsense, in prose, in meticulous metre; write in your voice (which will change, trust me), in others (which will change to you, trust me, again), write descriptions, write mood, write cause and effect, write tablespoons and temperatures, theses of existential absurdism, Commedia dell’arte or Rusian realism, color your fonts, adjust your paragraph indenture, sideways your stanzas, use semi-colons extensively, or eschew all punctuation as proletariat, misuse words to make a point or just to develop a thought (or even as the impetus towards one), play with the form; but, most importantly, know why you do it (even if it’s just for the sake of doing it).

3. Develop an interest in everything. As an author you’re the original go-to, the creator. Description is a form of creation, a naming. Naming, in turn, is a form of ownership, of power. Power may have invented the pen, but curiosity endowed it with any force it may have today. Look, listen, feel, and question again. Learn to be wrong and learn to be misinterpreted. (Remember Korzybski: Whatever you say a thing is, it isn’t.) Mark this, your readers will find their own meanings in the simplest and seemingly most direct statements. Embrace that. Your writing will take on another life long after the ink has dried. Even cereal boxes do not escape the beauty and barbarity of interpretation.

4. In this line of thought: write it and let it go. Publishing is relinquishing. Once out of your grasp it belongs to you no more and the reader owns what they will, all your desires and intentions be damned. On that front, be prepared for remorse. I know of few writers that are truly happy with what they’ve done or the response to it. You’ll be proud, no doubt, but you’ll also likely be riddled with dissatisfaction, as well. I could be wrong (I often am), but I suspect that ugly horse will rear its head your way, if it hasn’t already. That said, feed the ego and continue. You must be assured that your voice is worth hearing.

5. Here’s where things may get a bit dicey. Crosswords. Learn to eat up the useless, no longer relevant, and utterly esoteric bits of language. Butter your biscuits with verbiage. Know that adit and ort will out about as much as catachresis, but savor those words, even when sautéed in a wrong-sauce. Build your vocabulary and know that half those words will fail you. Flaubert would agonize over a single word and still got translated by strangers into English, but he knew the effort of his endeavor. Realize with every sentence that you could’ve said it a dozen different ways, but chose the one that fit your moment.

6. Dicey again. Look at the things that others aren’t. Never shy away from the seemingly unrelatable. Watch movies no one sees, listen to music no one buys, read books no one understands. Don’t be afraid to be part of an audience of two or to merely have an audience of one. Geniuses are, more often than not, heretics and largely misunderstood. New ideas are rarely popular and popular ideas are rarely new.

7. Another age-old standard: prepare for and embrace the rejection. It will happen. I say few things with such damnable assurance of knowledge, but you will be rejected in some form or another. Do with them what you will. Burroughs cut up his bad reviews and collaged them into found art concepts. Wilson adopted his self-accepted mantle of guerilla ontologist from a scathing remark on his writing. Don Quixote was published only with the consent of the king. The world has always been inundated with artists and technology has opened the floodgates to a measure heretofore unseen by the masses. Do not let those masses or the elitist or the editors of high profile magazines (the New Yorker has a nice form letter of rejection, by the way) deter you. You write because you cannot do otherwise and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. Hemingway once said something along the lines of: anyone who writes for free is a fool. Maybe it was Hemingway; I’ve disagreed with him enough to attribute the quote to him today. I figure anyone decent who attempts to write against whatever odds.

Raven, I say run with it. Write because it’s something you want or need to do. Never let anyone, least of all me, ever accuse you of selling out or of being too esoteric. I hope you’ll read these ideas and throw them out utterly. I’d like to see you prove me wrong and run with it. Personally, I’d dig the hell out of that.

And, for good measure, “fuck.”

Posted in Reading and Writing

Bully, Bully.

Picture me, dear reader, all of twelve years old and my weight greater then than my IQ. Short, squat, and unsure of myself and those seemingly buried latent abilities that wouldn’t crop up until much later, plodding my miserable halls of middle school warily searching out those unwelcome signs of that one kid who had, for some unexplained and inexplicable reason, targeted me, intent on proving himself the stronger. I once bowed down to that kid to avoid having my ass handed to me. Oh, the shame in that moment. Despite the vengeful ire that burned through some high school and even later years of finding that kid and pissing on his parade I can’t recall his name now. I do remember Ira Levine in elementary school suddenly getting a bug up his ass and working me over during a week of recesses. One day he proudly told me, “any day, any time.” “Fine,” responded my cocksure youth, “today, in that field, after school.” Suddenly, I found myself awash with new friends and offers of help in defeating Ira the newly terrible. Ira found me after school and informed me that we couldn’t fight as his bodyguard was sick. He never troubled me again.

I wonder about Ira and that nameless other (was he a Chris?) now. Surely, they’ve mellowed in the way that age and adult pressures demand. Maybe not. Maybe they’re still terrorizing people in random bar fights or stalking meek men while searching for something that few of us really understand. I’m more inclined to believe that they’ve married and had children and now worry about their kids being treated with the same disregard that sticks them in my memory here today. I’m betting that they’re more or less decent cats, just trying to find their way like the rest of us. Kids can be cruel; it’s kind of a part of finding our way, I think. Those two bullied me a bit, I was less than kind to others. All these years hence I see little wrong with that.

It would seem that bullying has become epidemic, if I’m to believe all the press has to say about it. We’ve heard the horror stories of young gay men committing suicide to escape the jeers of their peers. We’ve heard, in turn, about how absolutely cruel young girls can be to another outside their personal clique. And we’ve seen videos gone viral of young fat children (not so far off from my twelve year old self) playing Jedi with a broomstick. Cynic that I am, I can’t bring myself to believe that bullying is any more prevalent or even more inhuman than it was when my coworker told me of once chaining a naked freshman to a water fountain some thirty years ago.

Let’s stop for an aside. I don’t condone bullying. I was a frightened fat kid, panic nibbling at the edges of my uncomfortable frame, walking longer routes to easy-to-reach places so as to avoid ‘those kids’ that would take my money or debase me easily. (And they did just that, dear reader; crying, my allowance gone, I walked home shamed and strangely breathless, thinking that anything I might have done would have fared better than keeping my body bruise free.) Nobody wants a child to feel that sinking despair in the pit of their stomach and those weird and irritating little shakes of the hands that fear so coldly makes useless. I no longer wish that on that nameless cat that shamed me all those years ago or even that kid that mugged me on my way to buy a comic book and play some Mrs. Pacman on what had started to be so lovely a Saturday morning with cartoons and chores. No, I’m not arguing that bullying is necessary or even character building. I’m just saying that it’s always been there and will, more than likely, always be.

But, here’s the rub. Has bullying gotten worse? I can’t imagine that the vast sea of humanity has drifted so far from its shores and frightening wave upon wave has caused more and more children to become more hardened and callous than those that pushed me around, my father around, or even beyond. You can tell me that this next generation is more tempestuous and uncaring, lazier, more disrespectful, and, all around, less than the generation that preceded it. Respectfully, I’ll simply not buy it.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” That quote is attributed to Socrates. I’ll let you look up the date. Just don’t tell me that the world is getting worse every generation. Socrates would have me believe that Alex and his droogs would own the world by now, but I know that ending of A Clockwork Orange that American publishers decided to omit. (Look it up, it says a fair amount about the whole work and Anthony Burgess would love for you to know what he meant when he wrote that whole thing, I’m sure.)

But, and it’s a fairly large but, we do now have the internet. I can imagine that this relatively new form of arguably faceless communication could well be affecting our interactions and perceptions in day to day life. I often argue that language, alone, dictates our perceptions (and, therefore, our realities). The internet should have some psychological effects, as well, I think. Could the internet, those dearly embraced webs of knowledge and misinformation be contributing to the overall scene of bullying? I could buy that. E-mails are often far more critical than my face to face dealings. Are children climbing on Facebook bandwagons of exclusion, relishing in the near anonymous aspects of name-calling and perception building? The need for acceptance is strong in children (ach, adults, too, lest I forget myself) and acceptance is strongest in ousting others, let’s not forget. Can our youth be building cases against the poor outsiders of their schools more securely through the nefariousness of ones and zeros?

Even this tugs a bit at my cynicism. In respect to the above mention of language I Googled ‘bullying’. Stopbullying.gov (seemingly, a good start for any search of bullying) defines it thus: Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Can you feel my hackles rising? They are, I assure you. “Real or perceived power imbalance” alone makes me want to throw the chalk at the class; perception being my very definition of reality. Beyond that, power imbalances are, I think, par for the course. We’re always imbalanced. I could knock out a novel in half the time it took that one kid to bean me in dodge ball. Even young, that made sense to me and I’ll not waste width and breath on belaboring that point here. And “has the potential to be repeated, over time?” Jesus, Mary, Joseph and pogo sticks; everything has the potential to be repeated over time. Even in a finite universe, black swans surprise us and patterns emerge that we’re not accustomed to even looking for.

Care to take a guess about which part of the next statement I find ridiculous? “Excluding someone from a group on purpose.” Give me a moment here…I don’t even have a colorful expression of disbelief to fully convey my absolute and utter incredulity at the balls of such a statement. Balls, indeed; heavy, pendulous bastards knocking against everything, be it logical, sensible, or even incredibly ridiculous. I can’t be the first to find umbrage there. Can I, really?

Groups are defined, in no small part, through their exclusions. That’s why they’re groups and not wholes. Forgive me for not finding that a great leap of logic. I balked originally at hearing that the Boy Scouts of America (though I never graced that group with my presence) were disallowing gays until I was reminded that BSA is a private group; that is to say, they choose the members they want. I can’t argue that. That’s fair. Don’t argue me, there. If you want gay Boy Scouts you can start your own Boy Scouts. I encourage that. I encourage all people to accept all others. I further encourage all people to not accept all others. That’s your choice and no one should force you to do otherwise. I further encourage all people not accepted by any said group to give all hell available to them to the folks blocking them out. Kick against the pricks and then disallow other pricks to kick with you. Honestly, I beg you to do so and support even the batshit craziest of stances, as people should be allowed all the batshit crazy we can carry. Are we so given to extremes now that we must insist on belonging to the Westboro Baptist Church simply because they don’t want us there? Allow your enemies their berth and worth. (I’m tempted to defend this thought, but prompted by my failing logic to leave it be. Accost me as you will, but it stands.)

Damn it, damn it, damn it. Please tell me that I’m not alone in this. Please. Other people see this, feel this, right?

My buddy, when I asked, told me that it is the redefinition of bullying that’s bothering me. Bullying, he concedes, was for us the very real fear of physical overpowering. Now, he further states, it’s merely the name calling that we’ve dealt with for as long as we can remember…and, yes, the exclusion from certain groups; a fact that we’ve all dealt with, again, for as long as we can remember. He and I are much alike in the respect that we both have so many interests that we gain entrance to many groups, but our philosophies all too often leave us outside those same groups. For us, not belonging has become something of a norm. I have to remind myself that a child craves that belonging when adulthood often brings pride in not belonging to those norms. My buddy makes a strong point further: our children need more self confidence than self assurance.

Take a moment with that one, if you will. I couldn’t accept it at face value at first, but I’m coming around to his thinking. I like the distinction.

Self assurance, to me, is the emotional equivalent of “I am pretty” or “I am smart”; those very things that parents and loved ones, so very rightly, try diligently to instill in our youth. I see self confidence as staring at the chasm before you and stating, “I have no idea what’s in store, but I will learn it and do it well.” That’s strength to me. I like that, applaud that, and will do what I can to aggrandize that in whatever children with whom I have a vested interest. Self confidence in our youth allows them to be excluded and say in their best Cartman voice, “Fuck you guys, I’m going home,” and be cool with that.

The bullying I endured stopped right around the time that I gained that self confidence of unknown courses before me (though, I’ll not go into the defining circumstances wherein I gained that self-confidence). Could it be just that? Is it so simple as our children gaining that confidence to hold their heads higher and look in confusion to the bully calling them names that no longer make any sense to their new found perceptions?

The beautiful and rather proudly named NarcoSleepy tells me that there was a study that found that the creation of middle schools created a new level of adolescence, one that she admits that she finds the kids to be largely unhappy within (and I can commiserate, middle school was not a happy time for short, fat, little me). Is this continual grouping of like ages harming us? In high school my alma mater decided that children were having too many troubles adjusting to the idealism of high school curriculum and life-style. They segregated the freshmen from the rest of the classes. Due to scheduling troubles which plagued me every year, I found myself a senior in freshman lunch hour and was instantly convinced that my aversion to this technique was well-founded. We learn as we see. There is nothing easy in an eighteen year old dealing with a thirteen year old, but they learn, they coalesce to a very certain degree. I did, as did others before me, and others in that lunch-room that I found so distant to my then so lacking maturity.

Bullies, bullies, bullies. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re all talking about different levels of the same childhood hindrances. Yes, we can stop a child from physically accosting another repeatedly (and well we should), but should we stop cliques? Can we stop name-calling? Is the old adage about sticks and stones correct? Should I be more concerned that name calling will slowly erode a person’s attempt at a better life? If dear little Abs (now four) is not invited to a party, I can only hope to make it clear to her that it’s not the end of the world, but, ultimately for the best, but what do I know of the four year old universe? I know that I wasn’t invited to parties and I know that I stood out in a few of them as the guy that shouldn’t be there. I found people that would accept me and warmed in that. Even now, nearing forty, I consider that the course of things and I wonder ‘was my bullying less than the trend now?’

In the role of Devil’s Advocate I will say that you or you child have no right, whatsoever, in being part of any group. Those groups should be expected to reserve their memberships. I’ve seen numerous Christian skate nights, but not one Jewish skate night. Even in the all encompassing passion of elementary school gatherings I was left on the sidelines when couples skate was announced after Radar Love played and we were allowed to roll around the rink counter-clockwise. Further, I’ll afford the luxury of anyone to call another a disparaging name. I know that some will take this to extremes, but one’s self assurance and confidence must surpass these moments. We can not and should not disallow even the coarsest and most ignorant of these statements. Words are precisely as powerful as we allow them to be and the idea that an elected official once stepped down from office because two aids did not understand the word “niggardly” and took offence bristles me. He was bullied by people that felt equally bullied.

Enough! Christ and cripes. Are we so feeble? These are not new questions. I’m tired already in seeing my warble and variance from the original theme (though, I thank anyone in making it this far in this diatribe). I’m not convinced that bullies have changed or that things are worse than they ever were.

None of this, of course, even defines bullying any better than that government website or comes even remotely close with how to more fully deal with it. I’m just throwing questions to the wall, as I’ve not yet heard these questions presented to me in the interests of downtrodden youth. I’d like better discourse and less of hearing that it’s a problem and reading of parents confronting their children’s bullies in ways that are not acceptable to my ideal of an adult (bully is as bully does).

What is it? Is it worse? Why? I’d like some other input. I beg it of those that have given it some thought other than the knee-jerk reaction of seeing their child in pain. There’s more here, I’m convinced, and I’m less than satisfied with what I’ve been presented thus far.

Posted in Blogroll

Seven Ideas From an Asshole for Being a Better Person or Trust Me…

To be fair, I don’t really care for self-help books or gurus or life-coaches and headlines like Ten Steps to Being a Better Whatever fills me with a certain nameless dread. I’ve even argued with vociferous Buddhists that if Buddha gained enlightenment without that notable twelve step program (no, man, that other one) then any person could find their own path up that mountain. And, let me tell you, few things are quite as much fun as a ruffled Buddhist hell-bent on proving another person wrong; had I more free time I might just make a hobby of it. Then again, maybe not; not being a total asshole seems to me to be a worthy endeavor.

Gurus, I should also note, creep me out. Now, by guru I mean any cat out there espousing the belief that they are knowledgeable enough to tell you just where you’re going wrong. Case in point: Dr Phil. You know this cat wrote a diet book, right? Immediately, that crosses him off of any list that I’d consider to be rational or worth my time. The man could be a quantum physicist with chops enough to rattle our dear Dr. Hawking, but the day a fat man writes a book telling me how to eat better I figure he knows shit about shit and certainly doesn’t recognize the moment to step away from the limelight. I’m just saying.

It’s worth noting, I don’t disallow the likelihood or probability of any one person knowing much more about any one subject than I, but I bristle at anyone’s initial assumption that they do. Check to see if I just didn’t think it was funny before you stop to explain a joke to me.

I was recently subjected to a seminar (one of those that someone paid handsomely for, and I shudder to think of the bill) about dealing with stressful confrontations in the workplace. Surprisingly, little focus was placed on tact and those dealings were almost farcical in their extremist mock-ups. We spent the better part of an hour on a graph delineating the six basic gaps in performance to ascertain the best approach in that glazed over tact issue to deal with such problems. By the two and a half hour mark I was beginning to understand how people could come to the ability to club a baby seal.

Motivational speakers rarely motivate me, I think, in part to that guru approach and feel of them. My favorite teachers were never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” nor were they shy to foist my own precocious pain in the ass moments back on me. “Why don’t you research that and tell us all about it on Friday?” Gladly, madam, and thanks for not blowing smoke.

In this vein I will now list several things that you can do to be less of a pain in the ass in your daily life, but I will do so with foul language, vague situations, and irritating ambiguity, all the while drinking my Scotch and smoking my Reds so that you might read this and declaim, “This guy’s full of shit.” That’s my gift to you. You can cite any statement following with the caveat that you heard it from some drunk bastard listening to music in a made-up language (Sigur Ros, Valtari, should you be interested).

ekki mukk

1. Feed your ego. Nurture it, build it, and revel in it. You are a monstrosity of experience and knowledge and never let anyone tear that down. When you’re alone watching old movies your ego should ask why it took Godzilla so long to make Mothra his bitch. You’re ego should do it in rodeo time.
Here’s the bitch, though. Check your ego at the door. When dealing with other people the ego balks and fully realizes that they have no idea just what you’ve been through and how you’ve found to best deal with situations to make it through your day. It’s absolutely right, but neither do you know shit about what they’ve been through and how they’ve dealt, are dealing, or will deal with it. With that big ego champing at the bit, remember you’re just as full as shit as the person before you. If the word dichotomy just cropped up in your head you can be my new best friend, because…

2. Accept dichotomies. Get used to these. Seriously, let go of that Ayn Rand black and white philosophy. It’s just going to cause you problems and irritate the people around you who don’t think exactly as you do. (And how many, really, think exactly as you do?) The human mind is not built to experience even a fraction of what we door observe in a day. It fills in gaps just to compensate merely the visual portion of our lives. Human beings are not built on logic and our default mode is rarely sensible. What seems entirely logical in the vast conundrum of the synapse spouting three to five pound meat fest in our heads is, all too often, merely a response that our experience tells us makes sense. It rarely does. Doubt me? (You should.) Belief in two separate and seemingly opposite things is not the fearful Orwellian downtrodden state of the plebe, but just one of those things that we do. It’s okay. Oceania is not at war with anybody. Our brains love the idea of continuity, but understand the idea of situations. We’re quite often hypocrites. Embrace it. Try not to point it out too often, though. We don’t like to be wrong.

3. Be wrong. For fuck’s sake. Just be wrong about something. Tell some asshole that you were being an asshole and let it go, already. What’s so bad about being wrong, about being ignorant, about making a mistake? What’s wrong with someone not understanding your point of view? Being right is highly over-rated. Arguments tend towards simply making one person feeling taken advantage of (though, discussions occasionally prevail). Just quit gracefully and let the person before you go about their business feeling as though they schooled you on some front. They win and you get to go along with your life, possibly never dealing with them again. The idea that some stranger must show respect for you warrants little more than a random beating for being an asshole. True assholes have to deal with themselves every day. Your win is that you don’t. Let them win. Darwin wasn’t too far off. A bigger asshole will one day come along and take them for whatever they feel necessary. It’s that instant karma that the Beatles mentioned.

4. Redefine reality. “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Do you know this quote? I bastardize it here because it suits my purpose; as in: reality isn’t universal. It isn’t even real. Your reality is not another’s. There are precedents for this: subjectivity, relativity of knowledge. I’ve circled this point in many blogs and am loathe to beat this horse carcass unduly. Ask two coworkers to describe the hallway you all just traversed and call me back. Physical representations in our minds don’t even coincide. I dare you to even consider asking folks about the best music.

5. Be polite. You motherfucker. Really. I say motherfucker here as I don’t know you, but if I were dealing with you face to face I’d say motherfucker only if we were on those sort of terms. It doesn’t hurt me in the slightest to censor myself when we meet. I lose nothing from it, but people around me seem to appreciate it. I don’t tell dirty jokes to nuns, but some people hear some horrible, rancid shit from me. We deal with people as they are ready to deal with us. Tact and manners ask that we look to others for their limits before running past ours. Strangers in line in the grocery store have no need for your off the cuff quips about anything, whatsoever. It is your right to say what you feel, but not your right to be so ingratiatingly irritating about it. Quit forcing other people to deal with your expectations.

6. Force other people to deal with your expectations. Sorry about the dichotomy, but sometimes you have to make someone look up a word or philosophical idealism. Just try to lead them to it politely. Don’t forget to do this on the other side of the fence.

7. Try. Just try. Gods damn it all, try. You’ve a ridiculous amount of information at your fingertips, even from your phone. I understand lethargy. I understand apathy. For all that is holy or humanistic or that is kind to animals or bugs, try. G.I. Joe knows that knowing is half the battle. Look at things and question your understanding. That bastard in front of you in traffic could be any of twenty thousand things. That utter bitch in line behind you could be dealing with things years previous. You and your massive ego don’t know. That’s as it should be. Try to not be a dick and relax when you are. Reality works that way. Effort is occasionally rewarded. Hope for that.

And remember, you’re just as full of shit as the rest of us. Oceania is at war with everyone. These things happen.

Posted in Blogroll

Tilting At Windmills

Maybe I’m naïve.

I just finished listening to the solo album of Lee Renaldo (of Sonic Youth {good stuff, too; more coherent than I expected}) and am currently spinning Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew for the first time and quite enjoying it (I’m trying to expand my very limited jazz experience). Over and above these happy procurements I will soon giddily purchase the newest Tomahawk album (on vinyl, no less) and am eagerly awaiting a new Low, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, My Bloody Valentine (the first release in some twenty-five years), Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and, of course, David Bowie. To top this off, The Tiger Lillies announced that they will take a vote from fans filtering down to the top fourteen tunes and will be releasing a vinyl-only best of. It twitched, I must admit. Can you feel the excitement from there? You could etch glass with these nipples.

Now, let’s set a parameter or three. I know that damn few people sit around and pine for a best of album of Tiger Lillies tunes (Jesus, I generally eschew best of stuff, but I want this). I’ve numerous friends that would argue the simple existence of ‘best’ in regards to that blasphemous, falsetto band. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is likely to cause more than a few folks in random searches to severely filter their Google results. Tomahawk is not for everybody (but, you liked Faith No More, right?). Hell, even this Miles Davis spinning in the background might catch a sigh of exasperation or two (Gods, the drums on this album are climbing up the spine of my soul, lovely, lovely). I know I drift towards some, shall we say, questionable sounds, even unlistenable, by certain rights; but, there are tastes there. “It’s weird, but good,” said one recipient of the beloved mix tape gift. She meant well.

I’ve come to terms with the idealism that the universe is not infinite. I believe that we’re finite, but expanding. I’ve not ruled out the multi-verse, though. I’m holding on to that one. I dare anyone to prove me wrong. I won’t understand the math, anyway; but the implications are severe.

But, music, sounds…Phillip Glass in a kitchen rattling the cutlery, Shastakovich doing Shastakovich things, Zappa with his utter disregard for lyrics, Lennon and Ono making that damned unlistenable Two Virgins that spurred on some of my favorite attempts to escape the music snob’s nemesis of radio play, Thurston Moore singing of Gods know what…

I’m a bitch of misinformation. Don’t get me wrong. The first album I remember was a gift: Mickey Mouse Disco (still have it, in fact, Macho, Macho Duck and all), the first cassette I ever bought with my own allowance was the reunion of the Jackson 5 with their hit Torture (remember that one?), my first cd (also a gift) was Elvis Costello’s Spike (Veronica was the hit on that one), and the first cd I ever spent money on was Adorable’s Against Perfection (that one lasted through a nearly disastrous car crash with the dearly beloved Dickweed*).

That last paragraph failed me, I fear (as if this whole thing had some merit). What I’m driving at is that I don’t hate pop music…generally. I’m still cool with Prince; crazy, high-heeled bastard that he may be. Purple Rain is a paisley maelstrom of groovy, still. I even still enjoy Thriller and that Moonwalk movie with Joe Pesci. New pop, though, largely, I just don’t get. Is it age, experience, snobbery? I don’t know.

I’ve been listening to the Bert Show on Q-1-something out of Atlanta. I like those cats, but, I must admit, I’ve little grasp on where they’re coming from musically and the playlist of the station’s format is so completely alien to me that I’ve actually questioned the sanity of the populous listening in. Gods save me, but I’ve used the term hoi polloi in my head when that backbeat hits at 9 AM and I know I’m going to have to switch over to Georgia State’s Album 88 in the hopes that they’re not pushing some unimaginative rap at that moment (and, Gods, again, I’m steering towards such snobbery that college radio is becoming too mainstream at moments- I don’t want the internet to become my safe-haven of new sounds; I like the radio to surprise me- I miss the time when it did).

Every time that sampled back-beat style and stacked vocal of little deviation song of the month starts playing while I’m listening to Bert and Kristin and Jeff I wonder if their listeners would take to The Bloodthirsty Lovers if given a chance or a choice. I wonder if, maybe, the back-beat people would hear The Black Dice at a club and say something along the lines of that statement that I so despise of, “ooh, that’s my jam,” or if they would, like my dear employee, proudly intone, “what the hell is that? It makes me want to pull my teeth out.” I figure it an honest question. I really do. It may well be a character flaw.

But, maybe, I’m just naïve. Maybe, nobody wants to hear these sounds. Maybe adults really do listen to Justin Bieber. Maybe, Brittany Spears was more than a girl wrapped in a snake, outperforming and besting Radiohead’s Kid A. Maybe, people hear of Charlie Parker and don’t automatically insert the word ‘Bird’. Maybe, just maybe, The New Kids on the Block reunion was the best choice for humanity. I don’t like it, but I embrace the love of the possible infinite. There must be NKOTB people for the multi-verse to work for me. I certainly don’t mean to take away any love for them or even Hootie and the Blowfish, but it loses me. Beyonce’s just not a word that works its way into more than one of my water-cooler conversations. I don’t understand. I really don’t.

I bank, absolutely, for adults to adhere to the childish things of their past (He-Man and MASK toys still make me grin, but the little, anime, spinny, poppy things with cards leave me in the lurch; so it is with music). Is it just people hitting their thirties now that still love the aforementioned Hootie? What is it with the pop sound that keeps people listening? NPR has a correspondent that deals solely with pop music; an adult who rated that band that I’ve successfully Scotched and ginned from my head. Why does pop music crowd me so? And why am I having such a problem with it?

It’s unfair to ask if Bert and crew really do love these tunes. They’re employed, after all, by the purveyors of such; but the state of radio in Atlanta makes me worried. I listen to all of three stations (and one of those only in the morning, and, at that, in between songs). A world of music and the cross sections of radio play make me sad. Can you feel my pain, even with nipples poised for new Bowie and My Bloody Valentine? The aspect of the infinite calls, but the limited expanse of the radio dial offers few real choices for the folks that embrace the idealism of the new, the neophiles, us greedy bastards who love the idea of a band writing a song and saying, “That sounds good. Let’s fuck with it,” the folks that embrace not being able to sing along with a song until four or more listenings.

Here’s something that spooks me: before the Telecommunications Act in 1996, I’m told by a cat with which I’m trusting to these numbers, less than sixty-five American radio stations were owned by large corporations. By 2008, Clear Channel owned nearly twelve hundred, constituting 99.9% of the top two hundred and fifty markets. The Berkeley School of Music (again trusting other folks to the studiousness of such) apparently conducted a study that found that the largest stations in the largest markets commonly played the same songs 58% of the time. They then cited the five Clear Channel owned stations as playing the same songs 73% of the time.

Now, the station that houses the Bert Show is not owned by Clear Channel, but rather, the second largest of the radio ownership companies, Cumulus Media; and I can’t say with any authority whatsoever how many repetitions may occur of the songs that they do play as I’ve formed the habit of simply spinning the dial whenever those songs do come up. I vehemently deny that this is close-minded on my part as I once listened to an entire Katy Perry cd because I couldn’t escape the situation without appearing rude. Despite the tone of this blog, rudeness is something that I do try to avoid, more often than not (character flaws what they are, sometimes shit escapes my mouth or pen or keyboard; my apologies).

Bert, Bert, Bert, if you’re out there, tell me, would your listeners open up to less than pop if presented with it? Is it popular because of its accessibility? Or is it because it’s what people really want to hear? Chicken and egg, I know, but, Jesus, this one bothers me. I feel and fear that it’s worth asking. It’s worth noting that I don’t trust answers; I like questions. We’re likely to fail in this, given my interests; but I’m curious, nonetheless. Would Atlanta start listening to Low, The Amazing, or dear old Radar Bros. if they were presented with them unknowingly? These are not hard sounds, not noise bands, but, rather, melodic, accomplished musicians with little to no radio play.

I proffer a ridiculous test. Convince the powers that be to allow a single questionable song one day a week. Instead of that warbled vocal tune that I, personally, can’t stand, throw out a song that’s got that popular tweak, but is just a bit off, something slightly different; hell, take a poll, and see how the results comb out. Music snobs abound in this world; you need not look to me for such an inane attempt. Indeed, I doubt that I could be trusted to offer up anything that might merit a vote, but I like the idea. Google’s not even built this filter yet, but I promise you, they’re there for the asking. Seek this question and I trust the freaks to creak from the woodwork. There are some thirty thousand albums released every year and Godspeed You Black Emperor has garnered a damn fine following without me having ever heard them on the radio.

Bert, are you there? Are you at all curious as to the world of music that’s not getting any radio time? Obviously, at face value, requesting a station to play something outside of its niche is tilting at windmills, but I like Don Quixote. Remember, though, that MTV used to actually play music videos before becoming one of the most brazenly inappropriately named channels on tv today. If a channel built solely for a vast musical appreciation can shift entirely to aggrandizing the egos of many people that many of us would quietly and politely slowly drift away from at social functions, with just a hint of fear in our eyes, surely a radio station can sneak in a song or two that’s not being heard elsewhere. Maybe, right? A mere three to five minutes of something else…

Of course, I could just be naïve. I have that in me (my fallibility is shadowed only by my ignorance and my hope), but I’d not forgive myself for not asking.

*Dickweed, it should be noted, is nothing short of beautiful people. My father named him Dickweed when we were just puppies and wrapping ourselves in fur for theme park amusement and meager paychecks so many years ago. I recently told him that since his transition to New York actor that I had actually listed his given name on my phone. “Change it back, right now,” he insisted. That’s the kind of groovy bastard that Dickweed is. Love him. He deserves it.


Posted in Music

All My Posts Are Against Better Judgement…

Over all, I like to think that I’m a decent cat. I like comfortable moments, kind people, have no issues with the cuteness of kittens or puppies; hell, I love a penguin and a random otter (even puddles of platypi). I’m occasionally intelligent (when graded on a curve), decent with words, philosophies, and general idiosyncrasies. I’m kind to children (more often than not, though I still love to watch them fall) and tend to lead them towards knowledge. I even pick up hitch-hikers. I’ve loved and lost, taught and learned, passed, failed, planned and sailed by the seat of my pants. I tend to listen to strangers, even fools, and attempt, at least, to suffer them gladly. I try to allow that there is always something that I do not know in any situation and strive to be open to another’s side of any story, whatever the circumstance. I try to remember that I’m often prone to be wrong in my thinking. I even let people merge in front of me in traffic. I do, really.

Inversely, I once said something terribly wrong at a wake after a funeral of a friend, answered glibly to that girl in my youth looking only for hope and assurance, possibly (probably; I saw her eyes) crushing her that day, and been callously and daringly distant in the aftermath of stormy emotions. I’ve not called, not asked, not worried. I’ve done my best to prove some folks wrong that were only practicing what they thought to be right and proper at that time and place. I’ve mocked beliefs roundly and soundly in the face of people doing no more wrong than acting in what they believed to be right. I intimated once that a woman was a whore after she searched out what she couldn’t find any longer in me. I didn’t lie when it would have built more good and esteem by doing so (say what you will about the ‘truth’, but, sometimes, deception is kinder and better; I killed that moment when I could have bettered us both).

In the interest of a triad: I’ve set myself on fire while asleep with a cigarette and extinguished it with the remainder of a beer before me, and then went to bed. I’ve passed out on a public park bench in Disney World during a work convention and fallen backwards down a staircase stopped only by a bookshelf at the bottom floor at a party years previous. I’ve slurred, used wrong words, staggered, reeled, stumbled, and been that loud guy in the restaurant, laughing. I once scored better than the majority of Americans participating in a standardized IQ test while both drunk and stoned. I’ve been called a poet, a philosopher, and a genius. I’ve also been called sarcastic, an asshole, and, albeit, somewhat lovingly, Idiot-Boy. (Once, once, bless her, in a triumphant moment of hurt I told a woman that I had hoped to be the best man she knew. She cut me to the quick by responding: You’re the smartest man I ever met. Had you been there you might have found the acute and nearly surgical cut managed in that seemingly complimentary statement. I applaud her still that humbling. I even forgive her now, these years hence.)

So, am I an asshole? Am I a kind man giving flowers to strangers on a random day? Am I an idiot or a well read cat with a decent retention rate that’s not too shabby with some extrapolation? Am I a drunken buffoon with little to no self control, a mouth with no governor, or even some guy that actually spares the time to measure the worth of the word ‘is’ in a statement?

Yes. You bet your ass that I am. I’m whatever you need me to be, whatever you see me to be. And I’m willing to listen to what you need that to be.

Maybe it’s wrong. Maybe mirroring is a poor choice in personality. Maybe it’s a weariness and a weakness in me to look for others to be comfortable around me even while espousing things with which I do not agree. Comfortable. I may never shake that Buddhistic inclination. I want you to feel at home even while I crank homages to Yoko Ono on the stereo.

I have a variety of interests (the geek ones do take some precedent, but there are others). I find in talking to someone about Model T Fords that I dig some things about Model T Fords, while having no inclination to make a hobby of it. I know dick about golf, tennis, or football (American or otherwise), but I can find myself in that moment. I read the Twilight books and listened to Hootie and the Blowfish and if you don’t know how it pains me here to admit that then you’ve not met me in person. I’m curious, at times insatiably. The universe out there astounds me and I keep hoping to meet it here on Earth. I keep thinking, “What if I missed that one note that makes that song beautiful?” As I’ve missed that note before, I’m loath to do it again.

Currently, my self-assurance is lacking. Someone calling you a genius is always nice, but the source still matters. I said mirror earlier, but that’s not right. I just don’t set Mother Teresa up with, “Two guys are fucking an owl…” It takes a Dickweed or a Pug to complete that joke with, “Who?”

It’s been said that I cast my pearls before swine, but I don’t know my consumption, at all. And don’t think for a moment that that statement didn’t make me two inches taller that day; seeing the sheer size of my ego, I denigrate it daily for the health of those around me. I fear that no one should have to deal with a bastard that I might contain from the area of Minnesota to one of merely Rhode Island. Dear reader, do not doubt that I look out for you, despite the apparent mile markers that you see from me continually. Pride knows me; we drink the same Scotch, he and I; but I like mine over ice to dilute those last few drinks.

My worry here is maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe my ego should run as free as that cat (with his balls still intact; we had an agreement: to which he held, hence his balls) that I’ve not seen for days now. Maybe I’m wrong in my casual acceptance of what I see as a bad behavior in others. Maybe, gods help me, I’m not really standing for anything. I don’t like that. I don’t even really believe it, but I believe that my beliefs are not the end-all or be-all of anything. I am, after all, what you see in me. I keep hoping it’s decent, but, maybe, I fail in that. Maybe, inasmuch as you see me doing it. I hope I project too much, personally.

The problem with position is that you see yourself as being right, correct, as having that pathway up the mountain that gets you there. I see a mountain as an agent of infinite pathways. I don’t exaggerate, truly. I love the idea of infinite; I hope for it and seek it out. I’m way too taken with it. I want the universe to be infinite. I don’t really believe it, but I want so much for eight to be weekending sideways as an idealism that’s true (and by the aforementioned philosophy, infinity exists because I want it to). That’s a belief, too. Maybe that even makes it true. Anything’s possible, after all.

Infinity’s a bitch, really. Wrestle that one with zero (as dear John taught me). We all measure something, stop and start (read that as you will, I insist). Having not shared your thread, I’m inclined to think that I shouldn’t measure it against my drinking and reading own, but I do and then, afterwards, check myself. We fail at that. It’s what we do. Indeed, it’s why I love you out there, lurking, just like me; making all the same mistakes our ancestors did and our progeny will. There’s something marvelous in the idea that even infinity must repeat itself from time to time.

Writing this I realize (as I realized so, and too, for my tastes, lately that I’m attracted to acceptance, even of this physical me) I won’t be that positioned reality guy. I can’t be. I need these mirrors. They’re good for me. They’re a brush against that infinity every time I find myself in a moment that I know I wouldn’t have willingly sought out. I love too much the connections where none would seem to be. Your brain knows that the white noise of alien music still contains that G Minor seventh that once struck you in that one song

Hello, my name’s MacEzra and I need too much the acceptance to groups with which I don’t belong because I just can’t seem to find one in which I do (which isn’t completely true, but never trust a poet, as he knows that truth only exists as perception and that perception is the only truth).

I hope you don’t think anything less of me, but, then again, maybe, more than likely, that’s just the point.

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Music Is as Where Music Does.

Do you know the name Joshua Bell? Considering my Facebook feed, this cat cropped up yesterday pulling station in the metro stunts, but Google (previously that numerical Googol until that big check happened*) says this one occurred back in January of 2007.

It would appear that a renowned cat on the violin sat amongst the multitudes and played his heart out, calling upon the monstrous notes of the maestros, and nobody paid him any attention. I’m more surprised to the response to the response than the response, really; knowing the Ninth is nothing to calling the Hammerklavier Suites. It’s cool and I fault no one for it (it’s worth noting that I’m currently listening to Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing Shocking and not Schubert or any one considered of worth in such a classical field).

Should you be lost at this point, numerous folks walked by, ignored, and even pulled their children past what was an accomplished musician in a railway playing the positioned notes of celebrated composers on a very expensive expanse of wood with taut strings attached. And we’re surprised. Did you vote on The Mona Lisa being one of the greatest art pieces of the world? I missed that call, personally. La Gioconda doesn’t really represent any certain sentiment to me, when you get right down to it. I’m a bit lost in the whole argument, truth be told. Maybe you love it. That’s cool. I’ll not take it away from you. Nor Van Gogh’s cubism period. Dear Herzog leaves me in the lurch and I like to think that I’m a cat with some things on the ball. I’m baffled at people telling me to fear for humanity for not noticing some other cat acting the derelict and playing classics in the hallways of places never designated for the classics.

There are studies citing that situation is everything for appreciation. I don’t cite them here as I can’t remember where I read them and I like to keep my readers (both of them) guessing and searching; nothing too easy here. There’s a matter of the human brain that expects lofty ideals out of lofty places. Subway stations just need not apply. Relax, it’s not that you don’t know art, just that you don’t recognize it when it plays the Prince and the Pauper. Clothes, it would appear, do make the man.

Shudder less. There’s nothing wrong with this. Your brain is constantly thwarting you as to the realms that you’d love to inhabit. It’s what brains do. It’s their job. We are what we want to believe and bad cheeses in posh bars and good music in bad venues just don’t pan in that belief.

Don’t sweat it.

If I first heard Summertime Rolls by dear old Jane’s Addiction in the wrong venue at the wrong time, chances are, it wouldn’t have made quite the imprint on me; resolving, to this day, into a song of release and leisure. There are numerous rues and could-have-beens and would-have-beens over my relatively short life. I regret none (well, few) of them.

Your life, thus far, has been postured and formed in those structures of that was awesome, this matters now, and this will pan later; all according to where you were, what your appreciations might have been, and what your expectations of those appreciations are. We like to be guided by the majority when it matters. No shame in that. It’s hard to stand against a crowd; few of us will ever be good at that. (Don’t look at me; I’m an abettor of peace, of comfort, at all costs {except, maybe, music}).

So, some cat stands on a street corner with a Strad, bowing his heart out and I’m supposed to feel ashamed for not noticing? I saw a guy dance with an umbrella and pursed lips on Bourbon St. once and I thought he was bat-shit crazy (it’s kind of a default for that situation). If I’m to look for genius on street corners, alleyways, and subway stations, I’m gonna’ need a stronger platform to build on. Don’t mock my human brain for building on what’s it’s seen and known prior to this moment. And don’t you dare make feel bad for appreciating more Janis Joplin’s version of Summertime over some faux bum of Bell playing Prokofiev. Romeo and Juliet has its place, as does classic rock or Delta blues. I don’t appreciate anyone making me feel less than because I didn’t recognize the classics out of classic performance realm.

Robert Johnson, I’ve little doubt, if he sold his soul at those cross-roads, did so with the certainty that little cared less where Me and the Devil came from, only that those that would be touched were. And so we are. Look it up. If you don’t know it, I’d weep for you, but am not given to such. So, you don’t know a song? It happens. How many of us know any Fugue, in G minor or otherwise? These things happen. We’re not all welcome to the Opera House, after all. We’re relegated, all, to our experience. I fail as much as anyone else.

Once again, fret not. Screaming Jay Hawkings is immediately less discernible than Jimi Hendrix at this time, but there they are, all the same.

And it begs the question; would we know Jimi in the subway? We think we would, but, more than likely, he’d be some cat that is not too strong on the social abilities and maybe worthy of a bit of pity. Jimi, after all, could do well on his own. Regardless of any drug appreciation, he would ping on the radar of folks who readily acknowledge people of intrigue. Hendrix doesn’t play on the stoop of platform 5, he’s at Wembley Stadium. We know this to be true, because we’ve noted it before and continuously seen it happen and not happen otherwise.

Joshua Bell can play anywhere he wants. Until that cat doesn’t have the crazy guy with the umbrella and pursed lips dancing alongside him on Bourbon St., I’ll figure him to be a rehash of anything else. My brain works that way. Maybe if I hear him in the right way at the right time in the right venue (like Jody Grind at The Roxy on that night that suited), but, more, than likely, I’ll not know the dude from anyone and I’ll think, maybe, that that’s pretty and okay sounding.

Sadly, we’re not prepped to know what we’ll love before we’re prepped for what we love. It’s less a Catch-22 than you think, if you think about it. Relax. It’s the way we work. I wouldn’t be writing this if I had a very decent version of him performing Tosca on a train, after all (if, of course, it stood up to my measure of decency: which is surprisingly lax, all said and done). We are resigned to seeking art in the places that we seek art. It’s why artists surprise us in finding it in places that we never thought to look (mock op-art and pop-art all you want; they looked, they found).

All my faith in the written word will never equal my love of the tone (or the placement of venue for that tone). We’re built this way. Fret not. We get by. There’s nothing wrong with us watching some cat pouring some nice notes we love in the parlor whilst we walk by another purring the same notes in the kitchen. It’s who we are. Time, place, understanding; that’s art to us; it’s all we need to define. Or not. Maybe it doesn’t need definition. I’m fine with that, too.

*Great story, you should look it up. If it’s true, it’s awesome.

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Ha! The Mayans in My Day Were Better at Predicting the End of the World.

According to the most widely accepted calendar in the world, we’ve done it again. Another new year wiped, spanked, and cleaned. Congratulations on making it this far; you should be commended for such.

A little math and applied logic tells me that the Scotch before me started its journey from conception to its current gullet danger and eventual hardening of my liver somewhere in the year 2000. Remember that one? I remember the last eve of 1999 (and that continuous loop of Prince in my head) fondly. I’d ingested enough of a certain contraband that my eyes were darting back and forth in their sockets at an epileptic speed and a Technicolor yawn worked its way out, expelling the evil spirits like a shaman’s rite before illumination. All was well, though. I was with folks I both loved and trusted. (Should the previous statement stymie you a bit, remember, trust comes with experiences; love, not so much. I don’t knock it, but you can’t always trust love; to this day I still love some people that I do not trust. This strikes me as right and proper.)

In that year that my Scotch was starting its metaphorically embryonic realization of today’s intoxicating fulfillment I ran outside after midnight to witness some of the smoke and fire, some of the sirens and wails, to see a plane plummet madly to the ground. It didn’t happen. It was very quiet and serene. I went back into the party to my friends and adopted families somewhat morose. “No chaos,” I complained. My friends understood. “Maybe the Mayans’ll pan out,” they offered.

Nope. As I suspected, we made it and, despite the lack of any societal breakdown, I say we all deserve a bit of the pat on the back for it. Well done, all. Good on ya’.

No one ever specifically warned me about the cynicism of age. I’d observed a bit of it and braced for some things accordingly, but I had no real clue about how I might find the tedium of mere experience. I can still hit a marvel of wonder at something heretofore unknown to me, but the cleaner slate of thirteen years ago is riddled with notes and jottings of questionable intent or sanity; all of them leaving the one unassailable fact that there once dabbled I, brief as it may have been.* Alien gets harder and harder to find if you’re curious and live long enough. Irascible old bastards who do not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, know this.

I like new things, even if they’re old. I like new ideas, new styles of writing, new music (gods blind me, I love new music). That my Scotch dates back that far is not surprising (they market that on the bottle), but the folks at that party that I loved and trusted are still around for me. Can you dig that? I spent this new year’s eve with some of them, talked and texted to others. Can you dig it, brothers? Not that I’ve kept these people, but that they’ve kept me.

Here’s a thought experiment: take more than a few of your faults, wrap them up with a pretty little bow, and give them to the folks that have kept you around (and, relax, they’ll not be surprised, they’re more aware of your faults than you are). In all my bachelor years I’ve given my loved ones more than a few things to deal with (preposition, I know; deal with it). That these folks are still groovy with me does wonders for my self esteem and my ego may be intolerable in the coming year that I’m told is the first since 1987 to have four different digits in its makeup. Me, I’ve got the same friends and some new ones, to boot. Good on me, I think. I love that. What’s better than people you dig finding you to be okay for an extended period of time?

I like new things and I confess to a certain creeping cynicism, but I love the old things, too. I love the old folk and good friends that have proved their patience and acceptance ten times over in years that I could not afford in Scotch. That may well be winning. I’m more than fine with that.

So, love, trust, cynicism, faults…Here’s one now.

*Mark, you: I do not profess to be an expert at anything. Even this prose, of which I shamelessly type and tout, is questionable in its form and lack of editing.

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Little Abs

I love Stevie Ray Vaughan. Truth be told, I’d love Stevie if he had done nothing other than Lenny live at The El Macambo. That one song at that one moment was more than enough for me. Laugh all you want, but I consider that song holier than Handel’s Messiah and just as humanly beautiful as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The song’s got everything I need as it stands on that small stage with smoke from SRV’s cigarette blurring his eyes in that limelight, but the little I know of it adds exponentially. He wrote it for his wife, you see, and when things didn’t work out, as I understand, he didn’t play it anymore. It was hers. When he said, “here’s a thing that I wrote for my lovely wife. It’s a thing that goes out to her…always,” he stood by it. If, like me, you caught that tune at the right time in the right frame of mind, you’ll not escape the utter beauty of humanity in those notes. If not, I don’t fault you. I’m sure there’s something that soothes that savage and/or callous part of your soul out there (forgive me the assumption that every soul out there has a savage or callous portion in its makeup; I don’t profess to universal truths, but I’ve seen a bit of humanity and the small parts generally build to larger- especially when people are utterly assured of those small parts).

My iPod sits on shuffle more often than not. I like to think of it as an oddly modern sort of I-Ching. Laugh again, if you must. I’ll not fault you that either. I planted the music there, after all. The chances of a relevant song cropping up are drastically increased. Even at 13,000 plus songs, the next tune arising is sure to be one that I figured at one time or another worth saving and sewing. It is MacEzra’s iPod, after all.

Lenny still affects me, though. It got me through some tough bits, but only after it got another through some tough bits. We learn, we do, individually; maybe even as pairs, small groups, as crowds, we can only hope.

Have you met my elephant? We call him White Cracker Fat Ass. (All the better to deal with you, my dear.)

I have no children. My best friend does. There’s a bun in Mag’s oven (a little boy) and a girl that astounds me in all her childishness. (“I love my Rapunzel, Jason, but I wish you had got me Belle.”) Abs is nothing short of a little miracle, as far as I’m concerned. The kid’s four years old and I can hear her in Lenny already. This kid’s built to break my heart and mend it every time I see her (and I’m sure my best friend would have it no other way). That’s what children do, isn’t it? Force us into some kind of absolute reevaluation?

The elephant here is that I see her, now, in light of tragedy. Abby. Tragedy has always been a bit distant from me. I can do that; it’s well within my power. September Eleventh was bad, but didn’t quite hit home for me. I expected some such occurrence to come at some time or another. The world insists on such, such is the way of people. The callous part of my soul allowed me that distance. Columbine was horrible, but over there; away, as it were. The savage part of my soul counted the miles between me and the scene.

My father said to me today, “Those people losing their children…you’re a full grown man and I don’t think I could deal with that now, but at five…” Jesus Christ. Pogo sticks. Blasphemy be damned. Kids, man. Children. Innocents.

As Uncle Jason I’m okay with Abby knowing about these terrible events, but I can hardly face the thought of her going through anything like this. Jesus, but humanity scares me right now. Look at these paragraphs; I’m losing ground. I’ve nothing to say and it’s evident. Gods damn it all.

The iPod’s on shuffle, rolling my electronic I-Ching. I quit asking for answers some time ago. I trust questions (they make sense to me), you see; but Abby, Abby’s a child. I don’t know that she’s found her Lenny yet. That frightens me.

Guns, it should be noted, don’t frighten me. I respect them and deal with them only in the most responsible manner I can muster at any given moment. Many people are telling me that guns are the problem here. I’m prone to disagree. There are numbers to say that guns in America are not the problem (I’ve seen them and they’re out there for you to find, as well). There are also numbers out there to say that guns are the problem (I’ve seen them, too, and they’re out there for you to find).

People, however, scare the shit out of me. As a child, I marveled at how easy it would be to really get away with something horrible (pure thought- experiment, understand; I am a practicing pacifist, believe it or not, even unto words). An icicle, alibi, and stalwart constitution of lying better than Raskolnikov would do it.


I took a day away from this and enjoyed the patter of rain on my small cul-de-sac of my quarter acre homestead to clear my head. Eliott Smith sang, “The street’s wet, you can tell by the sound of the cars.” Here, it’s the trees that tell you what’s up. Their limbs are cold and leaveless, but the rain bears its mark. If you listen close enough you can hear the sigh of a collapsing star. You find what you’re looking for in nature and in humanity. You want destruction and devastation? We’ve got that. Horrors? Utterly covered. You want beauty, decency, compassion, sacrifice? Dig deeper, it’s there, I swear to you. If you want answers, you’ll find them, too; but I fear you for that.

Beautiful Abs, at four, has more than a few questions and she wants answers, I’ve no doubt. Childhood, for me, was about closed doors. Uncle Jason, days before thirty-eight, has found a few answers, but would rather keep them under wraps. Adulthood, for me, was about experiences. Uncle Jason’s answers are little more than efforts to keep his universe in order. Maybe, in her twenties, Abs will hate guns, maybe she’ll fear people, or maybe she’ll just have come around to the same thought process which has done so little and so much for me in believing that people should be taken as is. Beautiful Abs deserves that acceptance from me, I think. I’ll answer her questions with plenty of my own. My love for her insists that I do right by her for her growth as I see it. Argue this freely. I see hiding things from children as a horrible disservice to their growth. Kids see, kids ask, and if you’re not talking someone else is. We do the best as we see fit (and, therein, we often fail).

The folks with the approach on better dealing with mental health issues have my vote, but, I fear, even that falls short. We are numerous, good, bad, ill, or hale, all. We have always had tragedy, we will continue to do so. Laws don’t stop travesties; they never have. Liberties do not disallow horrific instances, nor lessen them. Regardless of your genesis idealism, we are animals capable of great wonder and terrible pain. It’s what we are. Argue this as you need. I allow you that.

I’m just thinking that we better serve all our Abbies by helping them find their Lenny. We can make our laws, restrict, or free as we see fit, but, in the end, it comes down to little else than seeing our little ones better able to deal with the expanding universe in manners that we, ourselves, have found to be less destructive than the horrors before us.

It’s not a bad place, you know. Humanity has always held its merits. Look for them and you’ll see they’re still there. We deal with all of it as we can, as we have, and as we will continue to do so. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t lose your place when you can’t fix it. The wheel will roll regardless of its axle; inertia, alone, deems this as inescapable.

Jesus and marigolds, write in the dark of night or speak in the bright of light, love someone enough to allow them to be wrong as you see it. If my best friend’s four year old Abby turns Marxist, Fascist, or Anarchist on me, she’s no less beautiful. This is my response to tragedy, that one little girl can count on Uncle Jason to be there when needed. Keep your guns, outlaw them, regulate dissentious behavior, and/or better note mentality; when my niece of un-relatable beauty has a crisis of humanity, of one of those things that we can’t escape, I only want to be there to hear it, to commiserate. I might have an answer, I probably won’t.

I might play her some Stevie Ray Vaughan in the rain. I like to play my strengths. Little Abs may one day find it, too, but, at least, I’ll be there to listen. For what little I may have to say, Abs has me. I am hers. I only hope I serve her well in hearing her needs.

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