Codromaght/unedited notes on Irishness from a 2009 notebook

What I wanted from Ann in her kitchen in Dorchester the day before yesterday was a blessing, and miraculously, it was procured. For the first time I can remember she seemed to think I had turned out alright: I turned out to be someone you could talk to, someone who could understand, who it hadn’t all been lost on, who didn’t need to be condescended to and who didn’t require a translation of the basics. What’s more I think she saw how much like her I’ve turned out to be (for she raised me, I’m hers); she who has been learning all her life, an ocean between her and the land of her birth, working, and when necessary working through pain. I think she knows that I am, in my way, a person of enormous faith.                                                                                                                                          Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death…

-My Irish Soul-

“Look, I know it’s stupid, but I’m funny like that. I like my space. Crazy, I know, but what can you do? I think it’s because everyone at home asks so many bloody questions. Where were you? Until when? Who were you with? And the great bloody existential conundrum of course; Just who do you think you are? ” – Joseph O’Connor

Codromaght- equality

(ontological parity…)

“The Irish have a shrewd knowledge of the world and a strange reluctance to cope with it”- Sean O’Faolain

Thomas Addis Emmet + the United Irish Uprising of 1798 (My Scots-Irish Ancestors?…)

“The Irish were distinguished by qualities which tend to make men interesting rather than prosperous” – Moynihan

“I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually” – Moynihan at JFK’s funeral

Mo cuisle- my blue-eyed darling- my lost lover- my blood… (Brendan, Liam, Brian…)

Derry- Point of departure for all my Irish Ancestors, Catholic (Dad’s side) and Protestant (Mom’s side). The Irish word for “Oak Grove”. Land of Cuchulain. The place where Columcille once prayed. Bloody Sunday. The burning Bogside. Wild Donegal to the West, Scotland to the East. Southeast to Belfast, Dublin, Wales and England…

Uisce fe talamh- Water under the ground. A consciousness of Race and place formed by history and circumstance whereby one grows up knowing things without realizing from where.

“Life is not lived until it is understood as a tragedy” -W.B Yeats

in Irish karma, too much success is only a prelude to catastrophe-

“Death makes life meaningless unless life achieves a form that Death can’t alter” -Seamus Deane

 

 

The Border Campaign

by Seamus Heaney

Soot-streaks down the courthouse wall, a hole                                                                         smashed in the roof, the rafters in the rain                                                                                        still smouldering:                                                                                                                                         When I heard the word “attack”                                                                                                                   in St. Columb’s College in nineteen fifty-six                                                                                              it left me winded, left nothing between me                                                                                           and the sky that moved beyond my boarder’s dormer                                                                      the way it would have moved the morning after                                                                                    savagery in Heriot, its reflection placid                                                                                                        in those waterlogged huge paw marks Grendel left                                                                               on the boreen to the marsh.

All that was written                                                                                                     and to come I was part of then,                                                                                                                      at one with clan chiefs galloping down paths                                                                                              to gaze at the talon Beowulf had nailed                                                                                                  high on the gable, the sky still moving grandly.                                                                                  Every nail and claw-spike, every spur                                                                                                        and hackle and hand-barb on that heathen brute                                                                                was like a steel prong in the morning dew.

don’t tread on us.

I should start by saying I am indebted to a couple of things I read recently for the brain-storms behind this post: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st century, and the Wall Street Journal of Monday, November 14, 2016.

So… “Make America great again”. Let’s dig into that for a minute. What does it mean? Sure, to many it means a return to a world in which straight, white, cis-gendered, gentile men ruled over us all and didn’t have to worry about anyone successfully elbowing in on their hoarded stores of power, money, respect, freedom, and basic physical security. Maybe some of those people would like to re-live the thrill of the rest of us stepping off the sidewalk, curtsying, and hiding in the shadows in shame. But there is more to that time, that time that is so great in the collective memory of these former masters of the universe. In fact, there were some things in that time- the middle of the 20th century- that did hold a promise of greatness, if yet to be fully realized in equitable distribution, particularly to non-white people. Specifically, as Thomas Piketty shows, it was the only time in history that wealth has been re-distributed from the top percentiles of earned income and more importantly from the greatest inherited fortunes, to a middle 40%- the much touted great American Middle Class, which has been in decline since roughly 1980. During that great time in the mid 20th century, Private Capital, through unprecedented high post-war tax rates on the top decile that has always held a great majority of the wealth of all nations, became Public Capital in the form of subsidies and support- the G.I Bill and all of it’s provisions being an important example- in Social Security, Medicare, a well-funded public education system that was affordable to all, through the University level, a well-funded and powerfully unionized Public Sector from Teachers to The Postal Service, to Public Utilities, and on and on. The Quality of life and broad prosperity of that era were due almost entirely to the transference, through taxes, of Private Capital into Public Capital. During this same era, and again, in large part due to government aid as part of the G.I Bill, a significant number of American families were able to build equity through home-ownership.

The middle class in America lost a huge part of the equity that differentiated it from the bottom 50% (those with no equity, no capital, nothing they can pass on to their heirs) in the subprime mortgage/foreclosure crisis of 2008. A massive amount of housing stock at that time became bank-owned and was then auctioned off to already-wealthy venture capitalists, leading to a boom in the rental-market for these re-couped single-family homes. Many Americans now are not even given the option of owning a home, even a fixer-upper in an undesirable neighborhood. They must rent, and the main difference between renting and home ownership is that through home ownership one can build equity and potentially have something of value to pass on to one’s heirs, improving the lot of the next generations, if not ones own. In the rental scenario, one is forced to pay and pay to a (increasingly likely to be corporate) landlord just to stay housed, while building no equity, and probably not saving anything for future generations.

The loss of equity in home ownership left the middle 40% (and even the bottom 50%) with one precious resource. Increasingly the only thing we, the bottom 90%, own. Though we own it collectively, and not individually, we do own it. We paid for it, and continue to pay for it, together. That is our “Public Capital”- Social Security is our collective savings account for retirement. Medicare is our collective safety net for our medical needs in our old age. Our Public Education system is a collective investment in the care and education of our children. When we look at our paystubs and see certain dollar amounts accruing to these programs, we have a level of confidence in that investment. We are okay with handing over that money, because we feel confident that we are going to see that money again, that it will be properly safeguarded, will accrue a little interest, and will do us a world of good someday when we really need it. Enter the Republican Congress intent on “privatizing” Medicare, Social Security, The U.S Postal Service, our Public Education system, etcetera etcetera. The argument, as far as I can gather, is that the private sector will far more efficiently manage our money. If we turn the huge well of taxpayer money in Medicare and Social Security over to portfolio managers on Wall Street, they will most certainly maximize returns in morally defensible ways, and we will all benefit. Never mind the bailout they so recently required for their recklessness. Never mind the 401Ks so recently reduced to crumbs by their shitty greed and life-lived-in-blinders-made-of-money. Supposedly the Postal Service will benefit from privatization. Really though, The idea seems to be a brilliant way to (As with the privatization of public schools and elimination of the Teacher’s Union) phase out one of the last good forms of public-sector employment, one that offers job-security, good pay and benefits, and enable the replacement of employees one is obliged to take care of with temporary workers to whom one has no such obligations. I’m sure it is an added enticement that privatization of the Postal Service can happen simultaneously with the selling off of Post Offices themselves, since they are public property- one piece of the physical infrastructure that is part of our “Public Capital”- the things that all the people, including you and I, own. Our Prison system has already been largely privatized, which has led only to an impetus to grow the prison population through racist policing practices, to keep that federal money flowing into the pockets of investors and the private prison industry. Our State-funded mental hospitals were privatized by Ronald Reagan, and the result is that we have a huge and ever-growing population of homeless individuals with untreated severe mental illnesses on America’s streets. Our Public Universities have been largely privatized, and the result is annual tuition hikes that make higher education a giant debt-trap for anyone whose parents can’t fully foot the bill, if they’re even able to get there at all.

All of this push to privatization means a fire-sale of public capital- all we, the people, have left of the middle-class equity built in the mid-20th century, to the highest private sector bidders. In other words, to the people who already own everything else. We will continue to need these services (or at least to want them. I guess we’ll find out how much we need them when we no longer have access to them), but from the moment they’re privatized there will always be a middle man taking as large a cut as he can get away with. There will always be some asshole on Wall Street playing with a chunk of your paycheck and my paycheck, and maybe giving some of it back to us down the line. Or maybe not. It depends on how he’s feeling.

The collective contributions of the good, dutiful, obedient American taxpayer add up to a huge pot of money. After all, there’s a lot of us. It is infuriating to those who want to play with this money (and are used to getting what they want) that we’ve managed to keep their hands off it for so long.  If they do get their hands on it, what will they do with it? An article in the Wall Street Journal on The Alaska Permanent Fund, which manages Alaskan Oil Revenue, gives us a clue. As global oil prices have plummeted, Alaska’s oil revenue has declined 80% over the past 2 years, but the fund made a lucky bet four years ago when it put major funding behind a company (now publicly traded), called American Homes 4 Rent. This company is one of those (mentioned above) that swooped in after the 2008 crash and scooped up huge numbers of foreclosed homes at bank auction. It is now permanently operating as a corporate landlord for single-family homes that, if on the market for purchase, would have been an opportunity for working americans to build equity through home-ownership. The headline for the article is “Alaska’s bet on Housing Bust Pays Off”. My point is, an increase in risky mortgage swap-type financial instruments are the almost inevitable outcome of a de-regulated financial industry (virtually guaranteed under a Trump presidency), and we should have learned our lesson from 2008: investments of this kind, as profitable as they may be in the short term, are risks that cannot be taken with people’s retirement and healthcare savings. Particularly since risky financial instruments are certain to be damaging working Americans in myriad other ways, as the foreclosure crisis shows. Privatization of our public capital and de-regulation of the financial sector, taken together, can only lead to utter ruin for millions of people.

Which leads me to my conclusion. I am fucking pissed. I am fed up to here. I thought I had reached a zenith of fury during the Bush/Cheney war profiteering years, when it was completely clear to me, and I believe, to most Americans, that these guys had illegally invaded and destroyed a country halfway around the world so that they could pillage that country’s oil reserves (Geneva Conventions be damned) and award massive government contracts (read: TAXPAYER’S MONEY- OUR MONEY) to their buddies, or in the case of Halliburton, to themselves, to “rebuild”(not very well) the country they had illegally destroyed. The Iraqi people and all the U.S Military and civilian personnel, including relatives and friends of mine, who were and continue to be traumatized, injured or killed in Iraq, are collateral damage in a massive transfer of wealth from the bottom 90% of American people to the top 10%- mostly to the top 1%. I remember thinking at the time “god-damn them, they really will not rest until they get it all”, because the scheme was so transparent. I had already considered going off-grid to avoid paying federal taxes at that point, due to my deep discomfort with war profiteering and my natural resistance as a being with a modicum of self-respect and some healthy moral fibre to the idea that a chunk of my hard-earned and meager paycheck was going into the pockets of the slimy greedy pigfuckers at the top by way of foreign plunder, rape, and murder. I just couldn’t figure out, logistically, how to do it. But if they pull off this privatization crap, I have to figure out how to do it. WE have to figure out how to choke off their money at the source. As long as we all sit down every April and obediently send our few coins down the chute into the pool of grease and blood and deep dark shadows, they will not give a flying fuck that we’re protesting every night. They will wipe their satanic buttholes with all of our petitions demanding equal rights and respect and dignity and an end to wars for plunder and “regime change”. The only way forward is to just stop giving them our money, because if they privatize what is left of our public capital, the collection of federal income taxes will be reduced to mere naked, bald-faced robbery of the poor by the rich. Will we stand for that?

I think it is interesting to ponder the realities of other countries, where rulers and governments are known to be entirely corrupt, leaders known to be eager thieves with fat offshore accounts and golden mansions far from the common thoroughfares: In those places, a majority of economic activity takes place on black markets, thereby entirely surpassing the corrupt government intermediary, and choking off the flow of tax dollars that would be pocketed by the oligarchs in power, never to be seen again. There may be systems of barter and trade in place, and all sorts of under-the-table informal economic arrangements. We here in the U.S would do well to study the informal economies people around the world have designed to bypass the groping hands of a greedy and corrupt central government and its tax authority. We would also do well to remember that the initial inspired rebellion that led to this country’s independence was a refusal to bow under the yoke of unjust taxation.

Elect Yourself

Another U.S Presidential election is upon us, and more than ever before, technology enables the electorate to see (if it chooses to), even to understand in some measure (if it so desires), the nature of power and disempowerment , political and otherwise, in this time and this place. We are experiencing the humiliation of seeing, if not all of the picture at least more of it than we’ve seen probably ever before, and feeling that there is nothing any of us (the vast majority of the population) can do to alter the picture of Power and its abuses one iota. This is because the outcomes of our electoral politics seem pre-determined. As Thomas Frank points out in the Guardian after reading through the leaked Podesta e-mails, there is an entrenched wealthy elite which controls the economy, the political process, the disbursement of federal tax revenue (often for its own enrichment), the wise and unwise military/geopolitical ventures funded by our tax dollars for the further enrichment and advancement of this entrenched elite that very very rarely experiences or has experienced first-hand the trauma of warfare. As Frank further exposes in Harpers, our media, our “serious journalists”, are mostly complicit in supporting the ideologies and agendas of this elite, and often work to manipulate public opinion in favor of it’s pre-ordained attitudes and courses of action. Frank supposes that these journalists are playing the game out of some sort of aspirational loyalty to it’s relative enlightenment and out of a silly hopeful illusion that because there are also some Ivy League degrees in the rapidly shrinking ivory tower of highbrow journalism, playing nice might net an invitation to the white house, to the Met Gala, to the hollywood afterparty, or ultimately onto the Ark when the next deluge comes (could be any day now).

And that’s just the Democrats. The truth is, starting with this election cycle or the next one, the U.S will become a one-party system, ruled by the elite class described above. The G.O.P, the “other party”, in a two-party system (which seems to be the most we could hope for here), which ostensibly should have been a voice for the masses outside of Wall Street, the beltway, Greenwich and the Vineyard, has collapsed. In an obviously and increasingly pay-to-play political system, Republican legislators are largely (if not entirely) in the pocket of the industry lobbyists who finance their campaigns and sometimes cushion their paychecks. These interests are by-and-large their only constituents in any significant sense. And interestingly enough these same special interests also finance and control quite a few legislators on the other side of the aisle. Our Congress, as a collection of free individuals who represent the views and interests of human constituents in their places of origin across the country is an illusion. Both parties have foundered on these rocks. The Republicans however, are the ones who are going to fade into utter political irrelevancy, leaving the Dems as the sole surviving Political Party in our One-Party Plutocracy. This is because the G.O.P has also run aground on the twin shoals of racism and unfavorable demographics. As the base of the party becomes ever more vocally racist, xenophobic, essentially manifesting itself as a White Nationalist party, white christians for the first time slip into minority status in the electorate, and will never again be in the majority, since most of the demographic growth in the U.S is among non-white ethnic groups. Soon there won’t even be enough votes to put those spineless G.O.P lackeys in the congressional seats they shit on all day every day when they’re not on paid vacation (which, incidentally, is a lot of the time. And you know who is doing the paying). So that leaves us with one-party rule. Like China. And Egypt. And Zimbabwe. A corrupt, self-serving, incestuous, disgustingly (and increasingly) wealthy, self satisfied, astonishingly ignorant despite their gold-plated academic honors, and in truth, exceeding cruel and morally bankrupt elite will rule this country. They will level more and greater taxes on us while lowering their own tax rates and refusing to tax their own inheritances and capital gains at any meaningful rate. They will slash funding for our education and healthcare while themselves enjoying the highest quality education and healthcare in the world. They will design legal structures and rhetoric to go along with them, and use a militarized police state and mass surveillance to incarcerate us in greater and greater numbers and use us while imprisoned as a slave labor force for their own gain. Worse yet, they will use money taken from the half of use who remain free as tax revenue to imprison the other half, and somehow the check will still be cut to them.

What’s that you say? This isn’t the future? This is happening now?

This is happening now. Right now. At this moment an unknown number of our incarcerated brothers and sisters are participating in a historic strike against Prison Slavery which the elite media is not reporting on. At this moment First Nations and others are standing with the Dakota Sioux in Standing Rock North Dakota against an oil pipeline that a corporation in cooperation with the state and federal government is driving through Sovereign Sioux lands at great risk to that land, to the water that runs through it, and to the sanctity of Tribal Sacred Sites. The Sioux and their allies are standing to protect the earth and water and air for future generations and are being beaten and gassed, attacked and arrested for TRESPASSING on their own ancestral lands. They are under attack from U.S military personnel and from private security forces/mercenaries. Yes, it is happening now. Right now. Not in spite of the election, or because of it, but because this is where we are, people, election or no election. The fact is, this is where we’ve been for 50 years or more. Remember Kent State and Jackson State? Remember the AIM led and brutally put down occupations of Alcatraz and of Wounded Knee? Remember the Black Panthers? Once again the illusions of Democracy are fraying, disintegrating and revealing an ugly picture of Oligarchy, a militarized, racist, classist police state that is willing to kill to quash internal dissent, mass surveillance, war profiteering, and earth-raping. An absolutely nihilist world view, against humans, indeed against all sentient and non-sentient life, which underpins a seemingly unassailable fortress of greed.

This is an intimidating picture, and yet, we must not be intimidated.

This is a discouraging picture, and yet, we can not afford to be discouraged.

We must commit to defend ourselves and each other. As the Panthers said 50 years ago- by any means necessary. As Ice-T said a couple decades later- what the Black man needs is 3 things: Justice, Freedom, and Love. That’s what we all need, and if we can’t get these things by voting, we must, and will- as our parents and grandparents and ancestors did, as our brothers and sisters in the struggle all over this sacred suffering planet are doing-

we MUST seek other ways.

The Commons sense

When I was about 16 or 17, I read every book I could get my hands on by or about the hobo. As a result I became acquainted rather early with the poems of Robert Service, as well as tales of and quotes from many an anonymous bard and philosopher. I recall one hobo in particular, someone who was going by the name “Red”, offering the following critique of modern industrial Capitalism: “Work has wasted more human life and happiness, and cemented the foundations of more inhuman wrong, misery, and oppression, than ever did the combined forces of War, Physics, and bad whiskey”. You can imagine how much this impressed me, since I recall the quote I believe verbatim, some 18 years after reading it. I ran into the same thought a few years down the line in a poem by Octavio Paz (sadly, I can’t recall the name of the poem, though again I believe I’ve still got the part I memorized down word for word):

“mejor ser lapidado in las plazas

que dar vuelta a la noria que exprime la sustancia de la vida

cambia la eternidad en horas huecas

los minutos en carceles

el tiempo en monedas de cobre y mierda abstracta”

or, in english:

“better to be whipped in the public square

than to tread the mill that grinds out into nothing the substance of our life

changes eternity into hollow hours

minutes into prisons

time into copper pennies and abstract shit”.

 

and I recall Ginsberg also (speaking of eternity): “who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade”…

And now I’m older, and I still have these what consider to be truths etched in my brain. I’ve been reminded recently because I’m reading the collected writings of T-Bone Slim, who was a hobo/itinerant laborer/tugboat captain, who wrote a regular column for the IWW (Wobblies/Industrial Workers of the World) newspaper in the 20’s. Here’s T-Bone in 1926:

“Only recently I read a statement that ‘Truth, alone, will set you free”, and being of an inventive turn of mind, I got to wondering if “Truth” could be harassed so’s to lift one of those heavy hand-cars on the track. My partner suggested I’d better stick to perpetual motion (he’s a sarcastic cuss). That’s what comes of having too many chestnuts in the fire. But I couldn’t very well give up the idea, because if truth can set me free, there must be power- and power certainly ought to put that car on the track. Once on the track we could take it off the track by using a little falsehood. It occurred to me that it isn’t enough that truth sets me free. We got to hitch it up some way so that it will do some of the work.”

And as I’m reading T-Bone, I’m also watching news of the protest against a pipeline on Dakota-Sioux land in South Dakota, and reading of a group of activists in Oakland who were arrested and are now facing up to a decade of jail time and fines of up to 100,000 dollars for daring to live in (and make improvements to) a long-abandoned house.

I am wondering how, when and why human beings have turned (or been turned, more accurately) from the logical common holding and stewardship of land and resources (see the IMF and World Bank offering bribes to the governments of developing nations all over the world in exchange for the privatization and monetization of what has been commonly held indigenous land since the beginning of time). Take a person’s land away from him (or his right to use the land, or as with the Dakota Sioux, destroy the ecosystem, groundwater, etcetera, of the land), and you will almost certainly force him or her to sell hours of life in exchange for  the means of mere survival. Through the (quite new and modern) hex of landlessness, you have effectively produced a wage slave- a human being yoked to someone else’s profit incentives, and forced to tread the mill that Paz speaks of….

Here’s a final unedited quote from an e-mail I sent to a good friend this week, just to sum it up in the most bare-naked way I can:

“It’s been such a long time since I was in school for anything, and I’ve never really been in school for writing, although I guess in a way that is what all my reading is for- to inform and shape the writing I do- but my adult life involves so much pressure, mostly financial pressure, and time constraints, that the magical feeling I had at at Sarah Lawrence where work for pay was a minor fraction of life and most of what I had to do was learn and read and think and yes, write…. it’s so far off now it seems like a fantasy. Part of me (a large part) despises capitalism and the pressures it puts on people including myself to essentially waste their best years, the years that should be the most creative, the richest, the most personally productive, just trying to fend off homelessness and hunger. Part of me is grateful that I personally am not homeless or hungry (at least for now), and thinks that it is absolutely crazy and amazing that I got to spend so many years in high school and college essentially just doing what I enjoy, reading and learning and making things, not worrying about food and shelter, which is more than most people on this planet will ever get, so I have nothing to complain about. Why should I be entitled to more than what I have? Why should I have the leisure to think and write? maybe I only deserve it because everyone deserves it. But what are the chances of everyone getting it?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

by the shit-rivers of Babylon

Well, The RNC convention in Cleveland was exactly as terrifying as one would expect, with a huge amount of bellicose roaring on matters domestic and especially foreign. Soon afterwards my friend Sandy received a survey from the RNC in the mail (he is registered Republican for various reasons, none of them that he is a Republican). He was asked to fill out this survey on issues of concern to framers of party platform etcetera and return it using a postage stamp he would purchase himself. Fine. Half the survey turned out to be leading questions (things along the lines of “Do you believe the Republican Party should lower the current ridiculously high Corporate tax rate, thereby encouraging businesses to locate and prosper here in the U.S, thereby securing innumerable benefits for all Americans?”), and a good quarter of one page was dedicated to proposals of all of the countries around the world that Republican party leadership would like to be openly at war with (for example: “Do you believe that the current provocative behavior of the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea merits a sound and unequivocal Military response from the United States?”). At the end of the survey there was a pitch to contribute money to the RNC. One of the choices you could select was: “I can’t afford to give more, but I will contribute 15.00 to pay for the processing of this survey”. Yeah, because the RNC is definitely going to pay someone fifteen dollars to spend an hour reading your 2-page survey full of leading questions. Oy.

So one can gather that the GOP has war games (and fundraising) on the brain, in addition to a seething antipathy to any kind of sensible gun control or reform of militarized police forces that are armed to the teeth and murder people with full immunity and little scrutiny every day here at home. In addition to this the candidate’s wife (a person I frankly find fascinating and would like to know more about, were she not so insistent on being a cipher, or so cooperative with those who would make her little more than a decorative touch), delivered a speech which it turns out was largely plagiarized from one given by the current first lady 8 years ago. The current first lady being the wife of the president who Mrs. Trump’s husband has suggested is a Kenyan-born Communist Muslim. After the whole scandal had broken and shattered down into intelligible parts and the plagiarism admitted (albeit with some weird and unbelievable plot-twists and a cardboard scapegoat), it supposedly boiled down to a deeply felt admiration for Mrs. Obama and her speech. Now if that is not the most crude, twisted, navel-gazing excuse I’ve ever heard from people old enough to know better, a bear does not shit in the woods. It would have been refreshingly honest if they had just come out and said “We have no respect for Michelle Obama, so we stole her speech. Whaddaya gonna do about it, huh?”, schoolyard-bully style.

But wait, things are popping on the other side of the river of shit (oops I mean aisle, other side of the aisle) as well. Wikileaks released transcripts of e-mails sent within the DNC apparatus throughout the Dem presidential primary, and it is now blatantly obvious not only that the Sanders campaign was being deliberately undermined and actively sabotaged from inside the party he was vying for leadership of from the very beginning, but also that the people running the Dem establishment are actually the kind of shitbags who will refer to the Latino youth vote as a taco bowl (“lets try to mop up some more of that taco bowl”), and mock a black woman’s name in their private correspondence (“LaQueenia is actually a name? shoot me.”). To make matters worse, in the aftermath of the leak DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz resigned her position (She knows she is guilty as shit and was not about to squirm away from all this hard cold evidence of wrongdoing), and was immediately praised by both Clinton and Obama as a great public servant and given a plush new job with the Clinton campaign/likely future presidency. This is all disgusting and makes me wish that I was an animal much lower in the food chain and could not comprehend what is happening or even understand human languages. It would be nice to be a crow, in 2016. Or maybe a prairie-dog. Or a lizard, somewhere out in the desert in Utah, curled up in a nice crevice in a rock face, blinking contentedly at the wind.

But since this fond wish will most likely not come true, I await the next chapter. Julian Assange apparently said he is getting ready to release another round of documents that could dramatically impact Clinton’s rise, and possibly even lead to her arrest. I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, more Pina Coladas are in order.

 

*header image is a screenshot off 4chan from 2009. The content does not express any thoughts/views/etcetera of the author of this blog.

The Ballad of Seamus and River

In the crumbling East Oakland public schools he attended as a child, Seamus had been a pariah. He was invariably the only white kid in his class. He had never learned proper hygiene from his depressive unkempt mother or his mostly-absentee drunk father. He was not funny, or smart, or in any way talented. If you had been standing on the corner back in ’96 as Seamus walked by, slump-shouldered, his pimply face with the too-long jaw lowered so as not to make eye contact, you probably would have heard someone say “Stupid retard”, someone answer “Man, that’s just sad”, and someone else laugh.
One day when he was 15, Seamus stood for about five minutes looking at a bottle his father had left on the coffee-table, looking at the overflowing ashtray beside it, hearing police sirens wailing, looking at the T.V where the A’s were down three in the 8th inning. Then he picked up the bottle and got his first taste of whiskey. The burn travelling down his throat and into his gut was almost the only pleasure and was the only relief he had ever felt.
Seamus stopped going to school. His mother kicked him out saying he was a piece of shit like his dad. Four years after that, he had become a fixture on Telegraph Avenue. He sat alone, cross-legged on a ragged blanket in front of Amoeba Records, a crumpled paper cup before him, a water bottle full of cheap vodka beside him, his forearms crossed over his belly, rocking slowly forwards and back, occasionally mumbling “spare change”. He wore dirt-encrusted blue jeans and a ragged army-surplus jacket. His dull brown hair was long and hung down over his downcast eyes, and his beard was long and scraggly. The tight community of street people avoided him.
It was a bright, clear September day when a young traveler came striding, long-legged and curiously peering up and around him through his brown eyes, down Telegraph. He had a pack on his back with a bedroll, and carried a cheap, battered little guitar, on the body of which someone he had written with a sharpie, in unself-conscious imitation of Woody Guthrie, “this machine kills fascists”. He sat down beside Seamus. “Hey, man”, he said, “I’m River. What’s your name?”
On the day they met, River had just gotten a ride over the bridge from San Francisco, where he had been sleeping in Golden Gate Park with some meth-heads who he said were too negative for him. He said he grew up in New Jersey. He got hooked on heroin when he was a teenager, and his mom had sent him to Washington State to stay with his dad, who she hoped would beat some sense into him. Instead, they started doing heroin together, which was great, because his dad was a former army medic, and could always find a vein. Eventually, River had hopped a freight to Portland. He was pretty sure it was there, sharing needles with hobo kids in the train-yard, that he’d been infected with HIV. He didn’t figure it out until months later, when he got a cold and instead of getting better he began to waste away, so he went to the E.R. They told him he had AIDS. After he found out his status, he couldn’t see any of the people he’d been hanging out with in Portland without wondering if they had infected him, or if he had infected them, so he came south, thinking it would be warmer in the Bay, easier to stay healthy. At first it was. Through September and October River went to the methadone clinic, he and Seamus spare-changed and often got enough for Chinese food or pizza, and they slept up on a hill above campus where nobody bothered them and they could look out at the twinkling East Bay and San Francisco and the Golden Gate beyond. One warm night as they lay there just a little bit drunk gazing out on the constellations of streetlights down in the flats River said, “Hey man, Isn’t this amazing? Aren’t we lucky? We’re the kings of all this.”
But then, after almost five years of drought, the sky opened and day after day and night after night of freezing cold rain came down. The blanket and the sleeping bag and all their clothes were soaked. There was almost no foot traffic on Telegraph, and after buying vodka at 7-11 there was no money left over for food. There was no shelter on the hill, so they stayed, huddled together and constantly drunk, under the awning on the sidewalk. River started to get sick. At first he had a little wheezing cough. Then as the rain continued, He coughed harder. Fever set in. He lost weight so quickly it would have alarmed Seamus if he’d been sober. Then one day Seamus woke to see his friend’s face a whitish-blue beside him, and if River hadn’t been shaking so hard, Seamus would have thought he was dead. He didn’t know what to do, so he lay on top of River to try to warm him up. He lay his head on River’s chest, heard his heart beating faintly.
A girl on her way to work at the herbal apothecary saw them, and noting the blue tint of River’s face, decided to call 911. The ambulance arrived and several uniformed, efficient EMTs jumped out. They pulled Seamus off of River, whose unconscious body they lifted and strapped to a stretcher. As they loaded River into the ambulance, Seamus sat cross-legged, rocking himself, eyes downcast. A ponytailed, scrubbed-clean female EMT bent from the waist, and barely heard Seamus mumble, “That’s my best friend, man. He’s dying.”
“What’s his name? He doesn’t have any I.D on him”
“River.”
“Is River his legal name? What’s his last name?”
Seamus seemed to shut off, drift away. The woman seemed impatient.
“I don’t know”, he mumbled at the ground, finally.
The ponytail straightened up, and scoffed to a male EMT who had joined her,
“That’s his best friend he says, but he doesn’t even know his name.”

Gleanings: Mona Hatoum, Andy Warhol, Megan Abbott, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Ty Dolla $ign+TC…

In her film ‘corps étranger’, Mona Hatoum brings us, with a special medical camera, literally inside her body. We enter more or less all of her orifices as an eye, and we see her mysterious, vulnerable, gross, beautiful, pulsing interior territories.

What a statement this film is (as I see it), about the bodies of women and about the bodies of the colonized (she is of Palestinian origin)- and not, by the way, unrelated to the current and ongoing waves of tragic murders of Blacks in America by police- these bodies subject to surveillance and suspicion,  unlawful imprisonment, beatings, rape, murder, dehumanizing desire, rage, incomprehension, assumption, a range of questionable scholarship, debate, and regulation. All this and yet you will never see these pulsing pink opalescent passages, the pools of bilge and the blue capillaries, never hear the resounding, insistent- and yes, miraculous, awesome-passage of blood and air, unless, as Hatoum does, she invites you in, unless she decides to radically risk herself by taking you there and showing it to you.

Watch ‘Corps Etranger’ here.

 

Extraordinary- Andy Warhol interviewed in 1966. He is asked whether he cares what people think of him- that “they” have an opinion about him good or bad, and he literally refuses to answer. He tells the interviewer, “you tell me what to say and I’ll just repeat what you say”. He even suggests that the rest of the interview might proceed very well in this manner, with the television interviewer supplying both the questions and the answers, with Warhol merely mimicking the answers he provides. It strikes me as a profound (and yes, also playful) rejection of the artist’s prescribed role as exalted ego and anointed producer of cultural signifiers. What if the artist himself refuses to play along? And what if his modus operandi is far more consciously subversive than Warhol’s is commonly thought to be (his behavior often written off as whim, eccentricity, lack of seriousness)…The unacknowledged and unplumbed power of fey queer refusal/a sideways tactical advantage/you really don’t understand how dangerous we are, do you?

watch the interview here.

 

And lastly a couple quotes from The Fever by Megan Abbott, which I happened to be reading last week. I think these quotes jumped out at me because of Alton Sterling’s +Philando Castile’s murders, watching/listening to Ty Dolla $ign’s song “No Justice” that he recorded with his brother TC (watch/listen here)… Something about how these events, this ongoing violence and injustice makes me feel came through in these words:

“Gabby paused. Then her voice dropped low, like she was right there beside her. ‘There was this shadow’, she said. ‘I could see it from the corner of my eye, but I wasn’t supposed to look at it.’

Deenie felt her hand go around her own neck. 

‘If I turned my head to look’, Gabby continued, ‘something really bad would happen. So I couldn’t look. I didn’t dare look.’

Deenie pictured it. That smile on Gabby’s face. After, when everyone surrounded her on the stage. Like something painted on her face. A red-moon curve.

‘I didn’t look, Deenie’, Gabby whispered, ‘but it happened anyway.’

I’m okay, she’d said. I really am. I’m fine. 

That smile, not a real thing but something set there, to promise you something, to give you a white lie. “

-Megan Abbott, The Fever

***********************************************************************

“‘She didn’t faint,’ Deenie said. ‘But her body. What was happening to her body?’

The pensive look on Deenie’s face, like when she was small. Finding a cat drowned in the ditch by the mailbox. He didn’t know how long she’d been staring at it, her brother next to her touching it gently with a stick, hoping to nudge it to life. That night she’d had nightmares, her mouth was filled with mud. He’d tried to explain it to her, how accidents happen but we really are safe. But there was already the sense that nothing he said touched what was really bothering her, which was the realization that you can’t stop bad things from happening to other people, other things. And that would be hard forever. He’d never quite gotten used to it himself.”

-Megan Abbott, The Fever

***********************************************************************

“Bad things happen, and then they’re over, but where do they go? Deenie wondered, watching Gabby. Are they ours forever, leeching under our skin?”

-Megan Abbott, The Fever

 

 

*painting by G.F Marlier 2006