Thursday, January 29, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Without a grip on Entertainment TV:
My voice is a whisper among Hollywood screams.
It is all that is fabulous –
But all that glisters is not gold.
Oh Bella Donna (belladonna)
Sister of Narcissus
You danced your way in
Secreted from the root
Now your dazzling eyes
So hypnotic and enticing
(an intoxication that weds body and mind)
Imprisons and torments.
Narcosis and paralysis.
Impregnated by vicious lies
That rip and melt
You seek the fabulous;
You seek the deadly nightshade.
Your ears are not for me.
I still plant in your garden
Now playing: Attack In Black - Resist And Desire
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
That is why we take public transportation.
Thank you for your otherwise accommodating services, which I frequent on a mostly daily basis.
I will be sure to pass on the word of your considerate and hospitable chaperones to all I know.
Now playing: City & Colour - Day Old Hate
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
* * *
The blinding white security guard uniforms and bomb-detecting pearly gates are overwhelming enough tasks to insure you will forget where you’ve been.
Cue the overhead distraction screens; slideshows of nature.
Cut to fields of daffodils.
Cut to lazy butterflies gliding on gentle breezes.
Cut to macro shots of dew on carnations with background-lingering obscured horizons that still present definition between blue skies and green fields.
American Airlines makes it very clear that, now, you’ve reached clarity, peace, safety: serenity even. You’re going home, you're going to your own little nirvana – that kind of shit.
Or even better. Instead, you're just visiting. Only having a glimpse of some new kind of paradise and something to look forward to.
And then: greasy, filthy, loud Hogs.
American Airlines plays the soundtracks for its relaxation meditation escapist videos and rolls the feature presentation. Rock the damn plane with Confusion for sadist black boxes that are actually orange. Today’s feature is Wild Hogs: a low budget road movie about a bunch of mid-life crisis men played by uncomfortable comedians that are far past their prime. Give me tragedy. Give me vicarious satisfaction. Give me John Travolta, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence. Is John Travolta going to dance?!
Give me distraction.
I’ve reached clarity, peace, safety: serenity even.
Give me a barf bag.
And bring me a drink. But I can’t associate with Jack or Jim or James or Samuel. At this point in my life I’m only 19, and according to latitude and longitude, I’m not in the right country for that. American Airlines runs house. It’s the corporations that get extraterritorial jurisdiction up there. The notion of being able to purchase a drink once the airline announcer came across the P.A. droning “Welcome to Canada, passengers, we’ve just entered Ontario” was humouring in a facetious sort of spirit.
While trailers are aired over the P.A. system in the shuttle, thankfully, American Airlines charges two American dollars (no tax extra: the illusion of safety) to purchase special headphones with custom inputs that are necessary to listen to its feature presentations, so I was able to focus my free time on doing some writing without interruption.
I was happy to be on my way home, but even as early as the time I’d left the security course I was too worn out and exhausted. I was in a bad mood, and drinking wouldn’t help my temper or my writing one bit anyway.
* * *
“We know why you fly, we're American Airlines.” That’s the slogan you hear over the P.A. when the plane lands and you prepare yourself for another obstacle course of security devices – but what does it mean?
I had been awake and conscious in this long gauntlet of escapism for long enough and I was beyond agitated. I focused my energy on standing up and transcending the bullshit that resided in the stale, hospital-like air of the vessel. My legs felt young in a crude way, but I had to walk on and obtain my baggage so I could get on home. Leaving the vehicle of single-serving comforts behind me, I was still racked with confusion. Where was the logic behind that bizarre riddle? was this a response brought on to prevent enthusiasts akin to the terrorists of September 11, 2001? Miami airport’s security as perverted and perturbing as it had felt just hours before, this seemed like a reasonable way to understand that mysterious motto.
But I was home, and I was ready to accept real comfort with more enthusiasm than I had for pondering any further on the evils I had just left behind. No more.
Now playing: Gatsby's American Dream - Your Only Escape
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The ground under wheels
a recycled plastic, with
paths made of flat carpet.
No more windows
Except on the screens
- just a door-like space
made because a wall
was a bit smaller than the
and another is barely visible
because of the reincarnated trees:
the ones that grow so high even the
hawks fear to fly to the peaks;
they grow atop the fake wood veneer
of four-drawer chopping blocks.
Jungles in the sky
where each plant is exotic
(or at least in the
eye of the ant):
where the beasts roar
when rubbed the
and only the meek
Friday, January 16, 2009
1. "Play Your Part (Pt. 1)"
2. "Shut The Club Down"
3. "Still Here"
4. "What It's All About"
5. "Set It Off"
6. "No Pause"
7. "Like This"
8. "Give Me A Beat"
9. "Hands In The Air"
10. "In Step"
11. "Let Me See You"
12. "Here's The Thing"
13. "Don't Stop"
14. "Play Your Part (Pt. 2)"
I remember when all of my friends first got their G2s. We come from a small town, where there’s not much to do but complain about the lack of things to do. Instead of being apathetic and contemptuous toward this monotonous and seemingly inevitable boredom, we made our own fun. The weekend would come, and we would pile into friends’ cars, sometimes squeezing four to five along backseat benches. Night would fall, and we would drive.
It was a time of lead-footed drives out of town on backstreets to reach what could only be described as Hope, defined by a freckle-faced pigtailed red head and Frostys; driving reckless donuts in deserted parking and idling to talk and eat and laugh while high-beam-flashing, battery-sucking MCs matched lights along to the rhythm of finger tap satisfying beats – the more complex and unconventional the beat, the better. We played everything from Gorillaz and Radiohead to Pig Destroyer and The Grouch.
We did it often, and we wanted variety. Naturally, an exponential expansion of Windows Media Player and iTunes libraries ensued.
We hated the radio: any commercial break was too long. This marked an age of mix disks, and no one reserved piety for DJ Passenger Seat. An excess production of mix disks occurred often, as everyone wanted to listen to their tunes with the aid of superior car sound systems and share their musical tastes with everyone else.
It was quite possibly one of the single most culture- and counter-culture-filled times of my life.
Eventually we’d greet and strive to understand 6 in the morning joggers running in the opposite direction with disgust and anguish, but we had a good time.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Hunter S. Thompson, inventor of Gonzo Journalism and novelist was not your average writer. This is the very man that wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a tale of drug-induced antics while on assignment in the city of broken bank accounts and all-night boozeries. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you’ll know this is a man who pushes every limit in sight, and when he campaigned for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado in 1969, there was no exception. Thompson was a prominent figure of an anarchist group known as the party for Freak Power. His platform included a legalization of the recreational use of narcotics (while prosecuting profiting dealers harshly to reduce gang activity), to “Sod the streets at once” (The Great Shark Hunt, Simon & Shuster Paperbacks, 1979) and create large parking-lots on the outskirts of Aspen in order to reduce pollution and preserve nature, to change the name of Aspen to “Fat City” by public referendum as to prevent the greedy from capitalizing on the name (for example, titles such as the Aspen Music Festival would then on be known as the “Fat City Music Festival”), forbid hunting and fishing in Aspen (or Fat City) to all non-residents, and the ban of weapons in public for all officers (including Thompson, who was a well-known firearms enthusiast). Of course, Thompson felt it was very important that Aspen elect a responsible party, and in his efforts, promised his community that if he became Sheriff, he’d never eat mescaline while on duty.
Hunter S. Thompson - Aspen Sheriff Election 1970
Ten years later, Jello Biafra – former Dead Kennedys lead singer and since then solo and spoken word artist – ran for mayor in San Francisco. What was originally meant to be a prank soon turned into a serious involvement in local politics and social order. His campaign promised everything from placing a rule that required businessmen to dress in clown attire within San Francisco to a citywide ban on cars (in an attempt to reduce pollution). But here is where the media attacks again, showcasing only the bizarre and offering little exposure for the revolutionary. Among his “weird” campaign moves are some plans that Jello’s argued had received too little attention: he felt that squatting should be legal in abandoned San Franciscan homes; he opted for elections to decide the occupations and jurisdictions of local police; played for a 50% panhandler commission for all state workers laid off due to deficit-caused staff reductions; and stood for jails being moved to local golf courses “so [occupants] can enjoy true rehabilitation like the Watergate criminals” (from an interview with Jools Holland). Despite the fact that he only won 3% of the votes, Biafra – his real name Eric Reed Boucher – did manage to put a dent in the politically limited wall of San-Francisco: following the election: no candidate was to run under any name other than the one given to them at birth.
Despite wacky antics and bold campaign promises, none of these parties went anywhere past their campaign as far as electorate success sees. The way North Americans and many more people of the world have been raised is to the understanding that the person who puts the most of their self into their work is the one that achieves the greatest cookie-jar success: in the case of campaigning; the more a party spends, the greater their audience becomes. Fairly independent parties, they don’t have the buck for that bang. This is where the track and field of the political race becomes more about Gatorade sponsorships than the ability to jump higher – run faster – throw further – run a country up to speed. It’s that kind of corporate funding that clouds the judgment. It gets people thinking who to vote for – who will cater to their needs in the future (their needs, their future – not their future’s future) – who’s drinking the same sports drink as them – who they should invest in.
Just like athletes drop sponsors, the sellout parties drop values along the road. Here is where generations of fence-sitters lose their strength and pick a box that seems familiar, because too different is too much to handle. In general, NHL athletes didn’t stop playing hockey when they changed the rules – instigated shoot outs in place of overtimes; they kept playing hockey because they were good at it and made good cash money. The year before that they were on strike, this was the new harvest season, and they had to make up for some dead crops.
Unlike the cash-driven parties we see, firing different philosophies every other day of the week, the weird stick to their guns still to this day. Hunter S. Thompson lived by his motto ’til the day he killed himself; “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro;” he never won any elections, but his writing still exists just as it did long before his new audiences were even conceived – just as popular, and if not, more. Jello’s motto, a little different, but just as influential: “don’t hate the media, become the media” – and he’s done a good job at that, producing albums at a rate so fast it’s as if the lyrical content of each song was as easily rendered as simple stones he only had to pick off the earth.
Become the media. Turn pro. Separate the suit-wearing clowns from the real people, and take your picking. Think about how satisfying it is, seeing a clown get a cream pie right on the nose. Ask the “weird,” and they’ll probably tell you that this is about all the clowns are good for: laughs.
*originally published in The Undercroft, vol.2, iss.3: "Rally in the Alley" as a feature article.
Now playing: The Misfits - Where Eagles Dare
Monday, January 12, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Dan from New Orleans
We got our tickets from roll call, and the relief that came with it was instant cause for a celebratory smoke for the two smokers in our quartet. They lit up, and after a moment of reflective commentary on the ridiculousness of the whole situation, being in New York City on such short sleep, tired legs, and little planning, this guy with camo shorts walks up to us. We ate a six in the morning breakfast at White Castle – where were our heads? Nervous giggles all around from a bunch of small towners.
And that’s when we met this guy, Dan, who said (and sounded like) he was from Nawlins (New Orleans, dontchaknow). Anyway, this dude, he was sweet.
He approached us because of the cigarettes.
“What are those?” he asked, pointing to a hand holding a dart.
What a miserable country, I thought. Our corporations can’t even perpetuate their own identity as Canadian. Even in our closest neighbouring country, we’re looked at like a bunch of wandering vagrants smoking cheap stuff short of Marlboro. Was smoking such a foreign concept when on the topic of our land? Our government systematically extirpated any sort of relationship with this menace in the advertising realm of its marketplace as if it was amputating some unsightly extra appendage, but it still allowed those companies to manufacture and traffic the things. The hypocrisy is ludicrous, of course. Imitate the rod and spoil the pimp, I guess. It almost makes me want to smoke. I probably would if I wasn’t allergic to it.
We pathetically explain the relationship we have with these cigarettes and tell him we like his shorts, laughing because we’ve all got the same thing going on. They’re really just convenient for wandering and carrying a lot of shit. Dan told us he was in New Orleans when Katrina hit – maybe those shorts had some history.
Dan’s about to leave to find his friends, and he turns around to ask the four of us if we’d like to join him further up the line – and well, the dude’s friends are right at the front. I’m not even talking twenty or even a couple people from the entrance or anything. I’m talking right at the gate. It turned out these friends were just two Aussie girls he met while partying the night before. One was talking about a party she was going to have after the concert in her loft. One of my friends looked up like it was an opportunity for a place to stay the night. Our luck was only this good in this state of miserable presentation: we must have looked like helpless, scared rodents in a city that’s too big even to begin looking for the scraps of food left in the gutter.
Either way, I guess we must have been good people.
We stood in line for another twenty minutes, and security opened the gates. They let us loose, but not before they dissected the contents of our bags for some sort of treasure akin to some booze or a bag of dope. We were too cautious for anything like that though. We were wild kids, but we shrank at the very notion of American border authorities, with ominous, post- 9/11 images of Muslims being picked out and dragged into interrogation rooms by some of the most clean-shaven cops in the country haunting our foresight. They confiscated my Nalgene bottle because it was too likely to be used as a weapon and I was a teenager in one of the largest settings perfect for anonymous, mindless, destructive behaviour. Event staff saw punks like me beyond their aviators every weekend, and even more often in the summer. And this was a hip-hop concert; too often closely affiliated with its violent brother, rap. I felt raped and insulted, but I gave the swine my bottle and in my head I thought of profanities I was too weak and outnumbered to assault him with.
Dan let us in on a little secret. He’d smuggled in some joints under his belt. We kept him around for some entertainment, I forgot to mention, he was a pretty funny guy.
Halfway through the day, Dan was still with us and he was comfortable enough to break out a new treat. He turned to my friend and asked if he wanted a hit. He took the offer, but not after he realized what was being pushed on him. Dan opens his mouth to reveal a single tab of what could only have been genuine LSD. We all knew how much hospitality was too much. “Nah man, I’m good.” Dan shrugged his head and closed his mouth, waiting to be lifted to a new level of existence among a crowd of sweaty, shirtless youth that was just there for the good time. I wondered what horrible incantations he would start shouting when the crowd conjured waves of Ws out of their hands when Wu-Tang Clan came on stage. I remembered that DARE program and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas simultaneously.
But what did I know. Dan was the epitome of hip, and he must have done this before. A concert held in a venue that could handle a capacity of up to 70000 people was a helluva lot to lay on any amateur acid head, after all. It was clear that Dan was used to the crude nature of authority in this country, and fear hadn’t ripped his heart out yet.
Now playing: Rage Against the Machine - Calm Like A Bomb
Friday, January 2, 2009
We live in a Weird Time. It brings back memories of Black weekdays, dirty thirties and Boo Radley leaving treasure in an oak tree. I like to think I’m conscious of things like our seemingly swan song singing economy and the overwhelmingly schizophrenic gas prices that roll and reek vengeful havoc on our culture’s (or at least some of its representatives’) ignorant greed. Still, when we’re in a group setting, and one of us suddenly becomes aware of their heavy eyelids, I am more often than not offered a ride home on general principle that I would otherwise have to walk.
In these situations, I am prone to being the only passenger to accompany the driver; at least sometimes I am the last to be dropped off. At that hour of the night, which is usually absurdly late and not night at all, conversation comes slowly to me. And since even at suitable hours I find that I write better words than I can sometimes articulate through speech – I actually come complete with a list of conversation starters that I will fall back on if the occasion necessitates such contrived attempts at communication.
Lately, I’ve been resorting to a question I’ve had about counterfeit money. I do not know as much as I wish I did about legal matters. I am also double-majoring in English and Philosophy, so naturally, the Meaning and Truth of words and how far they can be stretched is of great importance to my curiosity. Recently I’ve been asking my drivers and sometimes even fellow passengers what “counterfeit” means to them. Is it having it (knowingly?)? using it (knowingly?)? making it? all of the above? I received responses that perpetuated opinions in favour of all the options listed, but the “knowingly” element made its first appearance on my ride home last night.
As I mentioned before, we live in Weird Times. In this fertile and vulnerable New Year, 2009, history seems to be repeating itself as history is wont to do, and our economy is in a state of Recession. Well, Weird Times call for Weird Answers. I like to think I’ve learned from the best. My personal library consists of enough Beat writers and artists to blow up a bank. That claim might seem strange, but it will become less obscure as I go on.
Between the end of the Great Depression and the 50s, there wasn’t much room for fun. With World War II in full heat for the first half of the forties, soldiers were recruited in large quantities, diminishing the definition of entertainment for stay-at-homers to satisfying vicarious interest. Even after the official end of WWII on September 2, 1945, culture was licking its wounds in America: the focus shifted to repopulation and family unification. When the fifties started, Conservative philosophy dominated how people lived their lives, and if you were an individual that wasn’t baby booming and pursuing nuclear family life or the great American Dream, you had nothing but your job and your possessions, and you weren’t looked on kindly.
Then came the Beat Generation.
The Beat Generation consisted of a collection of authors that can be looked at as a response to the Great Depression and its results. “Beats” or “Beatniks” were essentially those that rejected the dominant American values, seeking liberation for the very soul that was being oppressed. Eastern spirituality, drug use, and sexual exploration were prominent focuses. Jack Kerouac packed up and traveled across America, traveling which consisted of hitchhiking and finding beauty on the road and in the jazz clubs and company it brought him to. This resulted in the 1957 publication of On the Road. William S. Burroughs embraced drugs like marijuana, a German opioid called Eukodol, morphine, and especially, heroin, all of which he wrote about in his seminal work, Naked Lunch. In an effort of spiritual independence, in 1955 Allen Ginsberg took advice from his therapist and quit his job, becoming a full-time poet. He then wrote Howl, a collection of his then-recent works. He was able to do this with the time he had off and the stress that was lifted when he quit his job.
The things you own end up owning you, but you are the only owner of your experiences. An important element of Kerouac’s travels and the junky lifestyle that Burroughs passed was a rejection of material possessions. It’s hard to travel with a lot of stuff – especially when on foot, and drugs cost money – something a lot of heavy users (Burroughs was one) often have to obtain by letting things go. There’s something to be said here, since both were able to make books of substantial integrity out of the experiences in which they took part.
Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and Ginsberg’s Howl each faced obscenity charges thanks to the conservative values being enforced at the time, but ultimately, they were lifted for the social importance that each work brought to its culture. If Burroughs and Ginsberg proved anything more than Jack Kerouac with these triumphs it was that it is okay to be obscene.
This is where my counterfeiting question comes in. But I’ll reintroduce it in a new way: if counterfeiting is illegal, would it be illegal for art’s sake? Even if it is, and the Recession becomes the New Depression, I wouldn’t mind doing some of my own for the purpose of making a 150x70m collage of colourful Canadian capital that spells out in big blocky capitals,
THIS NOTE IS NOT LEGAL TENDER.
It might be rejected as counterfeit and obscene, but I think it would serve a greater purpose than imposing a widespread conservative repulse in a time of economic strife. It would deliver an important message to the Canadian people: in this time of capitalist propaganda and rickety job stability, you still have your souls. Make art, and live life. Enjoy freedom from and reject the noose of material thingamajigs. This is the new Pop Art. It’s not Pop Art at all. It’s something from nothing. It’s Beatific. It’s obscene. It’s Soul Art.
Now playing: Deftones - Passenger