Cigarette Butts

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What if the only person who could be Jesus Christ was an addict? A deadbeat?

What if redemption germinates in slime, shit and piss?

It’s worse out there than we think

It’s always worse

It’s always deeper

and yet also somehow less

So that we’d rather not know, not look, not slow our roll

But what if this brand of glory is some pathetic, anonymous moment?

Not martyrdom but nameless, faceless dissolution

Not ignominy but private shame

What if the crucifix is self loathing?

What if the aggregate of all our microscopic dread are the forces acting upon us

The stripes, the stigmata

What if the garbage in the street were relics for some busybody’s collection

and holiness is something far, far away?

 

 

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Cities from the air at night

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You put the intransigence in transit

I rode north one autumn through high country, blind

Once upon a time

The burden of fate held up a staircase

and the buoyancy of youth left a gap between who you are

and what you signify for me

Dawn always breaks in the distance

Life defies us, is defiance

because the world is won by wickedness

but only seemingly so who needs Jerusalem

if it can never be forgotten?

I saw you in a dream, I knew it was really you

but when I woke up it seemed as if you were no longer there

We left these past lives in other places

that are scarcely more real than the ones we can’t recall

and if I lose you I won’t be me

if I could lose you I wouldn’t be myself

We may never set foot in the same city twice

But we live in each other

So let us take nothing for granted

Disinteresting Times

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Did somebody say download speeds of up to 35.46 gigabits per second?

Modernity is the subordination of principles to processes, and if man is subordinate to technology, this inversion would signify a negation of life by the very means once intended to serve at its disposal.

Life, however, is anxiety-inducing, and faced with it plainly we tend more and more to retreat instead into life-negating distractions, which represent more and more of the benefit we now derive from technology, and cannot be separated from whatever ideas, however lofty, that the latest hi-tech media transmit.

A video I saw posted to LinkedIn recently featured a body language expert advising that one should never look at their smartphone while waiting for a job interview, because it induces wary, diminutive body language. Obviously, when we absorb ourselves in our smartphones, we almost invariably peer down into them. But it is possible to get an uncanny sense of how ridiculously small this frame is (in contrast with the world as we view it normally), simply by correcting our posture and holding up our arm to position the phone within the normal, eye-level field of vision.

The other day I’m out with a friend, when he tells me he needs to pay a cell phone bill, so we duck into a T-Mobile store. While he’s busy with the clerk, I stroll around the place, when it strikes me (I’m probably not the first to say so) how much these outlets are arranged like art galleries: the displays mounted mid-floor on spray-painted white particleboard pillars, or sequenced along the bleach-white walls in the foreground of splashy, backlit stock imagery. Next to each phone display is an informational placard. To get the interactive experience you need assistance from an initiate flunky with a lanyard and a thumb drive—just enough reverence to discourage overthinking is all that’s needed. Trying to contemplate in such an environment is as taxingly awkward as trying to maintain focus on a smartphone from a normal, upright position.

As we’re leaving, I remarked to my friend that, just for the hardware, the margin on a lease must be fairly wide, considering how low the resale value of a smartphone is. But my friend informs me that, to lower cost, every time you go in for an upgrade, the retailer more or less sells your old phone back to the OEM, who does a little light refurbishing and then punts these devices in bulk into a developing market—a euphemism for a country where the buildings are still tattered from the last civil war or the peasantry have all been displaced and reduced to hawkers and bricklayers, if they aren’t combing through garbage for a living.

Think about that: every impression of these industries that the public is imbued with is one of buoyancy, bedazzlement and pure intelligence. Meanwhile, these companies are balancing the books with third world fire sales.

I work in IT sales. Not anybody’s dream job, but what can you do? (Ask me about our tower desktops with Windows 7, LMFAO). Among the concepts they beat us over the head with to peddle is virtualization, you can’t sell servers anymore without VM Ware. Again, the impression they want you to convey to customers is one of buoyancy, bedazzlement and pure intelligence. But somewhere over the rainbow there’s still a fucking server bank and, eventually, the amount of energy it takes for those sleeker, more powerful machines to direct traffic is going to exceed what it takes to run all the bulkier devices they’re replacing today, because we’ve mistaken data for value at the intersection of sloth and hubris.

If man is an intrinsically technological creature, then technology is the factor that enables us to cage animals. If you’re caged, you’re an animal, and a cage is any advantage some shrewd, unscrupulous creature has—some limp-dick sneak fuck who (without money) would be eaten in open combat or humiliated in reproductive competition, and knows it. Basically: usurers, upper-management Johns and peeping Tom data miners. The cage is technology. Your data trail. The toilet paper stuck under your shoe. That’s our rulers’ source of power; Mark Zuckerberg is a virtual used toilet paper magnate. If (as they say) you were to pull the cork out of his asshole, you could bury him in a matchbox; not because he’s dishonest (though that’s also the case), but because he’s figured out the simplest way to facilitate everybody else believing our own bullshit.

And we get the micro-managers we deserve: behold the Gothic architecture of medieval Europe, and it’s hard to gainsay T.S. Eliot’s estimation of the 13th century as the apex of civilization. What are we missing about those people when we ascribe primitivity to them? Something, I assure you. When in the intervening centuries were the structures they built surpassed for exquisiteness? Hell, the largest solid, unreinforced dome on this planet is still the Pantheon of Rome, completed in 128 AD. Technologically, this edifice remains unimproved upon in 2017.

Kurzweil, Zuckerberg, Musk…. they keep telling, not asking us how we’re going to live in the future. Who’d have thought a few autists with Excel spreadsheets for brains would exceed the imaginations of Hieronymus Bosch and every dystopian fiction author, ever, while the rest of us were partying in college? RFID implants and neural lace make precogs look like deus ex machina. Symbiosis with the internet sounds about as appealing as being strapped down like the protagonist in the closing scene of A Clockwork Orange, and that’s exactly what these control freaks want, because the minute they bet money on their predictions those predictions become a motive in themselves, if they weren’t all smoke to begin with. Tech oligarchs are the ultimate totalitarians, and they’re sold to us as luminaries! In a civilization whose denizens possessed a shadow of a survival instinct they’d be fed to orcas at SeaWorld on national television.

Yet—again—the technologies they mean to imprison us with are so…. crude. Internet traffic runs through transoceanic cables the way the telegraph did at the close of the horse and buggy era. When 5G comes online it will require a massive new infrastructure that can be traced, ultimately, to a surge protector in a wall outlet. And when these batty, syphilitic billionaires and virginal, glorified sysadmins tell us about the singularity, they’re talking about an autonomic simulacrum of the übermensch, what VR masturbation is to hot, sticky sex. We’re moving backwards, not forwards. Wireless signaling, photography, the combustion engine, conventional aircraft, even rocketry—none of these is fundamentally different today than they were at their inception, they’re just spiffier. Granted, there are still theoretical game changers: anti-gravity, fusion, quantum, nanotech, AI, genetic engineering. But do any of these developments portend spiritual or intellectual advancement? Of course not—on the contrary. Mankind is the only known species capable of true (i.e., premeditated) cruelty, and we can’t even eradicate the mosquito without taking ourselves out with it. Measured in terms of the ratio of arithmetical figuring to grandiosity of outcome, the capacity to immolate half the solar system remains our greatest technological achievement—our greatest achievement, period, if the technological inclination is our foremost distinction as creatures.

Maybe it isn’t, though. Maybe premeditation and inspiration are two different things. The Elon Musks of the world keep assuring us technologies x, y and z are inevitable and we may as well make the best of it. Sounds kind of rapey, doesn’t it? Either way, craftmanship isn’t what it used to be—at least Patrick Bateman used his hands.

Sundays at the Zoo

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Got my beverage past the turnstile equals white privilege

Just smile

Don’t maintain eye contact

Don’t say gesundheit

Mankind are pederasts, malingerers, rats on an ash heap communicating diseases

Horrible, ambling, eczemic, eggplant-shaped creatures

They suffer waking sleep apnea and never wonder how the meat gets to the plate

Should some grave misfortune befall them they must be maintained alive

Freedom isn’t free, they want a raincheck, they want a discount

They want to see caged animals

and teach the blind how to covet

Shame was the last vestige of propriety

In the distance I saw a crucifix

It was the logo on a ballcap, of a hotel casino

Cattle Prod

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It gets better

Although making an example of someone is the most primitive, totem-and-taboo method of maintaining order, it is a cudgel uniquely suited to democracy. In America, the buck simply must stop somewhere, for where human beings are reduced, scurrilous and simpering, to their uttermost state of servility, it becomes inconceivable to them that misfortune results from their own inadequacies, or—put differently—that our inadequacies result from nature.

So if this had happened to a white boy in a majority black school district, you can be sure it wouldn’t make the Washington Post:

A ham-faced Missouri teenager puts a squirrel-peeler to his humpty dumpty and squeezes…. Come to find out he was being bullied sadistically from just about sun-up, by dozens of classmates and by his supervisor at the local Dairy Queen, who is being charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter, and is a woman. (Inadequacy: the apple doesn’t fall far from the woe-is-me, but do you think they’ll charge the parents who went on helplessly eating Dairy Queen while all this was taking place?) One look at him choking back tears in his school portrait and you can’t not pity the boy, so anyone remotely acquainted with him in person had to’ve known what was going on, if they wanted to. Either (a) the whole town is complicit in this young man’s Missouri, or (b) no one is. But local media and opinion say it’s both.

For example, the schools superintendent asserts that the bullying in his district isn’t that bad. How many people like him are superintending schools in this country? Rudolph Höss had a personal touch by comparison. State’s prosecutress April Wilson had this to say about her colleague in public, er… “service”:

We wanted to be very cautious and responsible. Both sides of the issue are extremely important. A young man is dead. But we also want to acknowledge that it’s not easy being in public education.

For the kid or the adults?

And is it easier to manage a Dairy Queen?

In other words, as long as we’re assigning blame arbitrarily….

Is this a justice that would satisfy the deceased Kenneth Suttner? From the looks of the victim and the fact he apparently never fought back, the kid probably didn’t have a vindictive bone in his body. At least, not yet. But on the part of others this utter lack of will is why no one intervened to help him. Nature culls herds of all species, but this is the behavior of prey.

A whole town. An entire race.

Power Lunch

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Let them eat hugely important topics

Media coverage of the alt-right has been profuse in the wake of the recent election. Based on the near-uniform reporting in mainstream outlets, it appears as though journalists covering the phenomenon have little prior familiarity with it. Normies affronted for the first time in generations with a resurgent far-right and a critical mass of unapologetic white racial consciousness originating—no less—with millennials savvily harnessing new media, evince not a little sputtering cognitive dissonance.

Maybe they’re right that this is all just a fresh face on fascism. But if so, such repackaging is not so much a subterfuge on the part of alt-righters, but the peculiar ambiance of the times that have given the alt-right momentum. Either way, one reason we keep hearing that there’s nothing novel about the alt-right is because media and academic conformists simply have no ready vocabulary to describe it that’s worthy of its novelty and moment. If the left-liberal hegemony of late-modern Americanism fails to suppress and supersede this new development, it will be because its pundits and cogitators failed to grasp its implications.

Of all the commentary I’ve seen in any mainstream publication, Atlantic editor David Frum’s comes closest (while failing) to treating the alt-right with any real depth or dispassion:

Over the past two decades, Americans have constructed systems of intellectual silencing that stifle the range of debate among responsible and public-spirited people. They’ve resigned hugely important topics to the domain of cranks and haters. If the only people who’ll talk about the risks and costs of a more diverse society are fascists, then the fascists will gain an audience.

A better way to put it might be, ‘If anyone who ever talks about the risks and costs of a more diverse society gets peremptorily maligned as a fascist in publications like the Atlantic, then anyone who speaks of such things will be a fascist according to the Atlantic which—not incidentally—is now a blog.’ But whaddoo I know? I’m not the editor of the Atlantic.

Obviously, David Frum cannot be arraigned individually on this charge he so richly levels at Americans as a whole, but his CV would seem to indict him quite a ways ahead of most others. What we have here is the unintentional concession from a ranking establishment figure, that public discourse in America is a consensus environment subject to peculiar ideological controls.

But whether ‘we’ or David Frum, or whomever, enable so-called cranks and haters to have a voice is much less interesting a question than whether those cranks and haters are saying anything true and worth hearing. Either Frum takes issue with the message regardless of the messengers, or there’s no need to peremptorily tar anyone as a crank and a hater. Even Frum acknowledges that the alt-right is responding to something. For those unbeholden to the interests he represents, a more interesting approach would be to ask whether other—cogent and visceral—interests are threatened, that the alt-right is advocating for. If so, then you’ve got to figure those interests, being prime targets of ‘systems of intellectual silencing,’ had rather not be serviced by the scarcely-chastened likes of David Frum.

A Profoundly Evil Man

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“This next cat flew in all the way from the Hamptons, please give him a warm welcome….”

Part one here

More post-election fools-gold profundity this week as Jon Stewart’s artificial-relevance tour continues:

I think one of the lessons of this book and what we’re talking about is to put satire and culture in its proper place, that controlling a culture is not the same as power. And that while we were all passing around really remarkably eviscerating videos of the Tea Party ― that we had all made great fun of ― [they were] sitting off a highway at a Friendly’s taking over a local school board. And the lesson there is, as much as I love what we did…there is a self-satisfaction there that is unwarranted, unearned, and not useful.

Since when do Jon Stewart’s ilk have to earn self-satisfaction? But the local Friendly’s, there’s the locus of power, not Viacom or the White House, where during Obama’s tenure Stewart was a regular and, at the time, secret guest. This flag-draped charlatan’s disdain for the world of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms is palpable. If controlling a culture is not the same as power, can any amount of power ever be enough?

Ah, but there is a silver lining (via HuffPo):

‘Not everybody that voted for Trump is a racist, I don’t give a fuck what any of you say to me. You can yell it at me, you can tweet it at me. They’re not all racists. Or they’re not giving tacit support to a racist system … We all give tacit support to exploitative systems as long as they don’t affect us that badly.’

[Stewart] brought up a conversation with another person who argued that ‘by saying that [Trump supporters] are not all racists, [he’s] giving tacit support to a man of racist language.’ Stewart then pointed out that many Americans are complicit in exploitative and damaging systems, asking the person to pull out his iPhone. ‘I was like, Guess how those are made, guess who makes them?’ Stewart said. ‘Oh yeah, but that’s …. It’s not different, we all do that. All of our shit stinks and getting beyond that takes incredible work.’

Incredible work,” Jeezus, don’t sell yourself short there, Jon. How much is this fifty minutes going to cost me? These remarks aren’t observations, they’re machinations, an effete struggle session. Power is always selectively moral, at least in China the proletariat keeps its mouth shut. So if a professional moralizer can get past his complicity in sweatshop slavery, what hope is there for those recalcitrant rubes down at Friendly’s?

Shrunken Heads

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Sharing is caring

Appreciation for Thanksgiving turkeys

Ulterior horizons, perfunctory well-wishes

They’d watch you be gutted like it was on TV

and wonder about the giblets

There’re no limits to what’s impersonal

Quid pro quo, exsanguinated

The serpent points the way to knowledge

that people are coin operated

Big, open, sensationless pudding-vaginas

contriving stratagems for service opportunities

Need a light there, pal? Lemme get that for ya

Thin-surfaced canned food-drive communities

Conversion therapy

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“Please, Rick! You have to let me help you!”

“That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge.” (Orson Welles)

The art of the con is all about abstracting the mark’s perception so that he no longer answers to his gut. America may not be the apex of civilization, but it is definitely the apex of the con, where the backbiting, eyeless-smile real estate lady posts schlock bible verses on social media, and the seed-eating yogi is liable to suffer a rage-induced aneurysm over a stolen parking spot at Trader Joe’s.

Jon Stewart is one of the more poignant exponents of this dissociation. Here he is this week with Charlie Rose, holding forth on the recent presidential election:

….America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one ever [has]. That is what is exceptional about America. This ain’t easy and that’s an incredible thing.

Did you catch that? We’re fighting against nature, human nature. Who among us can instruct men to transcend this mortal coil? Let he who is without humanity cast the first instruction. But the point Stewart wanted to make was that we (meaning, the appointed) should not stereotype Trump voters any more than “we” would Muslims or others. The earnest liberal’s moment of clarity is always another defense mechanism. Of course a figure like Stewart has something conciliatory to say all of the sudden. Ass-licker that he is, how could he stay relevant otherwise?

Obviously, “Trump voters”=nominally Christian Anglo-Saxons, the erstwhile national stock—those of them who aren’t left-wing, anyway. In Stewart’s worldview we are to refrain with few exceptions from critical discussion of the group characteristics of almost every other category of people. But Stewart isn’t suggesting “we” admit whites to the illusory hearthside of this exemption, no no no: he’s merely calling for a tempering of the critique, a strategic retreat. Stewart’s snide diagnostician’s schtick has always been to call for dispassion and in this, he’s as wise as his admirers say. Indeed, the depths of the inmate’s psyche must be plumbed, its mysteries penetrated, so as to determine upon the proper course of further treatment.

Bad Hair Day

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It was a simpler time

Left-liberal friends assure me that the right-wing corporate media elected Donald Trump. ‘Right-wing media’! Are they blind? But I think I understand their misapprehension: Bernie Sanders was derided as populist and utopian, ergo economic justice is not a priority of an intelligentsia long complicit in both neocon wars and neoliberal predations. But the intelligentsia isn’t merely corporatist and interventionist, it is sexually libertine and racially egalitarian. Should this not give the earnest liberal pause?

In Hebrew we have a phrase, avoda b’ayinaim, which means something like ‘brazen deceit’ or, ‘unconcealed legerdemain.’ Sweatshop lords sponsor anti-racist celebrity PSAs…. a 21st-century Guernica is rationalized in liberal quarters as humanitarianism…. a soilent-green corporatocracy champions a thing it calls ‘diversity,’ except when it doesn’t. Foreign aid and international lending are tied to the promotion of eugenics and homosexuality.

Far be it from me to credit musty old fables with prescience—ones that aggregate scientific hubris with multiculturalism and characterize sodomy and usury as aggressions deleterious to spiritual and societal hygiene—but some of us are starting to notice a pattern. In light of the chilling reality of ideological enforcement—an exclusively leftist speciality, at least nowadays—even I got fingerfucked into voting, and now feel eerily ambivalent and a tad greasy, as well I ought to. Donald Trump is a symptom, not an antidote, and clearly not the director of the show we’ve just seen, but a faux-paleocon, an exploiter of the working class and very probably a child-rapist, who will expand the police state and the war machine. That his butt-smoke showman’s bombast about ‘disasterous trade deals’ and ‘international bankers’ is what got him elected should indicate not what we can hope for from his administration, but how the system switches gears when it’s so far gone in terms of legitimacy. ‘What an stunner! Who could’ve seen it coming?’ Avoda b’ayinaim.

Trump’s wannabe greaser-pimp noblesse oblige—his periodic sympathetic gesture to the bellhop or the garbageman—is razor thin, but it’s precisely the bellhop and the garbageman who will now be savaged by the intelligentsia, permeated as it is by dread of the peasantry it presumes to know what’s best for. Though historically the left’s concerns are proletarian, lately it transpires that these can be assuaged very effectively with butt-smoke moral rectitude, little-man hip-hop flights of fancy or Whole Foods and gay TV characters. Joe Dirt, on the other hand, is armed—a bone in the system’s throat no hat-passing Bernie or OWS stink-in can hold a candle to. He needed placating this inauspicious autumn with #MAGA the way his counterpart in a Subaru needed ‘hope and change,’ eight summers and a thousand years ago.

Camile Paglia put it this way:

People want change and they’re sick of the establishment — so you get this great popular surge… If Trump wins it will be an amazing moment of change because it would destroy the power structure of the Republican party, the power structure of the Democratic party and destroy the power of the media. It would be an incredible release of energy… at a moment of international tension and crisis.

That the power of the establishment could be detonated so blithely is a woeful delusion from so normally prescient a commentator, but Paglia was correct about one thing: there has now been an incredible exorcise of energy, precisely the narcotic catharsis a mark needs to go on being conned.