Might cat believes I alight every dawn to do
god-like things. No doubt!
I hold up the star every day. A punch-clock Atlas.
But no. I only work in a cubicle,
and my piss smells like coffee.
Might cat believes I alight every dawn to do
god-like things. No doubt!
I hold up the star every day. A punch-clock Atlas.
But no. I only work in a cubicle,
and my piss smells like coffee.
Stamped grass a smell
you never knew you didn’t know.
Only in movies that are bullshit now.
Settle with the dust and dust does as it should.
Folding in pants and skin, caked
or filmed on immodest bodies.
Shabby forms powdered for
a Texas social.
This is the beginning of letting go
as a man and as men do.
Here it comes.
Fuck the dream,
do it awake.
Naked making stupid choices,
have to do it anyway.
Idle oaths to yourself
covered in tats and mocked
or sponsored by
Rock and Roll
You’ll remember this one — or not
here the music pours
there the clouds paint
here the mud cakes like it did before
and there the fucked-up-trapped
dance in world’s condition
which is rain in your eyes
and songs in your ears.
Can’t mistake it for your mess only.
Alone is selfish in a place like this.
Find your way back under Lone Stars.
Remember those and wince,
for the stars time remembers,
and you had the balls to forget.
But throw away the regret,
even in a land as big as this,
there’s no room for all that.
Presentness. There’s a surreality in words behind what’s there. More than what’s apparent. Why cant anyone see it?
Shocked? Maybe. But hey its who we are. Sit on a cock, enjoy a moment. Look at how wrods cna eb miexed pu.
What lese are you gnona do? Night good. Hi.
Regarding all that Marxism we ask ourselves about, I might have an the components of an answer. A week ago I was riding a bicycle from my stdio apartment in the Upper Eastside to the Gables, through the downtown part of the City, and a friend of mine, Laura, with her friends, was to meet me, not least to fix her ride but then to alight hunched over on steel diamonds among the hordes and hoary who now mount up for Critical Mass.
Laura, who caught sight of me from around the thick concrete pylons supporting the Metro Rail above Government Center, waved. And I bid her come over taking care not to look apprehensive about meeting her friends. It happens that new people make me nervous.
She arrived, friends in tow and we set to work pumping tires and working out the best way to stay out of the tempestuous center of the group bike ride; where the most drunken and disorderly cyclists were wont to be
Laura: This is my friend, Priscilla. And this, Adriana.
Frank: A pleasure. Charmed.
Priscilla: My tire is flat
Frank: Here. Let me see. We can fix that easily.
We prepared everything, including putting air in Laura’s tires as well. The bicycle bells chirped their sounds and the great mass of people started cycling slowly away. Almost 30 minutes later, the Horde was still dense, but we mounted and began our ride anyway.
After a few minutes negotiating the flustered beach cruisers, muscled BMX, and hipster-colored old road bikes, my mind could stand it no longer. Cycling in the great mob, I had to question its power as a unit. Even if the responsibility for an answer fell to a particular person. And so it fell —as it usually does, and unfairly— to Laura.
Frank: Would you call yourself a Marxist, and if so in what way?
Laura: Funny question. I look mostly at the road, not the crowd. I don’t think I am. But my sister most certainly is. I am a Democrat. I wouldn’t label myself a strict Democrat either— I lean further left. I don’t believe in capitalism and it’s tactics. I think socialism could work if the right people managed it the people supported it. Here in the US though? I don’t think so. Too many people see only money, even the poor. Money is the goal here, not any humanist democracy. It is called capitalism after all. Capital-ism. Money first, all else second. Representational or symbolic value (the dollar) completely replaces reality. The real world. Real world matters for concern: like that bum in piss-stiff pants over there. I really hope that in my lifetime there’s a social movement that will make a difference in our government. It looks now that when we retire we will not even get the social security that is removed from our paychecks. We’re being sodomized. I will probably not live in this country when I get older. Fuck this, actually. And damn you!
Frank: Damn me? You angered yourself! If being a democratic-socialist is upsetting you can hardly blame me for that. Maybe go piss on Marx’s grave. What did I do?
Laura: You opened a can of worms.
Frank: Right. People don’t like when you ask questions.
Laura: We can’t talk politics while riding.
Frank: You’re right. Economics is political. Or they should be anyway. Economics, or perhaps the relationships between classes, have little connection to realpolitik for me, at this time and in this place. I guess that is how I meant the question: if you are something Marxist, how do you define it? I admit, I was leading you. I was thinking about socialism and its requirement of action.
Laura: What do you think of it? Are you a socialist?
Frank: I think all America, myself included, is locked in a hopeless love affair with image and not reality. If socialism requires action to manifest itself, how can it happen here? The spectacle that is society has us riveted.
Laura: “Who is going to be the next American Idol?”
Frank: Yes. Correct. The stitch of images and useless information hem us in. How can we sense anything when reality is obfuscated by constant interruptions? It’d be like me asking you to make judgments about the best practices of programming just because you know how to look at a screen or ask you to describe the sunshine behind the rain clouds! Write a poem while a thousand thousand people use bullhorns to yell slogans in your ears: just do it…have it your way…can you feel the heat? “No, actually. I can’t feel the heat. I can’t feel anything independently.” And this applies to all of us. No one lives today who can describe beauty. There are too many distractions to beauty. How can you frame the moonlit beach while you’re framing another Instagram post?
Multi-tasking is a myth to get more work out of you and shatter the focus that would otherwise illuminate the debasement of our day-to-day existence. Of course, that is the new reality. So we will have to adapt.
Laura: Calm down. Answer the question, what do you think of socialism’s requirement of action? And don’t ride so close to me! I have no room to maneuver. I don’t want to crash unless it’s on 8th Street stopping for a taco.
Frank: Right. I think socialism can’t work here until there is widespread hunger and a disintegration of the media-state apparatus. Struggle on this battlefield is doomed to defeat until capitalism begins to collapse. At present, it is too robust.
Laura: A revolution is needed. What if Earth can’t wait as long as we humans can for capitalism to implode? I would take part. I would be on the front line. Imagine if I’m saying that, what my sister would do! She is the avowed socialist!
Frank: I agree. And I would join as well. I feel as well that change must be actuated. But who in fact is ruling? Where do we direct the rebellion? We might as well be ruled by talking heads on the evening news. I’ve never seen any, any of the people in power or to whom I pay my taxes. Not once have I used my eyes to peel their existence apart in a real world setting and see them as object I can interact with. I don’t imagine they are ghosts, of course. But it remains that this world of image penetrates our physical reality, too. I hear people say “hash tag” this or “dot com slash” that. The false has represented the real and now comes full circle back to us to stand in for even proper language. Language itself is no longer referencing anything “real”. It becomes the newspeak of a brave new world. Inarticulate and distilled.
Laura: Last night I watched City of God, and it occurred to me that everything, absolutely everything I know about the “real” Rio de Janeiro is more or less taken from that movie. The opening credits say the film is based on actual events. My mind is to take that to mean “truth”. Basically I am told what to think before I even begin watching the film. The fact is still, at the end when the credits roll, that I know precisely zip about Rio in terms of experienced truth. I am told at all times what to think.
Ask where else that may be the case. Say in formal education. We —as a civilization— experience very little first-hand. Most of us rely on reserves of high beliefs, beliefs we take on someone else’s word. Especially in education.
Frank: We stand in a constant storm of suggestion. Where symbols point to symbols and the real things they replace never enter the realm of senses or ideas, of intentional consciousness. That is, the place where our mind perceives them before things are placed between the reaching out and the object of the reach.
Laura: That’s why I watch documentaries. They’re the closest I can get to reality. They’re biased, naturally, but at least I can find comfort in being told it’s real footage. But without seeing whatever is the subject of the film prior to the viewing, I’m always jostled into an opinion by the manner of their disclosure of the topic to me. How they package it, you could say.
Frank: Packaged indeed. A metaphor from our epoch of stuff. But yes, it can only be a dialogue between you and the creator of the film. In context, never out. Never objective. There is no “out of context”.
The reality of our situation is rarely sensed directly. In the end, you’re watching a film, not participating in a moment. You’re spectating from a place twice-removed. It’s so hopelessly disconnected that… I wonder if any of us is even living. I’m not sure how to revolt, to be honest. Revolution would be turning everything off and starting at zero, right? No more images; rely strictly on the senses, and then we can begin to build with a clear vision. This frightens me, because I am very well-conditioned to be fond of images and commodities.
Laura: Thanks for depressing me.
Frank: Feels like living, doesn’t it?
Frank: How can I be an accurate revolutionary? I only digest the idea of oppression and revolution as it is dictated to me; as I am conditioned to internalize things. This isn’t enough to move me. Marxist revolution lacks an essential universal appeal. Marxism isn’t Marxist. Haha.
Revolution’s meat is anger. But I’m not even hungry. I am stuffed and sleeping. I require to be woken before feeding. There is a condition before revolution that Marxism does not touch upon.
Laura: The first question is how can one get people’s attention if no one is awake? And, in the second place, how does one perpetuate the message that the system of communication is what has us enslaved?
Frank: In other words, how does one use media to indict media? Democracy has been compromised. First to industry, and lately to industry’s identity as seen in the spectacle of images. All of this could reduce to infinity, so I say this knowing full well that these assumptions are, as well, drawn from some external source.
Laura: Agreed. But you make a fair point, the impulse to “like” a photo on Facebook has lately satisfied what used to compel people to action. The Internet is full of forums and so on where the impulse to rebel is tapped and fitted with a pressure release valve. “Vent. Don’t explode.”
Frank: Which workers today have the power to bring the machine to a stop? The unseen engineers of code.
This group today has access to revolutionary leverage. Striking workers stop production. Politicized hackers could seize the machinery of information, which is employed chiefly to flood our senses. In fact, they might not even need to operate collectively, just simultaneously.
Laura: Anonymous must start the revolution.
Frank: Yes. Ego is the sacrifice of the present hero. Modern man can relate to a hero that is devoid of reality; because that is where so many of us live. Who else can buck a system that is impersonal than a person who is impersonal? The lesson is in our superheroes, who do battle under false identities.
Laura: If capitalism has become self-sustaining and transforms all enemies into potential commodities, the only weapon is something that cannot be sold?
Frank: Yes. Maybe. How would I know? I’m an asshole on a bike. I only notice that any culture or sub-culture that confronts capitalism is eventually given a niche. Corralled, branded, and sold as Grade A stuff. Divorced from a maker and delivering false aspiration.
Laura: I don’t see anyone going through all that trouble for no recognition. Besides, that can’t be the answer. People will want a face for this Big Brother you’re talking about. And if someone claims to be him in a grab for power the whole thing is derailed anyway.
Frank: Yes. You are right. Well, we’re back to it, then. I don’t know what to do with myself, let alone you.
Frank: Look at these drunk assholes!
Laura: There always are people like this riding bikes. Always ruining it.
Frank: They shouldn’t be allowed to participate. Too much handing out, not enough earning. I’m not talking about charity. I’m talking about the right to participate. Something given has no value. Power requires responsibility, and what—we hand out that power to any asshole?
Laura: You’re a hater but right. But who makes that call? Sounds like we’d have to surrender that decision to a third party. The cops? This isn’t a cop-loving crowd.
Frank: Right. Letting cops mediate implies that everything rests on a threat of violence.
If you aren’t participating, what right should you have? Maybe it could be the same in civic participation: if you don’t care enough to vote and do the civic thing, then you are a second-class person: “a civilian” as opposed to the “enfranchised full citizen.”
Laura: But you don’t infer an exclusive system, correct? The willing would be incorporated.
Frank: Of course! But let me ask you: where the hell are we?
Laura: Miracle Mile and, I guess: “elective socialism and a vanguard of militantly disruptive hackers”? Haha. This sounds like a Matrix joke in the making.
Frank: Those “disruptives” would be our creative tyrants—at least until such a time as they too need replacing. History can’t stop.
Laura: I know a guy that has 3 flat screen TVs in his bedroom. He calls it “The Experience.” Nothing but sports. Football, basketball, etc. But his news is being streamed in real-time, so I guess that’s something.
Frank: You’re right. If we wanted to be extra-cynical we could suppose the games were orchestrated, taped, and presented live. But I don’t think so. I have friends that go to these sporting events. I suppose they happen. All I can say for certain about the news I see any more is that it is in high definition.
Laura: There is nowhere we can look at “public” information that is not in some way under the control of people we never even see.
Frank: So is the idea of a nation-state incompatible with transparency? I see no reason why a nation-state couldn’t grow too large for its own good. Perhaps our manifest destiny would have worked had we remained isolationist. But upon entering the world’s stage, we forgot ourselves, and so our ability to self-regulate corroded as we insisted upon regulating everyone else.
Laura: I know where you’re going with this, but historically speaking, the perfect or ideal “city-states” always fail.
Frank: There are modern examples. Like Singapore or Hong Kong, if you like, but those are yoked to the capitalist mega-states. So who is to say they don’t crumble under the dust of our collapse, proving you correct?
Laura: Maybe the Internet needs to be broken up. It won’t go away. But if we can narrow people’s minds again so that their attention is not overwhelmed by the inconsequential…
Frank: The “City Wide Web”. I suppose if a city was to pass an ordinance banning communication over a certain bandwidth past a certain physical limit. Or maybe tiers of communication the further afield one gets, culturally. That could focus attention back down to the community, reduce the sense of alienation that occurs when the digital and actual worlds have little to do with each other in the individual’s perception, and give some value to the things we play with all day long on the Internet.
Laura: People wouldn’t like it. It smacks of censorship. And again, who would be in charge of this “information aperture”?
Frank: No idea. But, at present, unlimited access to images of the world is meaningless in and of itself.
Laura: “Something given has no value.”
Frank: Comcast would tell you different, but yes. I cut off Facebook over a year ago. I recognized how valueless most information is, and I have learned to live without it with no adverse effect.
Laura: So the revolution has to start small. Maybe Anonymous can shut down his city for a day or two? Give everyone a chance to look each other in the face for a moment?
Frank: They always possess that chance personally. Anonymous can never “give” it to them. But yes, this will remind them perhaps what they are missing. A rouse from napping.
Laura: That kind of a value change would certainly need an external stimulus. But what happens when these masters of information become entrenched and fall into the seductive, barbed arms of power?
Frank: Same as always. Someone will have to do something about it.* But I am reminded of the “entitled” aristocracies that were swept aside by republicanism. They had a monopoly on power which was sanctioned, even if only tacitly, by a social contract. A popular mandate…
Because they were unique, noble, pedigreed, they were clearly identifiable. If they did bad things, people rose up. Or other nobles deposed them in order to save the class as a group. But the rebels didn’t replace the system, only the infected part.
Laura: “One doesn’t commit suicide over a runny nose.”
Frank: Precisely. The ruling class had the privilege to be privileged, and tyrannical, but there is no such thing as “job security” when things get bad. Ask any of these people we’re riding with who live in this recession. The essential problem remains that no one will save you when everyone is in trouble. It always reduces to the individual in Western culture. Again I am thinking we need to face reality and work outside the dream of social progress.
Anyway, if the nobility abused power greatly, they ran the risk of being blamed and toppled for the ills they caused, like any other class not doing its part.
Laura: Unfortunately, all of this implies class structure as unavoidable fact. Or at least accepts it unchallenged.
Frank: I’ll answer that in a moment.
To finish, in a democracy, the people are (theoretically) sovereign. When things go bad, as they always do, who can you blame? The people? I’ve never known or read about a political body punishing itself. Let alone accepting responsibility. Especially in the mass. A little Sartrean accountability could do wonders for our society at large.
In a democracy —or what masquerades as one— blame cannot be assigned, and the individuals wielding power get away with crimes, albeit in secret. I suspect that that only compounds the problem.
Laura: And as for classes?
Frank: Ultimately, all people want what they perceive to be good imposed on everyone else. Any individual desire or will can only at great length be called altruistic. Altruism itself is a creation of the abstract mind.
This is all I know: There were classes before Marx. Marx described the new economic understanding of history. And classes remain, despite and during the experiments in classless society.
All systems imply organization, and where differences arise, struggle between the orders is inevitable. I think the Marxist dream is that we can overcome this historical imperative. I still find the dream beautiful.
Maybe the easiest answer is to simply face facts. “We’re not equal, but there should be justice for all.” That being said, I believe in the power of words, formed beautifully, to reconstitute life. But who knows? The defeatist in me wonders if homo sapiens is a spent force.
Laura: Now we have to tackle justice?
Frank: I wouldn’t dare. But I think it would be easier to define justice if one could see the people and institutions whom we call before justice. Not just their representations. And eliminate all the distractions to clear thought.
Laura: “Who will be the next American Idol?”
Frank: Imagine if all such questions were struck from the mind.
*The Anonymous hacker must be disclosed at some point. Or else he becomes an echo of the democratic problem of elusive identity and unaccountability. He becomes another example of yesterday’s revolutionary becoming today’s conservative. These concerns threaten to invalidate the entire description of the New Marxism.
Last night I went to Martin’s new place. The fence is ten feet high. The balconies innumerable. And I thought to myself here am I, in my leather jacket. With my hat. With my pistol. 12 blocks from another house of another friend and another 3 blocks thence to my apartment. I am neither bound to stay nor inclined to leave. The Wild East is losing ground to Western Civilization. And people come in and people go out of this place and this city. And I think “nothing changes” in all the diffusion of color and sun and bodies and sex. Nothing changes. Nothing changes in that all of it does and relentlessly, except perhaps the Sun above, but even he -Sol- is no guiding light. Sol, the source of all myth, as capable and likely to lead us astray as anything else. The great tragedy is that we can control none of these changes, but endure them.
Or maybe we can, but Miami makes us lazy.
The lot of us had been evicted from our old building by the homesteaders (gentrification). We who had made a place of it and planted a flag. As we played soccer on our phones and enjoyed memorable scores by digital players, the unseeable stars combed through the firmament above us. We were pushed out after we had established an artifice, again, of bohemianism for the city. We are sifted out: cat bombs in the litter box. Chucked. Spectacularly binned. Bound for the toilet, sent to drift in Biscayne Bay.
Martin suggested a fantastic party before we left and made it happen. And above all the flag of Faeland, upon our roof. A declaration. Our city, for now. Until it is that we breathe no more and the new people take our home wherever it is that they think it should go, with no idea of who we are, what we dream or don’t dream, how we saw the future they will possess. Slowly, inexorably, we are becoming the soil beneath the asphalt, under the cars, beneath the smog of tomorrow’s dreamers.
I will leave these thoughts behind; that maybe they will tell my successors what the city was and what we wanted it to be.
All art aspires to be music. Music can seize a man and make him march in time. Any artist would love for his work to have that power. But it’s rare for a sculpture to inspire marching. Incidentally I was once told all artists are fascists.
Things That Run Through My Head When Looking at This Photograph
This sprinkler cost someone a job.
Racism is a hoax. It used to be the bigots would say X does for a nickel what a Y used to do for a quarter and a white man used to do for a buck. But that’s all bullshit. It just so happened that the races entered this country as the Iron Law of Wages was descending on American culture hand-in-hand with the Industrial Revolution.
I break it down like this: the capitalist wants you to do one thing above all else: buy his product. Beyond that, you have little or no purpose. You, a human, can be replaced by machines (like our sprinkler here), and those machines in turn can be even more easily replaced than you. They require no maintenance and no healthcare, do they? Humans are quite a liability. So as the cycle accelerates more machines are manufactured to displace more humans, who are forced to sell themselves as labor or operators into an increasingly marginalized workforce.
In the end, instead of artisans and crafts, skills and wares, we have only product and revenue — a system whose basic purpose is generation of wealth and operates with no regard for waste. So long as people are buying, the system “works” (by its own standards, anyway). If people are not buying, appropriate the intellectual and artistic class of humans to coerce people to buy more stuff and/or convince them they have needs which The Machine can satisfy (advertising, whose name itself implies a sense of diverting attention away from other things).
Innocent sprinkler, a technology, a Hand of No One, an emptiness, an evil. Spraying in the face of human dignity. Because the sprinkler has no conscious, it can kill us without remorse or regret.
What happens if we continue churning out the machines? What happens if we continue distracting ourselves?
— Faelan Blair
Faeland exists in my heart.
I can see it in photos of places I love.
Even if I’ve never been to those places. I just look at the photo and say
And like magic it is.
So. How can that not be real?
I feel it….I feel love. Can you disprove that love is real to me?
And if you cannot ever satisfy proof, then by reason I can assume you cannot prove or disprove feeling.
It is individual. And so as feeling,
and love, stand in me,
I am certain.
And therefore my country lies in me,
and my beloved beside,
in her am I.
Frank Ballast once wrote a novel about humans after the lights went out called We Tender Thugs. When the fossil fuels dried up and the electricity slowly faded out, mankind was thrust back in the dark ages. Here and there some light continued to flicker, like trace bits of gunpowder flaring up inside an otherwise black oven. Someone in a random suburb, for instance, would find a tank of gas and use it to feed a generator. Everyone would take turns charging their cell phones and laptops, powering up for a brief moment to see what they could accomplish. Most of it was in vain, however, there wasn’t internet any more. All the gadgets were little more than over-powered, suped-up, ridiculously fickle typewriters. As overly complicated as their creators.
One older man, having charged his phone, started reading through all the notes he had made as a biochemist at a lab. He had been on the brink of finding a solution for some disease or other. The notes contained the key, and he guarded the phone, which held those notes, with his life. Guarded it for the day the power would come back on. In the meantime, he charged it on occasion just so he could turn it on and flip through the notes, dreaming of the day he could solve the riddle.
By the end of the novel, rabid dogs had taken over much of suburban North America. People’s gadgets slowly died out or were discarded or were simply used as flashlights. When a pack of dogs overran the old man’s town of Alliance, Nebraska, it was decided that all the remaining phones and gadgets should be pooled for safekeeping. Overnight, the custodian of the phones absconded into the darkness, leaving the town defenseless (he also had the few weapons the group had in their possession).
The phone ended up being traded at a barter-market on the outskirts of Farmington, New Mexico for three rounds of 9mm ammunition. Most important things were traded for ammunition.
“If humans can create tools that do their thinking for them (computer), and if we consider that previously, we, and other animals, did the same, then our mastery of the inanimate must herald something greater. What is it?”
He also said I sound like someone who played way too much Civ II. How about that? I knew that game ruled. Or rules.