• The Ten Sort Of Commandments For Wingnuts, With Extra Sauce

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    Before the new Republican majority in congress begins to ardently build its Legislation to Nowhere, and while Tea Baggers remain intoxicated by the smell of their own detritus after the recent election, it is more than obvious it would be helpful at the present time were I to clarify a number of matters for America’s pre-Enlightenment redoubts.

    1. Until you advocate for strict regulation of firearms you are prohibited from calling yourself pro-life. Unless you advocate for universal, affordable health care in America you likewise are prohibited from describing yourself as pro-life. If you favor capital punishment and elective wars, or the shredding of the safety net for the poor and the elderly, you are prohibited in perpetuity from referring to yourself as pro-life. If you choose to classify yourself as anti-abortion, or an advocate for compulsory pregnancy, you’re good to go.
    1. When you make a statement such as “net neutrality is Obamacare for the internet” you have revealed yourself as an exceptionally pitiful corporate stooge. We know, Ted, your belief that a small, moneyed percent of the county should own nearly the entire American economy does not exclude the internet. Indeed, the petroleum troglodytes funding your campaigns ought to be considered candidates for ownership. Others with your uncontrollable authoritarian impulses who delight in suppressing speech with the same gusto they have for suppressing votes might prefer Rupert Murdoch to the Koch brethren. Fast streaming propaganda from Fox, and the rest in the pedestrian lane. Yes, I think we have a plan.
    1. If you went apeshit with your ebola panic, you look like a damn fool. Calling for promiscuous use of quarantines, and sealing the country off behind an iron curtain, and generally behaving like a shrill, insufferable sissy blaming Obama for your ebola fear, you look particularly hydrocephalic now that the U.S. ebola cases are zero. Nada. Bupkis. Goose egg. Fool.
    1. If you insist on being as unforgivably obtuse as to repeat over and over again how Obama and Democrats are acting as if the 2014 elections never happened” because they oppose your absolutist agenda, after behaving as though the 2008 and 2012 elections never produced a mandate against your candidates and your agenda, you must be executed with a guillotine for the harm you’ve caused the American people, and for nonpareil dimness. There is no place in this democracy for your one-party state radicalism, and feudalist economics.
    1. Before Rush Limbaugh and Fox News began dumbing America down, Ronald Reagan indoctrinated a great, god-fearing nation with fiction and fantasy. He repeated the same unsourced, apocryphal anecdotes for over thirty years, and delivered with game show host facility streams of gibberish so indecipherable great minds were stymied by the magnitude of the task of untangling them. Admittedly, Reagan was an idiot savant at this. Keynesian economics produced whatever positive economic results he got, and Gorbachev was the leader in ending the cold war. I would agree that adding his name to every airport and government building in the country, and his face to Rushmore and the dollar bill would be the best indication to the world possible, that our transformation to a banana republic is now complete.
    1. No matter how smug your satisfaction with the recent victories of your cynicism, nor how heady the unrepresentative reach of your present power due to senate structure and congressional gerrymandering, for denying the science of climate change and deterring the corrective   measures necessary, history, despite what you confidently believe, will hunt you down like rats in a garbage dump and hoist you on your own petard. This I promise. Refusing to acknowledge the existence and the jeopardy of climate change as the result of anti-regulatory fanaticism and petroleum industry largesse is in fact the most foolish human behavior, the stupidest short term thinking since your Republican ancestors fled in fear from the cooking fire and the wooden wheel.
    1. Thou shalt not have the balls to impeach Obama. You’re much too chickenshit. I dare you to do it. I double dare you. If you don’t, you’re not a real man or woman. Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck, chicken.
    1. The American people will blame you for shutting the government down same as last time, if you attempt to do it again, no matter how insistently juvenile your attempts to deflect the blame. I know, I really do, that standing beside a shattered lamp with shards of glass in your hair while pointing in the direction of Obama seems like maybe it’s working, but really, it’s not. Even the lowest of your beloved low information voters likely will figure out you can simply send the man a clean, basic spending bill without an Ayn Rand bucket list attached.
    1. Hillary Clinton will eat your heart, liver and intestines in the next election no matter what you do. Spend all the Koch’s money, squeeze Karl Rove’s brain like a dirty dishrag till every dirty drop has fallen, siphon every ounce of embalming fluid from the body of Sheldon Adelson and sell it at peak on the commodity markets, none of it will help. Send out all the Rands, Ryans, Pauls and chubby guys in your benighted stable, it won’t do any good. The Clintons have your number and they always will. Bill, priapic or not, is God.
    1. Hard-asses get their asses handed to them eventually, and so will you. If poetic justice, and its big brother harsh justice, could handle Slobodan Milosevic, Joe McCarthy and the Soviet politburo they can handle Ted Cruz. These types always believe they’re smarter and tougher than they are, by far. French aristocrats had an excellent run, but when it came to an end it wasn’t pretty. Something tells me the beneficiaries of today’s halcyon reign of plutocracy won’t end so pretty themselves. Heads won’t roll, but they may explode, shuffled off to obscurity. For a while, you’ll prevent significant numbers of blacks from voting, and a fair amount of students and Latinos too. But when it’s over, it’s really going to be over.


  • Thomas Bernhard Is Still A Fun Guy

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    If, like me, you long ago read everything you could get your hands on by Austrian novelist, playwright, memoirist and poet Thomas Bernhard, it’s never an unrewarding experience to revisit his work.

    For those who haven’t read him, he might be just the medicine that cures your ills, if you have a certain idiosyncratic deficiency of literary singularity and imaginative vituperation in your diet. This condition admittedly has always been an affliction of mine.

    It’s not so much the fact that Bernhard acidifies and melts away all sugarcoating of the human condition that makes him special, it’s that he performs it with a virtuosic verbal brutality fully commensurate to the task. As a wielder of prose, Bernhard is an intemperate, hyperbolic maestro…and god I love it. His revulsion for phoniness and pretension is of such vehemence it make’s Salinger’s appear to be fake, insincere and perhaps rather dainty when all is said and done.

    Admittedly, getting used to encountering a paragraph that runs to two and a half (or five) pages doesn’t happen right away, but quicker than you might think you actually begin to dig the head of steam the man builds up, assuming your bathroom breaks are scheduled with proper forethought.

    Yes, at first a book (The Lime Works) about a man holed up in a quarry with his wheelchair bound, rifle-toting wife less than pleased with the auditory experiments he is conducting on her for the sake of his great work in progress may not sound like what you want to curl up with on a cold winter night. But then, after reading some, you just can’t get warm and cozy without it.

    In Concrete, Rudolph the musicologist narrator driven mad by his ten-year attempt to find the perfect opening sentence to his musicology opus, speaks for many an artist’s (or anyone else’s) angst in the struggle to get it done right, and simply to get it done in the face of every fresh temptation, interruption, distraction, annoyance and vanity the world has in store, and keeps coming. William Styron astutely I thought described as the “obduracy of the language” what is so difficult about the creative process, at least the literary kind, and Bernhard nails it with a railroad spike.

    Bernhard uses piano prodigy Glen Gould as the focus of The Loser, wherein he mercilessly and hilariously both celebrates and bemoans artistic ambition, the perils of seeking artistic perfection, and perhaps more emphatically, the intimidating, inhibiting nature of artistic genius on aspiring, or less gifted artists.

    In Wittgenstein’s Nephew, a character named Bernhard and a friend of the real life Bernhard, Paul, the nephew of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein are hospitalized at the same time in separate wings of the institution, Bernhard in the pulmonary ward, Wittgenstein in the psychiatric wing. During the encounters and conversations they manage while there, they become comrades in gallows commentary and biting catharsis, as well as mutual sources of consolation, a sanctuary of sorts created for their mutual eccentricity.

    Old Masters, besides again celebrating Bernhard’s chosen redoubt of unapologetic misanthropy in the face of artistic, political, social and cultural groupthink, in particular, the self-satisfaction of artistic or critical uniformity, he laments and excoriates with particularly ebullient venom the hijacking, shall we say, of the cultural enterprise by tools, an undertaking many of us can certainly appreciate.

    Gathering Evidence is perhaps the most compelling and wonderfully disturbing work of autobiography by an artist you will be lucky enough to encounter. What stands out most may be the admiration and affection he conveys for the grandfather who largely raised him, and who wrote defiantly whether anyone cared or not, an appreciation for nihilistic determination he passed along.

    Abandoned by his mother to a caretaker on a houseboat while still an infant,  incarcerated in the tuberculosis ward (sanatoriums, as they called them then) while an adolescent, due to a mistaken diagnosis, and where of course he then contracted tuberculosis, Bernhard’s isn’t your father’s literary memoir.

    If anyone ever despised nationalism, cultural chauvinism and outright ethnocentrism more than Bernhard, someone must point them out to me. Bernhard’s relationship to Austrian pride somewhat resembles that of Liz Taylor to Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, though without the kernel of endearment. Austria is the matrix of Mein Fuhrer, and Bernhard never lets Austrians forget it for a single second, no matter how hard they try to kick it under the rug, or to suppress their perpetuated bad habits from the Nazi era.

    Indeed, Bernhard’s coup de grace, what he putatively called his posthumous emigration, may have been the instruction he left in his will, that after his death, his works could never again be published or performed in his native land. Let’s see Noam Chomsky do that.

    In fact, Thomas Bernhard is one of those few and far-between (despite what you might encounter in book reviews) literary giants, singular voices, and authentically influential artists, especially taking into account the influence on his fellow writers (I’d bet my fortune Bernhard never used the phrase fellow writers, but you never know). That Bernhard is highly renowned and infrequently read (an old, tired story of course) is irrelevant to the latter naturally.

    I’ll leave you with a taste of the writing in this excerpt from Gathering Evidence, where Bernhard evinces some of his regard for his native Salzburg:

    “This city of my fathers is in reality a terminal disease which its inhabitants acquire through heredity or contagion. If they fail to leave at the right moment, they sooner or later either commit suicide, directly or indirectly, or perish slowly and wretchedly on this lethal soil with its archiepiscopal architecture and its mindless blend of National Socialism and Catholicism. Anyone who is familiar with the city knows it to be a cemetery of fantasy and desire, beautiful on the surface but horrifying underneath” 





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