• Beware The Pumpkinheads, Kids

    "Remember In November" Rally In DC

    Keep your Halloween. I’ll pass on the chance to be gratuitously frightened. I have the American political process to guarantee I’m myocardial infarction bait, and if that doesn’t suffice, unlimited American gunplay and the human condition. But thanks.

    Many would agree that the most desirable thing about a strong, abiding romantic relationship is that it significantly reduces the likelihood you’ll find yourself in a one on one situation with an insane person, which essentially describes dating. Thrown into an encounter with state, local and federal authority determined by my fellow citizens is the scariest date of all.

    For instance, here’s a very limited sample of statements made by government officials who have been elevated to public office by America’s voters.

    “Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional,” said Oklahoma Republican Jim Bridenstine after the Obamacare decision, speaking of the branch of government whose principal duty is ruling on the constitutionality of laws.

    “Let the private insurance companies decide how they’re going to handle the pre-existing conditions situation,” North Carolina Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers contributed to the national discussion of health care.

    We know Al Qaeda has camps on the Mexican border. We have people that are trained to act Hispanic when they are radical Islamists,” said Texas member of the House of Representatives, Republican Louie Gohmert, this being among his more enlightened observations.

    “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.” Ted Yoho, Republican Rep. of Florida astutely opined on the prospect of the United States defaulting on its debts during the Republican instigated government shutdown.

    “Yeah, I would.” This is what Republican Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler answered when asked whether he would vote to reinstate slavery if that’s what his constituents wanted.

    Yes, in each of these cases, the person making the statement is a board certified idiot. And these statements represent the cream of the crop from America’s Olympian inane statement producing team.

    Yet, how do we classify our fellow citizens who voted to put them in office? Are we to infer these citizens know even less than the person they’ve elected to govern them? How dumb exactly would that be?

    If the elected official is, in mental health terms, three legs short of a four-legged table, what does that say about the mental capacity of those who have voted for him?

    These officials didn’t, to the dismay of their constituents, turn out to be, after several months in Washington, completely full of shit. Voters sent them there that way.

    Halloween? Are you kidding me?

    And then there’s Fox News. It’s the primary, if not the only source of information for millions of potentially voting Americans. Fox News recently reported on a poll that showed 120% of Americans held an opinion on climate change. If your principal source of information reports on the opinion of 120% of Americans, I don’t mind admitting, your choices in the voting booth are making me nervous. Xanax quality nervous. Multiple milligrams quality nervous.

    And then, there are the evangelists. And Rush Limbaugh. And the NRA. Pick your poisoned Vesuvius spewing misinformation, bigotry mythology, and counterfeit intellectual currency into the air. It’s not that each of these is a disgrace to baboonery that worries me. It’s that they are filling millions of Americans ears with fecal matter that will largely determine their actions as American citizens. That these with a moral compass lacking only an arrow pointing in the direction of morality provide the moral guidance for millions, is a laxative for the bejesus in you to put it mildly.

    Also remember the disproportionate representation small or rural states, where so many of such citizens reside, have in the U. S. Senate. This is what some might describe as  a dangerous structural defect. 38 million people living in 22 of the smallest states have 44 senators representing them. The 38 million residents of California: 2. Alaska enjoys 30 times the voting power New York does. Skeleton suits and goblin masks? Wear those statistics on your face Hallows Eve.

    Republicans have gerrymandered congressional districts so imperviously that Republicans now can nominate any telephone pole or distributor cap or fossilized remnant of Early Man, and he or she is guaranteed election to the U. S. House of Representatives. There’s your Halloween.

    It’s important to keep in mind as well that Republicans are doing everything humanly possible to suppress the votes of those who do not fall into the above categories of the fragile minded, misinformed, or intellectually bovine. I guess that’s the trick part of trick or treat.

    The treat will come  when I, and no small number of like-minded fellow citizens no longer are required to sum up the condition of our representative democracy with the sentence: God, I sure get tired of reading and hearing the stupid shit stupid fucks are saying.


  • Thomas Bernhard Is Still A Fun Guy

    Bernjard 1

    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 pretention 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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