August 29, 2008

Brand America Goes For Broke...Sort Of



So...this was originally supposed to be something about how Brand America/Monied Interests/PermaGov/The Man is, in 2008, finally grudgingly acknowledging certain global sociopolitical realities by conceding the nomination of a major American political party to a black man. About how said black man and his crew had been following in the footsteps of great political marketers and ad men of the past—specifically, the past of 1960 and 1980—in creating an indelible brand with which to sell themselves to the American consumer population. About how, after all, this is the American Way, and that's just what we do here.

I had my shit all ready to go on this one, too—about how Barack Obama has consistently undercut his own soaring rhetoric with callous bouts of selling out like the stomping of FISA and the selection of Joe Biden (D-MBNA) as his veep. About how the whole shebang so far really hasn't been that different from the marketing coups that Kennedy and Reagan pulled when they ran for President, and won. Yeah, I was ready, cause I've done some time in branding, folks, and it's been glorious and commercial and manipulative and fun and creative and mendacious and successful and much, much more. So I'm a professional. Not an expert, but I have been paid to make ads. Many times, in many forms of media.

I was all prepared to expound on the JFK television masterstroke, when Jack fulfilled his rich daddy's greatest dreams of transferrent projection by squeaking past a sitting Vice President into the cozy confines of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yeah, and you'd all dig it, too, cause don't we all know the story about the 1960 debates? Sure we do—they're legendary: it was televised for the first time ever, Kennedy looked like Virile Sexy American Male, and Dick Nixon raved and snarled like a vicious wino. Uh-huh, that's it: capitalize on a new form of media, kiddies, and you too can be snorting cocaine off the White House pool's diving board before frolicking half-naked with Marilyn Monroe like jackrabbits in heat. And everyone seemed to forget that JFK, as the Doctor said, "won by a margin so thin you couldn't even see it."

In a similar vein, I was also all set to jump on Ronald Reagan for the way he and his peeps legitimized glitz and glory again. What? Oh, well, yeah, the Kennedys had already done that, but don't forget, in between JFK and Ronnie we had twenty years of brain-frying horror otherwise known as "the 1960s and 1970s," which, if you didn't live through it (and I only checked in for the last 4 years of those 20), read like a schizoid mess of manic polar episodes. Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, disco, punk, drugs, hair...and that of course wasn't the half of it. Nixon, before he was "dragged from the White House in a frenzy of shame," almost behaved like a deranged liberal when he signed the Clean Water/Clean Air acts. He even went to China! Hell, if he hadn't killed all those Laotians, we'd have called him a Red. Jimmy Carter even had the stones to install solar panels on the White House. Jesus creeping shit, indeed.

But enough about those wankers; except for JFK, they had terrible marketing and they all—Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter—got blitzed before they could serve two full terms. Ronald Reagan blew them all away with his eight years of direct-mail senile dementia, but since he and his entourage were smart enough to swagger into Washington like conquering emperors when they decapitated Carter in 1980, they're remembered as geniuses. The Reagan/Bush monstrosity knew that all they had to do to win was put a genial twit in front of the whole operation and dress him up like a cowboy, and let the guy say, in so many words, "Don't you young whippersnappers worry a thing about that Vietnam and Watergate. Don't let that baloney ever tarnish your pride in America, darn it, and by the by, please DO go out and buy every little thing you can get your red-blooded American hands on, kiddies, because if not, you'll be Poor. And no one likes a Poor person, do they?"

And it worked, even through Star Wars and Iran-Contra and the Challenger and Chernobyl and apartheid and Gordon Gecko, because we all really loved not caring about anything but ourselves. It worked so well that the yellow-spined Vice President, George H. W. Bush, was able to ride Ronnie's frayed coattails to victory in '88, snapping the cycle of shame and loserdom that had plagued his office since 1836. Yeah, it worked even better than that, too—because even though Poppy was thrown out by 1992, and his replacement was nominally a Democrat, as we all now know, Bill Clinton eventually proved to be the best Republican president of our lifetimes, and not just because he got more nookie. Of course, our current President rode Ronnie's shuck-and-yeehaw formula all the way to two of his own terms, but with such classless, clumsy incompetence that the Republican Party is now back to where it was in 1964: a squabbling nut-house of Dumb Brutes and Rich People, who are once again about to nominate a crusty old Arizona senator to bear their elephantine standard in November. And we can't be presenting that face to the world much longer, can we? After a few stolen elections, PermaGov simply won't stand for it, will they?

Which brings us back full circle to Barry, of course. No no, not that Barry, or the other Barry. This is a New Barry. The skinny one with the funny name. The anti-marketing marketing plan. The one who pulled the rug out from under Kerry's convention in 2004. The one who put Howard Dean on a leash before stealing his fifty-state strategy and welding it to the Clinton-tested corporate politics of the Democratic Leadership Council. The Barry who went deep into enemy territory to suck the Red out of the Red States, the Barry who slew the Clinton dragon, and in doing so had to, as Yer Man said, "become a monster in order to defeat a monster." His armies of beautiful young people charged into Denver this week determined to kick ass and take names as only humorless liberals can, and oh my, what a parade it has been. The gorgeous and dangerous Michelle Obama changed before our eyes from Angela Davis to Claire Huxtable (complete with Rudy and Olivia accessories) in truly whip-lashing speed, and, not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton herself came out swinging for Barry in a truly epic show of that same old transferrent projectionism that all of us liberals have come to know and love.

It didn't stop there, of course. Undead ghosts of past Democratic defeats came out of the gates screeching like wild monkeys: Carter, Mondale, a particularly blood-thirsty John Kerry, and a particularly vindictive Albert Gore, Junior. Biden even waltzed through with his own tribute to violent mothers and marinated white-trash vengeance. And then the King Snake Himself came out: Big Bill Clinton, who once again waved his gnarled, knotted magic wand over the multitudes and charmed them all, wiping their memories with his own patented form of the vile Imperius Curse. It was masterful, and nothing that Tweety or Keef or Brit or Pat or Joe or any of those other bubble-headed mannequins said could take it away. And then Obama came out tonight and said some of the most eloquent, gorgeous, stinging, vibrant Nothing that I've ever been privileged to endure. And sucker that I am for righteous fury, I believe him.

So yeah, I was going to write all of that, except better and more thought-out, but I ultimately decided against it. Why? Because, as I've said before, I am at heart a creature of habit and comfort, of ego and sloth, and of familiar heroes and villains, and of humorless vituperation; and so even after an obvious piece of expensively overblown theater like the DNC, I will once again revert to type, conform to form, and vote Democrat. The speeches worked on me, folks. They really did, and though I should feel dirty and used and ashamed, I don't. I don't feel cynical or cool or above it all anymore, even though it's in my professional interest to do so. I have never felt happier to be a liberal and a Democrat and an American, and fuck anyone sideways who has a problem with that. It's not your problem, bitches. It's MY problem, so let me deal with it.

Update 8/29: Catching up with the Rude Pundit's take on the DNC and other relevant stuff—the man is on fire:

A Word or Two Regarding Joe Biden
Soothing the Savage Clinton
Michelle Obama Speaks to Idiot America
The Real Keynote Speaker
Hillary Clinton Is Not a Liar

"Rarely does one witness someone eating shit with such energy, grace, and aplomb."

Clinton, Kerry, and Biden Take It to Third Base
Obama to the GOP: "Go Fuck Yourselves"
"Now, mainstream politically speaking, that's how you beat down an old man."
Cross-posted; dkos, pff, mlw, dd

August 23, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Unfinished Fiction #2

At last, the moment you've all been waiting for: the Summer of Shameless Revisionism is coming to an end. Oh yes, what with the final Olympic weekend and the first week of school (in some places) and the horror of the Padres' 2008 season and the apparent rise of Delaware from political oblivion, it's time to shut down this silliness once and for all. Or at least until next summer, when I hopefully won't still be writing a book.

Anyway, speaking of fiction, that's what we've got again this week, except in ever-diminishing quantity and quality. See, I explained last week that this stuff was basically just my warm-ups (over...six years?) for the actual attempt at a novel. Well, that and an ego-balm after the unceremonious rejection from graduate-level writing programs. Wait, that's not right—the band was the ego-balm. Hmmm, this isn't getting any more insightful, and at midnight we're not going to see any new lucid episodes of genius, so let's leave the weepy shit for the end and just jump into the work, for the final time. As always, click on a post's title to see the whole shebang.

Beyond Mere Chemical Enhancement (Jul. 8, 2003)
The last installment of my untitled 2003 fiction project, "Enhancement" follows these three pieces into a festering den of adolescent iniquity, and...oh hell, no it doesn't. It's a clumsy attempt at Bret Easton Ellis, and I obviously hadn't realized how to fall back on the gonzo impulse when all else failed. But whatever. It is what it is:

The bedroom door opens and Jake comes back followed by the two people who just showed up outside: the mop-haired quiet one from the Civic last night and another guy with a shaved head who shuffles along with terrible posture. They shiver a bit as they join us all in the crowded room, and Jake ducks in the closet to get the little pipe and baggie he’s hidden inside a drawer. Voices murmur and laugh in the low light and I can hear two people making out on the other side of the room. Jake emerges again and steps over the long, powerful legs of the two girl volleyball players and winks at them, but they just glare back at him in annoyed acknowledgement. He shrugs to himself and turns around back to his guests.
You Were Always My Favorite Maniac (Aug. 22, 2003)
So since the Ellis-isms were obviously getting me nowhere, I tried a different tack. "Maniac" combines three different emails I'd sent to three separate women within a few weeks (yes, I save the "sent mail" folder), and as a crude mash-up it doesn't suck as much on re-read as I assumed it would. Of course, the one-sidedness is a major detriment, but what are you gonna do? It's a style choice, I guess. Anyway, the other obvious thing about this piece is the emergence of Roy and Olivia as permanent characters who would show up in the Weapon of Young Gods.
But none of that matters right now, because I’m sick as ten dogs. I’ve been completely consumed by the feral bastard offspring of migraines and coagulated snot. I get short of breath but when I take a deep breath I cough like a mofo- dry, lung-chucking spasms- exacerbating the pounding of my clammy bald skull. I sleep it off for a few hours and wake up caked in sweat and smelling like a dingo, and pathetically pray for heaven's mercy. How's that for colorful metaphor? English major moron, my ass. I'm quite happy I majored in English, Liv. I wiped the floor with my English classes and wrote some fucking good papers, thank you very much. Plus English girls are easy. Or so I was told. Not like you hot-blooded fractionally brown girls, of course. Never that. So yeah, it's wonderful to hear from you, and write back whenever you wish. Just don't forget to appeal to my planet-sized ego, and I'll make sure to always behave with appropriate crazed enthusiasm. You're welcome.
The Insidious Riptide of Doubt (Dec. 21, 2006)
As embarrassing as it may seem these days, my fiction bug was kicked back into gear thanks to a "writer's workshop" sideline thread on the liberal mega-blog Daily Kos, of all places. "Riptide" was my first contribution, and it's presented here unedited as a sort of marker for how far the novel has progressed since this original, hopelessly gimped effort. The writer's group was fine, and they offered up fine and useful criticism, but after about six more chapters (which have since grown to 48) I decided to bail and spend time writing my own shit instead of getting caught up in other people's narratives. Of course, once I began posting WOYG chapters on Docudharma, I ended up critiquing again anyway. Oh, and the character of Francesca makes her first appearance in this one. A similar chapter will present the final version (I think it will be #39) once it's ready, but for now, here's a bit from the original.
The waves crash a little louder. Some kids down the beach scream like banshees, but Frankie’s still out like a light. I need to know. I need to know if I’m being lied to—a little white lie or a creatively elaborate monster—and I’m tired of being lied to. It’s all that’s happened to me this year. Nadia did it, Ally did it, my own fucking dad did it, and I’m sick to death of being continually body-checked by the awful truth every month or so. A lazy Saturday in sunny southern California is slouching its way across the cosmos, but I’m becoming more and more compelled to just up and flip Frankie right over—'sorry babe, musta freaked out a sec, dunno what came over me,”—just to find out if she’s really been scarred by heroin like she said she was. Her arms are clean. Her fingers are perfect. Knuckles smooth. Am I really that gullible? That trusting? Why would my unerring suspicion, my utterly reliable fear of anything remotely risky or sneaky, choose to abandon me at this crucial moment?
Vengeful Arson on Aliso Peak (Jan. 23, 2007)
I guess I can't say too much about this one, because on re-read it's sort of a WOYG spoiler. So if you want to read the whole book when it's done, don't click the link—but if you do, the final draft will probably be a lot different and not include much of this original piece. I'd bashed it out in about an hour and never entered it in the writers' workshop, so this is the first airing. It's a little messy but the vibe is right for the book.
I unleashed hell on my hometown much faster than I would have thought possible. I was so surprised at how quickly it happened that I almost forgot to run. It's not like I didn't think I had it in me or anything; it's just that when I'd thought about doing something like this before, I didn't imagine that such a small effort could result in the frightening magnitude of sheer speed and power displayed before me. I wasn't prepared for it, wasn't prepared for what it showed me about myself and how much I could let hate concentrate and fester and ferment inside me. I sure as hell wasn't prepared for the consequences of what I'd done, and I was in no hurry to find out the full extent of what they might be. By the time I left the party all the fighting had stopped, but I didn't want to stay there and be with people trying to get their goddamn buzzes back. I still needed to clear my head. I walked out of the hotel suite and down the stairs to the parking garage, brought my beloved piece of junk to life, and tried to feel sober as I rolled down the window and turned the fan on. It didn't work. I thought I could use a drive but part of me didn't want to go too far cause it hadn't been that long ago that I'd had my last drink. The other part of me could really give a shit about any of that and was all ready to start dishing out random payback.
How to Stomp a Brahmin (Nov. 4, 2007)
Now this one, this little bastard was fun to write, even though it also turned out a little messy and ended up on the cutting-room floor when I was outlining the full novel. "Brahmin" was also spewed out relatively quickly, and I do like how it shows the Reed brothers' relationship that is cultivated in several other chapters. I actually had to reference it in a few places in the novel too, but the only one I can remember right now is chapter 13. Two months later I began posting the novel's first draft, and the rest is...history?
Twilight descended mercilessly on the 405 as my brother drove us up toward Costa Mesa, keeping the aging green beast of a Volvo at a steady sixty in the right lane. I slouched at useless angles in the passenger seat, feeling dumb and ashamed, irradiated by the fallout of Nadia's day-old surprise nuclear breakup bomb. R.J. remained stoically focused on the road and the various symptoms of his decaying station wagon, tactfully indicating that he would listen to any pathetic whining I felt like succumbing to, but only up to a point.

"We need to get you the hell out of here," he'd said earlier that day, after I'd lain inert for six straight hours in bed. He was right, of course; I was already starting to stink up our room with my rotting self-absorption, and would soon sink below even R.J.'s ability to drag me back to the land of more conventional young male egomania. "Come on," he urged, yanking me up by the arm, "we're going to see a new movie- I've just seen the ad for something that will definitely treat your particular symptoms: Richard III, the fascist version. They re-wrote the play for '40s Germany, with the king as dictator."
And...that's all, folks! The revisionism stops here. Wasn't that fun? Here, you can re-live the glorious recent past already, thanks to the magic of HTML:

UCSB Daily Nexus Artsweek #1 (1997) 6.14.08
UCSB Daily Nexus Artsweek #2 (1997-1998) 6.20.08
Santa Barbara Independent (2001-2003) 6.29.08
@U2 Essays (2001-2005) 7.5.08
Genre-Bending Gonzo (2002-2005) 7.12.08
My Band Rocks #1: The Mojo Wire (1997-2001) 7.19.08
My Band Rocks #2: Honey White (2002-2007) 7.23.08
Soapblox Rants #1 (2007) 8.1.08
Soapblox Rants #2 (2008) 8.9.08
Unfinished Fiction #1 (2002-2003) 8.15.08
Unfinished Fiction #2 (2003-2007) 8.23.08

Seriously, thanks for enduring. The DV blog will surely have some more activity during the final lap of Campaign '08, but I'm hoping that we'll have some hotter stuff going on at the band blog and the book blog, so you know that when I say "stay tuned" this time, I really mean it.

Sort of.

August 15, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Unfinished Fiction #1

When you work from home on Friday, the weekend comes early, and I guess if the weekend comes early, then the shameless revisionism can come early too. This week we've got some good, bad, and ugly unfinished fiction to deal with. I wasn't ever really taught how to do creative writing—by the time I got into the UCSB English major, the department was already dismantling their creative writing emphasis in favor of pure critical analysis, so anything I could have learned academically about fiction or poetry was sort of killed before it grew.

I never had an overwhelming fiction jones anyway, though, so when I did write non-criticism, it was mostly the kind of stuff I've been highlighting in this series: student journalism, self-important band stuff, goofy random crap, etc. About six years ago, however, I tried to convince myself that I could do fiction, and that I could apply to grad school and get in. Hell, writing had always been easy for me, whether or not I was any good at it, so why not, right? Well, when you're desperately bored at dumb office jobs and are still going through that awful "finding yourself" period, all kinds of ideas seem doable, don't they? Me writing fiction was pretty much like that.

So in 2002 I quit my job and submitted two short pieces for UCI and SFSU to consider, and they were both casually rejected. Rightly so, I might add. See, once I started actually reading fiction again, I knew that I'd made a bad, ugly mistake in not keeping up my inspiration and craft that way, and turning in stories based on a loose foundation of gonzo wouldn't cut it in grad school. Might cut it with me, though—I kept the things, and about a year later, while in design school, I started writing again. I tried to make an outline for a novel and go from there, and it was looking promising for about a month before everything crashed and burned for no apparent reason at all.

We are left with the fallout, however, and though there's not much of it, there's enough to compile it into two skimpier-than-usual, anthological blog posts. As always, click on the link for the full post. You get six today, and there will be five more next week (some even related to my first novel).

Resigned to Voyeuristic Amateurism (Aug 8, 2002)
Wow, snappy title, no? Yeah, it's pretty weak, but so is the whole piece in general, and gates are made for stumbling out of, aren't they? For better or worse, this is the first bit of "fiction" I wrote when I was trying to convince myself that it was a viable thing to do. It's actually a kind of Frankenstein monster fusing of older, separate, and unrelated pieces, all worse and not worth reading: an untitled piece, another one called "I Resign," and a third, "You Stalk Like an Amateur." So let's see: naked autobiographical whining, clumsy inner monologue, convoluted construction, and no plot? Well... there's nowhere to go but up, right?

It’s unnaturally cold here at the west end of North America, almost an actual dark day in paradise. Everything is gray and damp and dull, as if November forced its way into the beginning of August, but that won’t stop Santa Barbara from going batshit crazy this weekend. Today begins the annual Old Spanish Days celebration, locally known as Fiesta Weekend, when tourists from Fresno and Lancaster and Riverside will be whooping it up in demented depravity for three days straight. The looming debauchery has already affected productivity—my supervisors are gone for the day and the workload is miniscule anyway. Still, six hours of dealing with bitchy arguments over petty cash reimbursement has dulled my senses, and since this stuff will just be back with a vengeance on Monday, with me likely hung over from a prolonged Fiesta binge, I don’t think any more real work will get done today. I listen for any hints of nearby life, but the front office is pretty quiet, so I subtly take the phone off the hook, moving it just slightly so that it still seems in place, and try not to think about all the meaningful, creative things I haven’t accomplished today while sitting in a cube.
A Festering Epidemic of Island Fever (Dec. 27, 2002)
This is one of the two shorts that I submitted with my grad school applications. It's not as awful as "Resigned," but it's not perfect. It has a little bit of a "U2 at the End of the World" feel to it, I guess, but it is notable for introducing some character names and concepts that I would later resurrect for the Weapon of Young Gods novel, notably the characters of Roy and Colin and Colin's band, the Screaming Mimes. If you compare this plot to the novel, though, this is about six years later, when the Mimes are famous enough to get gigs in Hawaii, and Roy's grown up enough to be a journalist.
Taking off from San Diego had been a nightmare, but I calmed down a bit once the plane was in the air. I’d done enough flying during this post 9/11 summer to dull my periodic debilitating bouts of acrophobia, and my geographical geek’s interest in seeing the world spread out below me like a giant map was today’s other key to my immediate sanity. The vision of Southern California retreating over the horizon snapped me out of any lingering fear, and I resolved for the moment to get to the bottom of the feud I knew I sensed was going on among my fellow freaked-out passengers. I hadn’t spoken to Colin Dawson since his patience abruptly dissolved halfway through a particularly awful set by his rock band, the Screaming Mimes, at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood a few days ago. It was supposed to be an industry showcase gig, but the Mimes had been playing terribly for the umpteenth time on this particular tour, and Colin looked like he thought he was the only one who noticed. That sounds ridiculous at first, of course, but no one put it past Colin to be any less self-absorbed than he usually seemed.
Approaching Hannah (Jan. 13, 2003)
"Hannah" is the second of the two short pieces that padded my grad school apps. I rate it a bit below "Island Fever," cause it's mostly just expository narrative, and leaden stuff at that, but I do want to re-work it to fit into the novel at some point. It was also the first germ to begin writing the novel in the first place, set as it is on a morning after a huge SoCal wildfire. The narrator is not named, but I think he could fit the R.J. character from "Young Gods" with a little work; he's cerebral enough, but with that casual hubris of the young. We'll see.
The ash is thinning as we continue down Santiago, but I know the school day will still be strange. Last night’s news said the gym and the mall at school would still be filled with people from Laguna who’d lost their homes to the fire. It was a weird, uncomfortable inconvenience to get around all day yesterday; the press of the buzzing crowd on their way to first period was thick and chaotic, a result of the overnight conversion for the building’s lower floor into a makeshift shelter. The students were confined before class to the upper floor and balcony, from which they peered over butcher-paper activity posters, staring down at the newly-homeless souls below, trying to stay sane among the many white cots strewn with clothing and sleeping children. I doubt it will be much different today; somehow the high school is supposed to throw together a Homecoming football game tonight, and a dance tomorrow, and I’m glad it’s not my problem to be involved in any way.
Disjointed Flashbacks and Cringeworthy Memories (Jun. 21, 2003)
I spent a lot of Summer 2003 on developing a new fiction project independent of anything else I'd done, a sort of OC-noir idea in the style of Bret Easton Ellis (who I was re-reading at the time). Apparently, director Rian Johnson was making his "Brick" movie the same year—it came out in 2006 and I loved it instantly—but back in '03 I had ignorantly assumed I'd had an original idea. Anyway, "Flashbacks" is pretty weak on re-read here; much of it is a run-on, and I think it was supposed to be a faux-Faulkner thing (a la Quentin from "Sound and the Fury") but of course it comes nowhere near there. I was getting more comfortable with the idea of fictionalizing events from my life, though.
Light traffic on Stonehill so I ignored the red light and streaked through the intersection, building up speed so I could take the immediate drop downhill at the highest velocity possible. The iceplant became a green blur to my right and in no time I'd also zipped through the Selva intersection and nearly killed an old man who I could still hear screaming “You belong in the street, goddammit!!” even though I was miles away by the time he finished the sentence and had forgotten it in any case cause traffic was starting to thicken up towards the PCH signal so I slowed as little as possible in order to make the hard right turn but still managed to miss the sidewalk and ended up in the bikepath instead which was ok since it's PCH and I was able to coast on all that leftover speed until the hill rose again after Blue Lantern but I only had to work a little to get up over the curved rise and then the road stretched straight until Niguel so I went north a bit faster...
A Slow Climb to Dangerous Altitudes (Jul. 3, 2003)
It's for the same project, but told by different narrator than "Flashbacks." I wanted to mash together a multiple-narrative thing a la Ellis' "Rules of Attraction," but evidently it proved difficult back then to give each narrator a distinct voice. It's easy to see that I was drawn to using Niguel Hill/Aliso Peak as a setting, though; it's ripe for that—a perfect quiet escape from nasty suburban weirdness.
The view is glorious up here, but I can’t really focus on that too well right now. I pass Cody the joint, saying “we’re probably gonna get busted for even being here, dude,” but he just shrugs. “Better trespassing than a possession rap, Aaron.” I laugh at this and shoot back “That’s your problem,” but Cody’s just as quick. He’s all “Oh, it’s your problem now too, dumbass,” waving what used to be my sixty bucks in front of my face, before taking another toke. He grimaces. “Hmmm, maybe I ripped you off, man. This stuff isn’t that great after all.” I smirk and say “How about I take my money back then, asshole?”
Ominous Thoughts on Crown Valley Parkway (Jul. 5, 2003)
Third of four from the unfinished OC fiction project. This one's actually not too horrible on re-read, though it could still use some work of course. It's a great germ of a scene, and is based on two disconnected events from high school: driving with Crosby in his slow-ass Jeep to South Laguna, and cramming into a tiny bedroom at Brandon's way up on Niguel Road. The narrator here is named Derek, and the other guy is Colin, but the connection to my recent characters of the same names is kind of tenuous. Might be good for some backstory later, though.
I'm in Colin's car on a Saturday evening and he's driving us up PCH to Crown Valley on our way to Jake's, cause J scored some weed from a buddy of his who goes to Santa Margarita. I’d made a stupid mistake and admitted I hadn't done it yet, so the guys were unnaturally keen to see what might happen to me once I inhaled. I have no opinion on the situation yet, but maybe that's because my mind's elsewhere already; Colin told me this afternoon that Alicia Montero would be coming tonight too (maybe her regular cheap weekend laugh fix took a rain check) and she'd be bringing all her hot friends and they'd undoubtedly become sickened or giddy at the sight of me high. Stoned. Fried. Completely Wasted. Utterly, pathetically debilitated. It's getting tougher by the second to forget images of the different ways these gorgeous girls will involuntarily twist and disfigure their own pretty faces once I attain the expected state of idiocy. I could be overreacting, but there's no way to be sure.
Okay sports fans, that's it for now, but tune in next week for more half-baked fiction, as the Summer of Shameless Revisionism draws to a close. Hopefully I won't be so laggy on the novel after that. Thanks for enduring it all.

August 09, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Soapblox Rants #2 (2008)

...and we're back again with a second helping of political blog rant highlight reel mediocrity. For Shameless Revisionism #9 we at last enter the Present, sloshing through the fetid bog of the 2008 Presidential election and all its attendant fallout. Like last week, this entry will be a harrowing endurance test of Keir's Gonzo Rip-Offs, a cringeworthy tour of how I amuse myself by wasting other peoples' time in the Soapblox-powered "progressive" political blogosphere. I described it all much better in the previous post, but basically the stuff we're touching on today is simply a way to get my HST/Taibbi-type fix, while maintaining the fiction of not taking current events too personally or appearing knowledgeable about the sordid realities of our time. Some may, and have, called it cowardly detachment, and they'd be right. Others have derided it as lame ignorance, when not ignoring it outright, but those wankers just have axes to grind.

Yeah, Iike I don't. For whatever reason, though- be it John Edwards or the Fascist Olympics or Bernie Mac or the past week of Network IP Address Treachery, I'm in a dumb bitchy mood, and am not interested in elaborating any more self-aggrandizing introductions for stuff that will only really send me further down the spiral of terminal narcissism. So let's just get to it and get it out of the way, cause there will be Fiction next week, which is much more fun, right? Sure it is. Click on an essay title link to see the whole post.

The Last Binge of SupaDupaPhat Tuesday (Feb. 4, 2008)
In which I tried, for the umpteenth time, to wean myself away from the excesses of Campaign '08, specifically the protracted Democractic Primary between Senators Clinton and Obama. It was a little frightening, a little more disappointing, but not really surprising, to see everything fall into what essentially became an overblown Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, only with the White House at stake instead of the American League pennant.

So, tomorrow evening after work, against my better judgment, and because all the other young- and wish-they-were-young peeps will be doing so, I shall take my useless Permanent Absentee Ballot over to the incongruous trailer park across the way and cast my California Primary vote for Barack Obama, instead of a silly protest vote for Johnny Sunshine or Dennis the Menace or Mike or Ralph or Ronnie Paul or any of those crazed, rabid badgers running as Republicans. I will buy the entire Manilow and Celine Dion catalogues before defiling myself to that degree. I will vote for Barack Obama knowing that if he wins, now and again in November, he will waltz in like JFK and stagger out, after only one term, as Jimmy the Carter, Mark II. The Stagflation Economy Beast will have its way with ol' Barry, even and especially if he's able to bury all those chickenshit bigots across This Greedy Land Of Ours.
Ripping Fiction from the Facts (Apr. 10, 2008)
This was my first Writing in the Raw column at Docudharma (my second one is Five Vulgar Pictures, the intro to all this revisionism) and all I did was run my mouth about the novel in uncool and incoherent ways. Some people dug it, though, so go figure. It's actually a pretty good example of how much I can write flat-out in one burst of manic production, complete with ham-fisted stylization and goofy wordplay.
It's all about having something to do, really. About how you keep your creative brain churning when it's already spent the entire workday creating for other people. About how you can make music by yourself when the guys in the band have all moved away so gigs & rehearsals are rare and special. About being selfish. About lying your fucking head off. About writing what you know, with deliberate mistakes. About lots of things that won't be crammed into a riffy list. Abou...yeah, well, you know. The backstory is not important. It will only get in the way and make readers guess at motivation when they should just enjoy the story. Because hey, even amateurs and dilettantes never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right? That's right, buddy. The rules are likewise less than important. Oh really? Fuck yes. Maybe not made to be broken, but made to be bent. Bent to your will. Bent to what suits the story.
Beware the Terror of Campaign Bloat (May 15, 2008)
Yet another half-baked treatise on the Democratic primary, but by this time Barack Obama had decisively averted the return of Clintonism. Nevertheless, many Hillary supporters dug in for the duration, prepared to go to the mat for their chosen corporate candidate (though of course Barry's basically that as well). It was a display of depseration and denial and utter insanity, and it was compounded by the inability of the Obama faithful to exert patience and good judgement. But whatever- it's over now, just more bad blood under the bridge, right?
Your candidate is not an extension of yourself, so don't project your hopes, dreams, hang-ups, prejudices, and fears onto their carefully constructed personalities. Your candidate does not, deep down, care about you or about accurately representing you. They probably do not like you. In fact they fear you—when they do not hold you in arrogant contempt—but that is only because you have the nominal ability to fire them if you ever get the stones to tear yourselves away from GTA4 and Dancing with the Stars and actually care. Your candidate's gargantuan ego has already impressed upon their psyche the horrible inclination to run for federal office, and as everyone knows, one has to be three kinds of crazy to even run for state office in this country, so remember to keep said brain flukes under consideration before making personal and emotional investments in your candidate and their campaign.
When the Banshee Screamed for Thatcher 2.0 (Jun. 4, 2008)
By the time Clinton actually did concede, of course, the primary was basically over, and though it was interesting to see so many states still in play and actively campaigned for by both senators, fatigue had long since set in among self-important bloviators and armchair pundits alike. So imagine everyone's relief when the DLC's favorite poster-girl finally went down to defeat.
I didn't notice it at first. I was under the all-consuming headphones, demolishing my remaining hearing with an album called Diamond Hoo Ha, deep within the selfish recesses of my own warped and spoiled suburban mind. It was the night of yet another dipshit, two-bit primary in some states, and an even skimpier night of civic duty here on the Central Coast, so the low whine was indistinguishable from Gaz Coombs and Measure G and Proposition 99 and the rest of existence's dull roar. Then I recognized it, processed the foul frequency in my debilitating cerebrum, and promptly dismissed it. Popular vote Florida Michigan in to win why'd he back when I was president blah blah fucking blah. Another primary is lost and yet won. Another goal post is moved and yet there are still points scored and funds raised and egos stroked and babies kissed and blood sucked and brains fried in this stupefying death march of a Democratic primary. The ciphers croaked on. The mirrors kept reflecting. The desperate projection couldn't stop thinking about tomorrow.
I Will Speak Ill of the Dead (Jun. 15, 2008)
Yeah, and then Tim Russert died a week later, the poor bastard—setting off a firestorm of hyperventilation and righteous anger from everyone who remembered how much of a war-enabler and White House patsy he'd been for the whole of Bush's term in office. And yet it still felt strange to trash someone who'd just died. I'd have had no qualms at all doing this for someone like Rove, or Cheney, or Delay, or even Jesse Helms (who kicked it not long after), but the anti-Russert stuff wasn't really about Russert, so instead I decided to pick on some safe, slow-moving targets:
Adolf Hitler was a mass-murdering fuckhead, a one-balled, stunted, sexually-frustrated revenge junkie who had the gall to manipulate his entire nation's feelings of post-WWI inadequacy only to completely wreck it all in a king-hell, epic case of death-by-cop. Oh, and fuck him for killing all those innocent people in such horrible ways. Josef Stalin was an illiterate pigfucker who clawed his way to the top of the Soviet pyramid by killing a bunch of pansy academics who'd never been in a real fight in their lives. As icing on the cake, he took their pretty little redistributive theories and deployed them with all the subtleties available to his tiny back-country brain. Fuck him sideways for killing all those innocent people, too.
It went on like that, through Alexander and Napoleon and Mao and more. Oh yes, it sucked. Big time.

Sneers and Gloating at the FISA Hearings (Jul. 9, 2008)
The capitulation of the nominally in-power Democratic Congress, including Senator Obama, to a spy-enabling Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendment approved by the lame-duck, redundantly useless President Bush, was certainly predictable, but it was still a chickenshit, vile betrayal of everything Pelosi, Reid et all claimed to stand for. Naturally, some so-called liberals and progressives didn't see it this way, writing it off as a tactical compromise, and wondered "where was the big FISA protest, then?" I wondered that too, so I wrote one.
I was there, and it was AWESOME. 100,000 bloggers stormed the Capitol, dressed in preppie business suits, carrying pocket Constitutions, and wielding their laptops like deadly maces. People trampled each other to kick Harry Reid in the balls. The old coot put up a hell of a fight, but in the end the numbers were against him, and he submitted meekly, like we knew he would. We even asked Feingold and Dodd if they wanted a go, but Chris demurred and Russell said it would be Wrong. They'd used up all their spinal fluid on the floor of the Senate, and they needed a refill. Fat chance. That precious liquid is now trading at like $230 a gallon, and even on a Congressional salary, that's only a week's supply. The Republicans thought it was hilarious until we turned on them. Let's just say that the hallowed halls of Washington ran thick with blue-blooded muck and leave it at that. I know, I know- you'll never get the real story from the Liberal Media either, but hey, in this case that's because we stripped their credentials and herded them all into the Tidal Basin for ritual cleansing at the hands of Helen Thomas.
Yeah, What Winston Wolfe Said (Jul. 24, 2008)
Senator Obama's rockstar-like reception in Berlin during his Super-Awesome Summer Tour of Awesomeness was nice to see—even if he did subject the audience to platitudes and vague generalities—because for once, Brand America wasn't hated with the heat of a nova somewhere in the world. Or so it seemed, especially to fervent Obama supporters who seem to think that November is now in the bag. Naivete is so cute, but it's not very effective, so I sought to remind everyone how full of shit they were, with the help of a handy quote from Pulp Fiction fixer Mr. Wolfe: "Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet."
Indeed, Wins-ton. Oh sure, the news from Berlin is fantastic (how often do you get to type that one?), but if my calculations are correct, it's still July 24, 2008—not January 20, 2009—and the junior Senator from the great state of Illinois is still a long, long way from his desired November election result. None of that "thirty minutes in ten," "three months in one" shit. Not only that, but we're all still an eternity away from the much-vaunted "realignment" election result we all desperately, maniacally crave. Today, the Germans merely saw us get our hands wet, not wash them. Yeah. When Vincent accidentally (or maybe on purpose, who knows?) blew poor Marvin's skull apart back in 2001, we knew we'd be in for some major, major janitorial work. No one doubted that we were in big fuckin' trouble. When we ended up at Jimmy's banana-slug bungalow in Toluca Lake to wait for Mr. Wolfe, we knew that Winston'd make us his bitches while laughing along with Julia and ripping us about life in the sticks. We ended up characters with no character, but that was acceptable, so we would deal with it.
Yeah, and if you thought that was bad, be thankful I didn't include this week's Trainspotting pastiche. Anyway, next week we'll go back in time again, back to 2002 when I thought I might be able to write short fiction, before summary grad school rejection banished that impulse for a few years. Only two shots of Revisionism left, gang, so get it while it's hot.

August 01, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Soapblox Rants #1 (2007)

Okay, I've got four Shameless Revisionism posts left—two (including this one) for recent rants, two for older fiction. The rants are sort of a combination of political enthusiasm (from long years of reading Hunter Thompson and Matt Taibbi) plus a kind of skepticism of that same enthusiasm. In other words, a chickenshit, cynical way of bitching about politics. For the last five years, of course, the web has made publicizing this stuff dreadfully easy, and as a lazy suburban liberal it was all too predictable that by 2003, I'd be sucked into the vortex of Soapblox-powered "progressive" mega-blogs like the Daily Kos and its ilk: BooMan Tribune, My Left Wing, Docudharma, Political Fleshfeast, and all the rest.

There are lots of opinions out there about these sites and what they do and don't do or what their real purpose is, but for my money they're just different levels of the same thing: a non-threatening steam-valve for bar-stool ranters and armchair analysts. Not to mention a lucrative ATM machine for the political parties, PACs, and single-issue groups of the American Left. For me, though, they're just another venue to foist gonzo on the world. Back in 2004 I'd tried and failed to blog the U.S. presidential campaign, and after too many lame posts about the Democratic Primary (and a weepy post-Election Day hangover rant) I vowed to come to my senses and just have fun with it.

So I ranted about politics on DKos for a few years (handy anthology link!), moaning and griping about how Unfair It All Is, and finally coughed up a semi-popular diary called Daily Kos has Gone to Hell. It was fifteen seconds' worth of blog-fame, but didn't make sense outside of that specific context. However, it did remind me how much fun bizarro rants could be. Eventually, they just became my cool-down, recess-writing after the harder work of the novel. Anyway, without further ado, here they are. As always, click on a title to see the whole post:

The Radio Around Here Like, Totally Sucks, Man (Jul. 11, 2007)
A belated, gimpy sequel to "Daily Kos has Gone to Hell," this thing was a sloppy, unfocused, pathetically simple metaphor; conflating FM radio formatting with political blogs. Like the DKos hell piece, it's tough to digest outside of the original context, but not as much, so I include it here. That and it set a dubious standard for almost everything that followed.

So one summer I went away on this lame vacation with my family for about two weeks, and when I come back, I dunno, something weird happened. The same classic rock station that I loved before had started to play (and play and play and play) some real lame-ass shit, you know? I mean, sure, I guess I liked it the first hundred times or so, but my God, the non-stop marathons of Styx, Foreigner, Journey, and all sorts of, like laaaaaame bullshit bands really turned me off, man. I mean, the fucking Eagles, man? Please. Like finito. I felt hosed, you know? I didn't know what to do, so I called up one of my friends and said "Bro, what the fuck is up with the radio? Who died and made this shit 'good', man?"
When the Revolution Comes, I Know where I'll Be (Jul. 19, 2007)
I was apparently in a self-flagellatory mood for this one, a week after "Radio" and a bit further through the looking glass. Morning coffee does wonders for my gonzo output, lemme tellya.
Oh yes, this piggie can squeal, no question about that. The thing that I feared would happen has happened. I remember telling my friends and family, while in the fervent throes of Campaign 2004, that the worst possible outcome after a Kerry loss would be a repeat of the staggering shoulder-shrug that the public seemed to give in the mid-seventies after Nixon won big and then crashed and burned. Of course, I had no idea what that was really like, bicentennial baby that I am. No idea, not then- but now? I'm beginning to understand.
The Festering Stew Continues to Rise (Aug. 13, 2007)
This was originally just a long comment on some thread at Docudharma (DKos for the "metaphysical" leftist) about the difficulty of maintaining a blog (!), but with a little editing it sort of passes for a normal post. Almost.
Writing was just always one of those things I could do. That I had to do, whether in blog posts or novel attempts or song lyrics. Didn't and doesn't make it fun, though, and like anything else it leaves you if you don't practice. I always thought that good writing will get praise, but great writing will fuck people off. They won't like it and won't get it and say it's shit and be willfully ignorant or condescending or arrogant or snide or snobby and they will try and get other people to agree with them.
Screw Bin Laden, I'm Going Shopping! (Sep. 11, 2007)
Okay, here's where things finally get fun for me, rant-wise. Yeah, it's a typical anti-consumerist screed, but I was getting pretty damn tired of the fear-mongering, seven years after 9/11. Well, that and feeling guilty for my ossifying Suburban Liberal tendencies. But so what? It was fun to write.
I am afraid because I am told to be afraid, on this day especially above all others, the Day Of Yet Again Pissing Ourselves In Fear, but lo, I have been given the cure, and it is sweet, glorious, groovy Capitalism. As we all know, Satan gave us Capitalism so we could all dream of being as wealthy and glamorous as him, and so here we all are, forking it over, extending our credit lines and buying, buying, buying ourselves into blisssful oblivion, gleeful participants in the great game of gaining. Shopping! We're Shopping!! Well, some of us are- but there must be those who are unable to participate in this most glorious of distractions, who secretly yearn to join the fortunate few. Surely.
Shrill Dispatches from the Bent and Rusty Tubes (Sep. 19, 2007)
Just as much of a caffeinated kick as the last one, "Shrill Dispatches" is still a surreal, crazy read almost a year later. I mean, I have no idea whether or not the thing is any good, but I like it, and with improvised barf like this, that's the best you can hope for, isn't it?
It's learned behavior, I've seen and heard it a thousand times. Thought I'd be immune to its awful effects by now- thought I'd be able to turn the other cheek and immerse my face in a mask of cynical cool, but Noooooooo, my conscience still pecks at my heart like a vulture, clawing away each last grain of immunity until all I have left is a Festering Sore of Wretched Shame, pulsating with the endless beat of Guilt. Oh yes, Guilt. That nagging affliction of the coddled and pretty around the world, that embarassing rash on the body politic of Meaningful Action. Repulsive, of course, but simultaneously contagious, and near-fatal when taken with severity, or imposed by the Pious.
Squint and You Can See the Sox' Pinstripes (Oct. 25, 2007)
Another extended comment from a Docudharma Writing in the Raw thread. I had just re-read Thompson's Hey Rube collection of sports columns, and I guess that was still thumping around in my head while I was watching the '07 World Series.
For the third year in a row, it looks as if baseball fans will be subjected to a boring-as-whale-shit World Series Sweep, as the Boston Red Sox dismembered the Colorado Rockies in game one by a score of 13-1. The Rockies' fabled Cinderella postseason 20-for-21 win streak came to a shuddering, brutal end when, after an eight-day layoff of their own making (by defeating Arizona early) in the snows of Denver, the Rockies' bats fell silent against Boston ace pitching android Josh Beckett, who had his way with Colorado's lineup despite fronting ridiculously juvenile facial hair. That was it for the game, but who cares? The burgeoning crowds of Red Sox Nation savored their dominance and confidently bloated their egos across America when their team finally became what they'd always hated and feared: the New York Yankees.
Artistic Creativity vs. Professional Commitments (Dec. 6, 2007)
Hard left turn here, to flirt with a "serious" topic for the sake of the DKos Kossacks Under 35 series. I was asked to expound on the vexing problem of art vs. work, and ranted accordingly. For better or worse, I'm still proud of this one too.
So, "The Balance." Anyone ever enslaved by the Creative Impulse has had to come to grips with this merciless reality. Whether it's carving out precious free time to empty your head of the swirling brilliance held back all day while you earn a paycheck, or struggling to stay inspired when your muse fucks off to Barbados with some other pretentious asshole, the problem of balancing obligations with release remains the same. For me, dealing with it involves a nebulous combination of discipline, collaboration, flexibility, and learning from my (and others') mistakes.
Next week, the rants continue into 2008, our current Foul Election Year. Oh yes, it's all downhill from here, folks. Stay tuned.

Related Posts with Thumbnails