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.

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