Deep Thoughts

Stuff i feel like bitching about at length.

A Man Mansplains Mansplaining to Mansplainers

Gather round children. Come on. Come in close. Listen well. You there… get your finger out of your nose. You.. the one in the green… stop punching your neighbor in the arm. Just stop it. Settle down now. Shhhhhh…..

Alright. Everyone? Are you all settled in? No. Put away that bucknife. You can whittle that stick on recess. On second thought. Gimme that.

Okay. Here’s the thing. You know how you read an article on the internet and then you read the comments and they are all unironically demonstrating the content of the article? That just happened. I mean. It JUST happened. To me. And i figured i had to say something because it’s sort of staggering how some folks aren’t getting this. And i figured, y’know… the best way to get some folks to actually HEAR it is if it comes from a guy. Cuz frankly, and lets be honest here, you seem to have a shut off valve somewhere in your head when a woman says… well… anything.

So… What IS mansplaining? Well… It is a verb. ‘To Mansplain’. One has ‘mansplained’. It is, as you might have guessed, pretty deliberately gendered. You might have noticed. It is also a constructed word. These things are all true. And as such these seem to be the crux of any argument.

I do not know, nor do i particularly give a rats ass, about the particular etymology of the word. I only care that it’s construction delineates a certain long standing practice amongst a section of the gender (yeah… that’s you gents) who have historically been quite pleased with interjecting their thoughts and opinions in opposition to, and quite often in complete ignorance of, the opinions and thoughts of the ‘opposite’ gender. It is, pretty bluntly, a discursive artefact of male privilege.

No really. It is. That’s pretty much it.

Now, folks might object… (yeah… that’s likely you too Gents) that ‘hey! It’s divisive! Not all guys do that! I don’t do that. That’s not fair!

Well… you know the old adage about love and war. Well… this would be the war portion. and quite frankly, you’re losing. I know. It’s horrifying isn’t it? To be sitting on top of the world, grinning down upon all you survey with the insouciant surety that you are master’s of your domain and suddenly the whole world shifts and everything is looking like a terrible threat because people accuse you of mansplaining. It’s a threat to your… ahem… masculinity. It’s dangerous. It subverts the rightful order of things. (That order being that men’s words and opinions carry more weight and import than… well… anyone else’s.)

It’s a fucking word. I mean seriously.

You know what’s funny about getting stung by a word? You know what’s just a huge fricking belly laughing riot about all of the controversy and the sad puppies howling along with their own perception of their balls being snipped off? It’s that this word, in being dismissive of the eons old tradition of mansplaining, is actually giving men the taste of being dismissed. Hmm… it’s almost like that was on purpose. Gee.

That’s what i mean by you’re losing. If you miss that point… that it was actually DELIBERATE IRONY… you are woefully obtuse and so concerned about the state of your dangly bits that you don’t even notice that the world is wandering away without you.

And you should lose. Really. I mean fuck it. You’ve been propping up an idiotic tradition of masculinity for.. oh god… FOR FUCKING EVER. Don’t you think it’s just a wee bit (ahem… pardon the pun) confining? I mean, really. You LIKE being proscribed by your buddies who don’t understand your closet love for horses? You actually LIKE being called a ‘pussy’ for trading in a minivan, kids and a family for friday night black outs and donkey porn? You LIKE the fact that someone dropped you in a uniform when you were seven or eight years old and you’ve adopted it like you’re a proud member of the universal brotherhood of the mighty dick? Yeah… Cuz that’s what men do. They let everyone tell them what to be, how to think, what to like, who to like, what cars they can drive and still be a man.

Fuck that. Lose.

Or to put it in terms a little more like what you’re probably used to: Man up.

Mansplaining is a threat. It’s supposed to be. It’s a very effective one. It calls on you… YES YOU… to question just how much damned ego you need. If you find yourself defending it and feeling like ‘oh dear! someone just said i was mansplaining and i feel… i feel… like i’m not being respected.’ You know what? IT’S ALL TRUE. Now what? How much do you NEED to be respected. Just how important is your ego? How important is your opinion? Do you think you can find a way to actually discuss your opinion… ahem… you know… without… umm… maybe making it sound like yours is the only opinion that matters? Do you think you could actually find room in your ego to LISTEN?

Gents… seriously… Listening is the key to any communication. ANY. I wish i could say that in about a hundred different languages. ANY communication. If someone actually feels that you are listening THEN you are having a conversation. If they don’t. You aren’t. Pretty much that simple.

I’m a writer. Words are my business. They have power. But the cool thing about them is they have the power we give them. Inside all this discussion on ‘mansplaining’ is someone actually trying to explain something to you and… well… so far i see an awful lot of not listening.

But that’s the thing about having power isn’t it? It’s really hard to get past the feeling that you are always losing it. (hint… you always are, and it’s not worth having anyway. Makes you paranoid and not a very good person.)

Anyway. Just thought this might be helpful.

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Categories: Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Right writing

You’ve probably popped in here to get my long-awaited words of wisdom on plot. Yeah, sorry to disappoint but that post has been delayed yet again. Just think how insightful it will be when I actually do get around to it though! Nope. This one is about getting it right. That’s pretty much the be-all-end-all of what you’re writing. Write right. Hemingway once said something about it. His idea when he sat down to his little moleskine notebooks was to write one true sentence. Tim O’Brien took that theme a little further in his section on war stories in The Things They Carried. Buddhism has hammered it into maxims that I am constantly forgetting: right speech, right thought, and then I lose track.

Write right.

I know what you’re probably going to say: “But, dude. I write about vampires and stuff.” I don’t care. Get it right. You can’t possibly tell me that your four hundred year old bloodsucker is perfectly fine with taking his senior year over again for the three hundredth time. That’s the trick.

Now here’s the extra crispy corollary to that trick: You Will Fail. Actually You Must Fail. One of the most charming and amazing thing about reading Hemingway, to me anyway, was how his characters failed so beautifully. If you’ve read A Moveable Feast it isn’t too hard to see how Hem himself failed gloriously. It takes an amazing amount of talent to wrap your most painful failure between two covers and publish it posthumously. What a jerk. Failure, after all, is its own amazing truth. It’s right, in other words.

Now, not content to stick completely to one topic I’ll tell you why this is so important. See, I spent a good long time farting around with my writing: plonking out little stories where and when they’d strike me. I was sort of aimless. Y’know? Just putting words on the page, whipping up some characters with some stuff and throwing them in a blender and seeing what came out. It wasn’t a lot of fun, actually, but it was writing and that enabled me to call myself A Writer. Yes. In caps. Just like that. A Writer can scribble away for hours in coffee shops. A Writer has an opinion on books that you must listen to because he’s A Writer.

Uh huh.

The thing is, I kind of cracked my mind a few years ago and after that just cranking out any old story wasn’t good enough. I wanted to write the stories that I actually felt and frankly I wasn’t really feeling any of them. I could make it look like I did and – just to polish my own beret – some of them were pretty good. So once I got my head back together I started working on stuff again. At first it was simple little stuff. The Short Man. Just a little story about a detective trying to find a killer. But it fit. And it fit well. It might not have been terrific but it fit well. And it was a hint of something that was… yep you guessed it. Right.

Now I’m not saying that it was true. In fact, I really didn’t know shit about writing mysteries. Truth be told I still don’t. I really don’t think anybody does. Mysteries are messy, which is why writers are constantly reinventing them and why defense attorneys are still so mighty popular. You put a guy on the floor with holes in him. How did he get that way? Yep. Sounds simple enough and for some writers that’s where it stops. Intrepid hero finds the bad guy and saves the day. But it’s never that simple as any attorney – prosecuting or defense will tell you. Heck it’s not that simple for a detective. Stand yourself in front of a witness who has every reason in the world to tell you what happened to the dead guy and have them lie to you. You know they’re lying. Why in god’s name are they lying? And that’s just one aspect of an investigation, right?

Well that’s what I mean by getting it right.

After a while with my detective I realized that I could make this thing sing. Maybe you don’t see it if you’ve read them, but – again being honest here – I don’t care. I feel it. I can see the potential and I want to get it better, why? Well it’s simple. But before I get to that let me hop back one more little step to explain something else about me.

I tend to yell at the tv a lot. And the radio in my car. Which I foolishly keep on the news. That should tell you something about the dire state of musical radio in Milwaukee that I’d rather listen to the news. One of the things I yell most often (a running theme of my rants of which my cats are avid listeners) is that none of it is actually helpful. In fact, it’s the opposite of helpful. Which is hurtful. Thanks. I know. I’m getting to that. And lately I’ve been feeling that way about fiction and TV too. I grew up in a time where… well… they created characters like Magnum, Indiana Jones, Han Solo. We were outside until dark when we could be and hated rainy days because it meant being forced to play boardgames with your brother or *Gasp* share your toys with them. Which meant sharing your world. Yikes. The Horror. I know you’ve heard all this claptrap halcyon days shit before. I won’t bore you with it. But my point is that it was – hell – it is good to look at guys like Magnum, who always tried to do the right thing, and want to be that guy some day.

We now live in a world that loves to believe its much more complicated. Somehow we’ve come to believe that we’re deeper, wiser, more intricate. Fact is, it’s the same world but we’re sorely lacking in folks to help guide us through it. That, I believe, is what makes us think it’s a lot more complicated. It makes us feel better that our problems are bigger than us. We’re helpless little waifs in a dangerous, wolf infested world. But it’s really a damned lie. It’s the same world only more people are out there shouting wolf all over the place and keeping our heads spinning. Yes. There are wolves. There always are but it’s getting a little hard these days to tell a wolf from a poodle and while you’re waiting for some gibbering head to tell you which is which your sheep are all gone.

And that’s where I pull this long segue back to writing. I figured I could do it right. Right by me and right by the world I wanted to help make by writing. I wanted good people. I wanted people who worked hard to be good, honest, right, true. Sure Meg’s a smarmy wise-cracking detective but I know there is some part of her that believes in the good she’s doing. But that’s not to say she’s a starry-eyed upholder of the red white and blue. No, she’s seen far too much for that, and so have we, but that doesn’t give us the permission to be exhausted by it. That’s what I mean about right. Write right. Write true and keep in mind the world you want to create, a world you may feel is slipping by the wayside. Meg’s my avatar to hold back the crap i yell at on the TV.

So that’s what I’m doing and some folks are going to say ‘that’s not realistic. Realistic is gritty, dirty, putting a jaundiced eye on the ugly things in the world and not flinching.’ I say that’s bullshit. People flinch. They should flinch. They should turn away from the awful things in the world. Witness doesn’t mean staring vacantly at the terrible. It means being human – being affected. It means you didn’t want to see but you did and now you’re just a little bit haunted by it. I’m not interested in being presented with the realistic on a silver platter. What sort of horrible platter is that anyway? ‘here folks, it’s a yummy four course dinner of pain and suffering, get used to it because tomorrow you get more of the same until you insist it’s steak tartar.’ Screw that. Resist the awful. But be right and true.

Now I’m not saying ‘go forth, minion writers and create an army of captain america’s to fight the demons that plague us.’ Nope. I guess I mean: unless you’re ready and able to stand over a slaughterhouse without batting an eyelash don’t pretend that the slaughter is just okey-dokey, or that ‘hey, this is really going to be an awesome motivator for my main character’. Unless you’re willing to chat with the devil and shake his hand don’t pretend you are. Write what you feel and make it true. If it pisses you off enough to yell at your television, put that into your characters, your plot, your settings but work really hard to be true to them too. Seek that authenticity if you can. If you write about firefighters get out there and talk to some. If you write about soldiers, find some. If you write about housewives, etc. Take whatever they tell you and put it through your own experiences. How do YOU feel about this or that. That’s what I’ve been preaching about with the seminar’s I’ve written about and the TV Shows i bitch about.

Think about why you’re writing. Ooh. There’s another eightfold path thing! Right action. If you’re motivated by adoring fans and people being dazzled by your riches and awesomeness please try to think deeper about what you’re doing. You are creating worlds. You’re creating readers. You’re creating the taste by which you’ll be enjoyed. Someone famous said that. Byron maybe?

Shelley once said ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. Sad thing about that is we’re doing about a good a job of it as the actual legislators of the world.

If you ask yourself the question ‘why am I writing this’ and the answer is ‘cuz buff dudes with swords are cool’. Try again. You can still have fun but make it matter. Trust me: its way better when it actually matters. It’s even more fun.

Oh yeah, and Fail – but make it worth failing at.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Funny Thing Happened…

As usual I have to start with a little TV thing. I know. I said i wasn’t going to. I said i was done. And then they dragged me back in! But it’s a short one i promise. Did anyone catch Boston’s Finest this week? I know, I know. I’ve been gushing a little bit about it. But here’s why: Did you catch Detective Twitchel searching the car? You should have. They made kind of a big deal about it. Did you see the way he was watching the suspect as he searched? Yeah. There was a lot of editing going on while it was happening, but where did you see that before if you’re a Tv Crime addict like me? Yeah. That’s right. The Mentalist. He does that ALL. THE. TIME. Apparently because the detectives he works with are way to wrapped up in their completely unfounded theories to pay attention to the things Jane does constantly. Or to observe.

I bring it up because we’re constantly bombarded with one-sided characters. Stereotypes. I think I went a bit off the rails with this a few weeks ago when talking about that shiny piece of prime time garbage, Golden Boy. TV Characters, as a rule, are contractually obligated to not grow or really learn anything. Ever. It must be pretty boring being a TV character actor – sticking your face into a cardboard cut out every day. I’m sure the paycheck makes up for it, though. I heard a story once where William Peterson was talking about his struggles with his show – CSI. He mentioned that Grissom is never allowed to smile. That sucks. How do you write that? I mean as writers we can’t have our characters be the same person from story to story, can we? They have to learn something. They have to live. Which is probably why TV writers are swapped out like disks on a CD player. Too bad for the actors though.

Personally I have a LOT to learn. Sometimes so damned much that it’s paralyzing. How do I grow this blog? How do I more effectively market my stories? What’s the brand name of a half way decent stylus so that I can personally design and draw cover art for my naked amazon stories? Yeah. They’re naked. Go look at them. See I’m a one man band here. So was Sisyphus. Well… maybe not a band… though I’m sure we could get a good rhythm going if we strapped some tambourines to his legs.

So I want my people to grow. They have to grow. How do they deal with the things that happen to them? The world doesn’t sit still waiting for the next episode to start. There are baseball games to watch, fight’s to have with your wife or girlfriend, pets dying, computers breaking, the little red-headed girl you see on the bus every day but can’t muster the guts to talk to. What do these things have to do with mystery writing? Well… what do they have to do with anything? Any character? You want to write? Learn how to act. Really act. Pay attention to the parts you already play and how you act in this or that circumstance. How did that little red-headed girl smiling at you make you feel when you were ten? How does it make you feel remembering it at 40?

In my unwashed opinion, understanding your own moments and such brings you deeper into your characters. You’ve already felt everything you need to feel to write. Even if you’re only twelve years old. All you need to do is put that into your characters. You don’t have to make their experience yours and frankly you can’t and shouldn’t. Do that and you become one of those pompous twits hanging out with your goatee and an au lait somethingerother bitching about how no one ‘understands’ your art. My main character, Meg, is an Iraq War veteran. I’ve never been to Iraq. I’ve never been to war. She and I have a nice agreement that I don’t even try to understand what that was for her. I don’t ask and she doesn’t tell me – except when it matters to the story and then it’s still with the understanding that I don’t try to get too deep into it. I don’t try to control it. When it comes to editing, and I can get away with it, that stuff is the first thing cut. In my opinion, your characters should be like that. They should be comfortable enough to lie to you.

Let them lie. Write the lie.

So that’s why this is called A Funny Thing Happened. A standard joke line. A lie. A funny meaningless story. But a story. And that’s exactly what all of this is all about. Telling stories. You can start any story that way. Hamlet: A funny thing happened on my way to murder my uncle. A Moveable Feast: A funny thing happened to me in Paris. Pretty much any mystery you’ve ever read: A funny thing happened to me while I was trying to solve this crime. The little red-headed girl: a funny thing happened to me on the bus ride to school. Vampire stories: a funny thing happened to me as I was trying to die. So it’s a bracket. It’s the plot. It’s the character. Who found it funny? What did they find funny? Was it actually funny?

And that’s the trick of it isn’t it? It isn’t always funny. But we try, don’t we? Even the story itself is making something out of nothing. Like an interrogation or a confession it’s about the end but it’s how you get there that makes it the end. And those moments are a stew of present, past, thoughts, reflections, rumination. It’s how we make those moments funny. It’s how we make the stories we tell ourselves – about ourselves – make us.

I once sat down – like an idiot – to write a vampire story. I pretty much loathe the whole vampire lineage of stories. I tend to think vampires are gradually overtaking pirates as the most over-used romance trope in existence. I blame Bronte’s Heathcliff for this. And Byron. Damn that Byron. Anyway. It’s here to stay, of course, and i wanted to have a go with it. So i started this character and gave him the usual back story and aged him at about 400 years or so and i sat back and looked at this feller and realized he was literally the most incredibly bored, uninspired wreck of a character ever. 400 years and here he was in an age where he couldn’t even be bored without someone thinking it was ‘his curse’. How many fatally colossal mistakes had he made that should have killed him but didn’t? I ended up coming to the conclusion that he wasn’t tortured or dark or anything – he was hysterical. Everything absolutely HAD to be a joke because only laughing it off was sustainable. Anything else was a sure-fire way to watch the sun come up.

A funny thing happened while I watched TV last night – I thought of the characters as they were presented to me – unchanging, cardboard, ignorant, and then I thought about what those actors knew about those characters that we slack-jawed viewers didn’t. And then I thought about what the characters knew about the actors who played them. Then I lost my mind a little bit and wrote a blog about it.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Meg Brown Mysteries, Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Accidental Education: Games and the Real World, Etc.

As a writer and former devotee of fantastical works of fiction i have an uncomfortable relationship with the entertainment diaspora of video games. I should say straight out that i am also an avid gamer. This is not the same thing as saying i truly like them. They are still mostly a distraction, a diversion, and sometimes a complete and total waste of time. What interests me most about them is their potential. Games, like most writers, would be graded with the dubious distinction in the classroom of ‘not living up to their potential’ – a remark i’ve heard many times on my own report cards from when i was a lad of 15 – lo these many decades ago.

The trouble with video games is that they are not literature. Literature aims at explaining ourselves to ourselves, deepening the experience of our reality through identification with others. Games, on the other hand, accidentally stumble into a strange form of education. Well, some of them anyway. Most of them only educate you on the best way to dispatch zombies. But see i’m one of those management RPG gamers. I love The Sims, Civilization, the Total War epics, etc. Anything where you build empires and attempt to maintain and grow them is my thing. The war and killing stuff – ehn. You could leave that out of them and i would still be a pretty happy world builder.

Literature, you see, often stumbles into the human psyche, telling us a lot about ourselves and how we view the world and overcome our own foibles on a very personal level. Games, because they aren’t literature and generally aren’t written by those with a literary mind, don’t do this much. Sure there are the story games that come pretty close: Red Dead Redemption, the Grand Theft Auto series, etc. But for the most part they fall short because they are predicated on adversarial relationships of a violent (and entertaining) nature. Connection and real interest in the characters is often wanting – in the extreme. Therefore, truly interesting connection with the story isn’t really possible. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe reading, because it’s such a personal journey of the mind, can’t and shouldn’t be supplanted by games, but for an avid reader and a middling gamer i could use a little more.

Which finally brings me to the subject at hand. One thing i have noticed that games do very well is provide an opportunity to grasp difficult concepts in an informal and entertaining manner. The empire building games i love have really sparked my imagination and made me wish that even those games could do it better. Empire: Total War can be interesting in a way that a lecture on Napoleon and the age of Empires couldn’t. (unless you’re me of course) And the game itself is just deep enough to make it desirable to want to learn more. Age of Empires can teach about resource management and sustainability if you let it, and who could forget about trying to problem solve your way through the traffic snarls of SimCity?

I don’t believe that the designers of these games attempted much more than trying to make a lucrative game that would be widely engaging enough to make oodles of dough. That said they somehow stumbled into a way to teach real lessons about real things.

Lately i have been playing a lot of World of Warcraft. True to form i don’t just play. Well… I do – while i’m playing it, but whenever i log off i am flooded by the sociological, anthropological, and theoretical. I’m taken in by where it COULD take me if it were more developed and more focused and less bent on rampant entertainment. What i have learned, so far, about World of Warcraft is that it is a crash course on capitalistic entrepreneurism. Every character created and every player behind those characters, want what we all want – to acquire stuff, to be legendary, to be heroes. But within the world of Azeroth the primary means of this legendary status seems to be capitalistic. You buy your way to the top, by making things and selling them on the market – often attempting to manipulate the market in your favor.

The game itself, in terms of the stories it tells, has quite a bit of morality to it. Every race of characters has a story and it’s easy to sympathize, but the primary means of moving through the story eventually becomes economical. I don’t think of this necessarily as a bad thing. I mean, it’s a game and it’s always important to remember that (as some occasionally seem to forget) The fact remains, however, that there is more that games COULD do, if the writers were there to work on them. The stories COULD become a great means of interacting with a world that is more or less in your control, and the morality and ethics of the training that is possible if the world were well written could be an invaluable resource to a world that is getting smaller and smaller with each passing day and each bit of information shot across the world. Can you imagine, for instance, a conservative christian playing as a Paladin banding unwittingly with a conservative muslim to save a virtual home from a raging force? It’s these possibilities that could be better explored and i hope will be.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what video games are capable of but i think, in a way, these educational moments will have to remain accidental and not heavy handed. Technology seems to have thrown open the doors on the possible and shown where it crosses with the intentional and the accidental. We’ve concocted an entirely new realm (sometimes literally) where people learn quickly how to adapt the new tools at their hands and put them to a qualitative purpose. I’d like to think the best of this technology. In the past few weeks we’ve seen how it has started literally changing the world we live in. For a while now i’ve been saying the days of ‘Wars for Regime Change’ can finally be put behind us once we start securing the right of people to information. Instead of dropping bombs, drop servers, bandwith, tweets. Yeah. I know that’s a little fantastical and delusional but we have yet to fully discover just how delusional that is – particularly when the power of thought expressed, shared, and evading dictatorial repression has just moved two mountains in the past month.

So what can Games teach us? What can we learn about ourselves? What can we learn about others? Perhaps it will take a virtual world to teach us the value of the real one? Perhaps it will take Orcs and Taurens and Gnomes and Elves to teach us the absurdity of racial divides within ourselves? Who knows. Right now i can honestly say that Warcraft alone is fully capable of teaching us the intricacies of markets in a way the stock ticker on TV never could. I don’t know if thats a good thing or not but it’s more than i had before – particularly in regards to a subject i could have cared less about a month ago.

Now if you’ll pardon me i have to go check on how the Mageweave Cloth market is doing today and i’ve heard there’s a run on Iron Bars which i just happen to have on inventory.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Video Games | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People in Glass Houses – Should Get Used To Replacing Windows.

I didn’t watch the state of the union. There. I said it. There is nothing new about my not watching the state of the union but frankly these days i feel like i am in the minority for not imbibing the nectar of futility from the box of shiny colors just so that i have something to bitch or complain about the next day. And yet here i am, bitching about it anyway because it isn’t about the speech itself anymore it’s about our reaction to it.

I don’t know. It seems to me that twenty years ago there might have been many more people who couldn’t care less about a yearly speech which interrupts our regularly scheduled escapist time for a ‘serious’ lecture about the dubious state of the American Empire. Maybe this is because we are universally conscious of being in an uncertain time. Maybe we’re all worried and quaking in our respective shoes. I hear a lot of that these days, not so much the expressed thought or concern, but more the ‘sky is falling’ catastrophic pronouncements that come from almost every point of the compass except the ridiculous advertising for products.

Its a time of great change. But even that isn’t quite right. A great change, should you understand a little about history, was had after the ends of World War One and Two where each involved nation struggled hard to come to grips with gigantic new realities. This, in comparison, is a small ripple of change. Yeah. We’re worried about the economy. What’s not to worry about? We’re worried about our ego on the world stage. And for some reason we continue to want to believe that the rest of the nations of the earth haven’t called our number a long long time ago. We’re worried about debt, china, india, rich, poor, morality, ethics, etc.

In short the ‘civilized’ nations of the western empire have finally read the tea leaves laid forth and have taken their augury for fact. We’re all neurotic messes – characters in a Woody Allen play set on the national stage.

Relax.

I didn’t watch the State of the Union because i’m not interested. I didn’t watch it because it’s not interesting. It has occurred to me, recently, that politics is a bumbling nightmare of a theatre. If it is an expression of Woody Allen then all the characters are in clown makeup or blackface. They are caricatures of humanity and their lines are delivered with all the skill of performance of a bad Sci-Fi movie. I didn’t watch the State of the Union for the same reason i avoid most political statements made in the public – because it’s like a random word generator or one of those old Play-doh molds. If i have the political party of the speaker i already know what is going to be said. It’s so rote by now that everything should simply have it’s own shaped mold just to avoid having to listen to it over and over and over again: Red moons for Republicans, Green Stars for Democrats, Blue Dots for Tea Partiers, whatever. That way, instead of listening to someone’s skewed and perverse interpretation of reality we will simply have a television screen filled with that shape for the duration of the speech which will allow us to go about our daily lives actually doing things.

Because, honestly, we can all talk and fret and wring our hands in worry and consternation about the sorry state of things, we can wonder when the next shoe will drop, we can obsess about the respect and adoration our national ego is getting on the world stage or we can actually try to work, for each other, and do the absolute best we can for one another. Really we can’t do both.

I am not interested in interpretations of reality. I am interested in reality. It’s pretty cool. There are stars and gardens and rabbits and there are problems that need to be solved. There are people who have ideas on how to solve those problems. There are people who have plans, goals, are building things, are inspired to fix the things that are broken. And then there are those who simply want to complain and moan and nitpick those people and say that their ideas are stupid and they should just keep their (insert political pejorative here) ideas to themselves.

Let’s put it this way. In a Woody Allen movie you would have the main character sitting on a bench staring at a pile of wood, dressed in carpenters gear with a hammer in his hands. A plan for building a house lies nearby. But Woody doesn’t move. He sits and he stares at the spot where the house is going to be: “Who bought these nails? These can’t be the right kind of nails. I don’t think they’re pointy enough. I might hurt myself if i try to pound those nails. Yeesh. Isn’t there a softer hammer i could use? Who can understand these plans? Is that a wall i’m supposed to build? What if a bear comes and tries to take down this wall, i mean if i’m building it it’s not going to stand up to a bear. Nah. It’s better if i call someone else to build this.”

I don’t need to hear it. If i wanted that i could listen to my own ego which will provide ample opportunities and misgivings about doing anything.

We’re all responsible for each other on this earth. If i spend too much time whining about the injustice of something being broken it never gets fixed. If i spend too much time bitching about the dismal quality of education, no one gets educated. If i spend too much time worrying about the nails, the plans, the wood, the foundation, etc. the house doesn’t get built. So maybe, in the future, we could show all of our representatives where we, as human beings, stand and simply not listen when they think they have something to say. Maybe we should demand that they speak only that which is actually useful to the project of all of us building a better house.

So there you go. I didn’t watch. I’m not going to feel bad about it and i’m not going to engage in the garbage political abuse that is floating out there right now on all the media websites like some noxious cloud. But i will apologize to my small collection of readers for not being very puckish lately. I’ll work on that. I promise.

Lightening up as we speak!

Categories: Deep Thoughts | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Voting Day

I used to have grand notions of voting. I used to think it was an honor and a privilege to be called upon to add one’s conscience to the process of government in this country. Seriously. I did. Basically all the nice noble shit you hear about in the political ads. I sort of, kind of, or at least really really wanted to believe in all of it.

But that’s all over now baby blue.

So. This year, because i am still going to vote, i am not doing it for the sake of America who seems to have lit the fires on the rockets attached to this bucket to hell we find ourselves in. We seem determined, on both parties, to dredge up people who are, at best, unqualified and at worst woefully incompetent.

It seems all we have been doing is either feeding the already dangerously gigantic egos of a handful of barbaric thugs or condoning and permitting the advocacy of idiots as our representatives. I see so little governing happening now and virtually no possibility of governance happening in the future that voting in this election – even though at least i have the privilege of casting a vote for someone i believe in – seems to be a dismally quixotic act. Whatever hope i’ve had for the future of this country has been snuffed, whatever honor i had in remembering the fates of the people who secured this duty has been tarnished by people whose sole thought in achieving governance is to gratify an overwhelming urge for selfishness and unenlightened self interest. The basest of our human nature, long held in check by a government established for the people and by the people, has been unleashed upon this nation by those who would seek to pit the people at odds with each other again for the sake of eking out a few more morsels of wealth to crown the already revolting piles of it.

Pardon me if i don’t feel the nobility in such a claim and it distresses me to find that many of my fellow countrymen not only condone this but actively seek this – thinking that the preservation of gross avarice is the equivalent of the preservation of the pursuit of happiness.

So this election i can’t vote for America. I will cast my vote for her nonetheless as she’ll always, in the end, catch my faith and my hope even if it is hope for an ever diminishing ghost of some great dream that might have been – had we elected, in ourselves, honesty and goodness. I will, instead, dedicate what tiny voice i have in the name of those who don’t even have that much.

To the people of Iran, who saw their vote disregarded and abused and have suffered much for decrying the unfairness of it. I dedicate this tiny, battered ability to you in the hopes that you’ll have it soon and will teach us the honor of it again.

To the people of Burma, whose vote is ignored or turned away or violently extracted from them – i dedicate my meagre vote.

To the people of North Korea, and any other nation to whom the word vote is either a ugly joke or nonexistent. We, who are about to vote, salute you. Take our present sad state as a warning, a blessing from a nation to you – governance is a noble thing. To be called upon to serve the nation and it’s people faithfully, to act as WISELY as you know how while knowing there is more wisdom to be had, to understand one’s own limitations and attempt to surpass them, these are the virtues of the politician and PUBLIC SERVANT. To do otherwise is… well… us.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorial Day

Well here it is at Memorial Day in the US and i, ever the reluctant and recalcitrant blogger, am busy at my keyboard for the first time in forever jotting down a few thoughts on this neglected holiday while trying not to drown in my own sweat. Sitting in shorts and a thin shortsleeved button down shirt i’m moved to reflect on the extremely hot uniforms of all of those who marched off to war. Whether it was the many layers of wool worn throughout the past centuries or the cotton or linen or whatever – going to war is hot dirty work.

I know. What an odd way to begin a memorial but this is Puckishwird, here, what did you expect? A straightforward paien to the honor and nobility of those who served? Part of being Puckish means that straightforward is not in my being. Nothing moves in straight lines. Life – and writing – is a dance. The steps are marked out. Sometimes you do it well and sometimes it looks like someone is electrocuting you in a conga line.

So here i am, trying to stay cool (and failing) and considering – having donned the blue wool of a civil war reenactor in my youth – that it’s all hot and dirty work and wondering what the hell the point of it all was. I am trying to reconcile the sacrifice of generations of youths with the product, which is us. This is no easy or Puckish task. This is, perhaps, fit for stouter and more glorious minds. But quite frankly, and i’m going to be as honest as i can be here, it’s difficult to remember (or memorialize) the grand feat of all of the generations of fighters in this country and come to terms with what we are today which is (as i see it) a nation divided once again by the pettiest of petty squabbles so wrapped up in our self conceptions that it is unconscionable to give one inch of so called ‘principles’ for fear the other side – whoever they may be – may take a mile.

Basically the world has some serious problems – Dire, grave, woeful, issues – and we as a nation dance on the head of a pin like furious two year olds squabbling over who gets to sit in the front seat- sooner or later that damned pins going straight up our ass. How does one reconcile this with the willingness of thousands to give fully of themselves for the benefit of the nation and the world?

You don’t.

We like to say that we honor their sacrifice because they fought for us. I’m sorry but that cannot be true and if it is – we’ve made horrid mockeries of their sacrifice. Most of us will not spend two seconds thinking about an uncle one has never met, or a grandfather who never was, or the tragic ghosts of a memory carefully unspoken. We will shovel our faces with a hot dog, watch the game, and be thankful at least that they have produced a day of respite from a job that we are privileged to be ground to dust by. Our human imaginations, so potent in individuals, anemic en masse, can’t contain the weight of misery endured on behalf of an unseen future that is fairly blighted by prospects at present. It can’t look on a murderous beachhead with  promise, or a vast wheatfield with hope. We can’t imagine facing these things. And that’s okay, really. We don’t have to. Someone else did it already. But we do have to imagine a future that is worth envisioning. We are given, graced perhaps, with the victories and defeats of others and obligated to live up to them. Yeah. That sounds awfully dour. Sorry. But this isn’t a bad thing. This is an opportunity and an honor.

Our ancestors who fought these wars, no matter their cause or outcome, didn’t do so for us. They did it for themselves. They did it so that they could carve from history a place for their immediate future. It is always such a tragically small future that they make and some of them fail, but it is their right to determine it that we honor.

Precious few remember the soldiers at Yorktown on both sides, one holding to the glory of an empire, one fighting for freedom of a new land of promise built on the back of an old land of home and nature. Few remember Antietam and it’s miserable mess fought for the right of a people to be released from slavery and a country to stay united. Sadly few remember Iwo Jima or Normandy where we stood with THE WORLD to free europe from a nightmare. All of this is okay. Someone bought our right to not remember and who really wants to remember all that blood anyway? It’s a horrible thing. Don’t do it. Enjoy your hotdog.

But to be here and now is an honor. Rather than reenact on a pathetic scale the conflicts of ideologies and egos that have led to so much death on this planet, lets put them down. Rather than stand in a uniform with one side or the other, let’s take the uniforms off and discuss solutions to these problems. We can get away from Us and Them so long as we can discuss everything in that great expanse of wheatfield in the middle, so long as we can both look upon the beach with no reason to fear.

I guess, in a way, i think the greatest honor to the fallen might be to finally figure out a new way to do the fighting – to finally figure out that in the middle, between the trenches, is a football pitch, an idea, a problem, a solution. All the killing in the world will not find the solution unless you stop fearing and get on out there and play without uniforms.

Enjoy your hot dog.

Categories: Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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