Thursday, February 27, 2014

I only have one feeling: infinite and soul-crushing anxiety.
I was thinking earlier about this: I am honest because I cannot believe anyone around me
When I do believe; when I am so fooled; when I am vain
I cling to it like a drowning man to styrofoam, lost in the sea of maybe abandoned by the good ship s.s. jake

Even my dreams lie to me.
Especially my dreams.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Post-Gay

Since the dominoes are falling or the jenga brick has been removed or satan has arrived on earth to damn us all or whatever and gay marriage (that is marriage between two people of the same sex, whose sexual activities are bizarre foreign and probably disgusting to all right-thinking heterosexuals) is becoming legalized and all kinds of movements are insisting on the right of homosexuals to live as though they’re actual citizens and junk, let’s talk about the post-gay world we’re approaching. Once we’ve achieved every major ticket item on the HRC’s list what’s going to happen?
Let’s start with what “post-gay” is. In other intersections of oppression there’s a general understanding that after some gains have been achieved and the movements subside, we as people tend to re-assert a worldview that assumes that we’re beyond those movements. An example: post-feminism. Children of the late seventies and beyond were generationally removed from the struggles of feminism, and as such all of the challenges and victories were firmly placed in the past. Certainly previous feminist rhetorics didn’t have much relevance to their lives, as the decimation of the economy all but guaranteed that every household that wanted to succeed had to succeed as a two-wage household. So feminism was a thing that already happened and was over and women were cool now. Any problems that women still faced were probably due to individual choices in their lives.
Another post: post-racism. There’s a strong understanding that racism is not only placed firmly in the To Kill a Mockingbird past, but that racism that happens today is due to isolated incidents created by individuals rather than a system that actively devalues nonwhites. Thus people who argue against racism or those nonwhites who point out deep systemic problems in our society are seen at best as whiners, subversive “reverse racist” demagogues at worst.
Post-gay is going to play out similarly. The broad assumption across society is that well by gum gays can marry now and there’s some laws against discrimination in place so by George the queers have made it. Queer radicals will be further marginalized and gay rights organizations will become persnickety and superfluous. Individuals who comment that there are basically little more than token gays in media will be dismissed as unrealistic political correctness police. Not just by heterosexuals. By other gays. Eventually we’re going to run into phrases like “I’m gay, but I’m not one of those gays.” Assaults on gays will be chalked up to “well maybe they shouldn’t have been so flamboyant in front of those dudes.” Bisexuality will be totally erased.  
Sounds familiar, right? Elements of all of these things exist even today, but the problem in a post-gay world will only be more and more severe, where all of these things will come together and become the overarching norm of gay life rather than disparate issues varyingly expressed. We will come to a clear and well-defined hierarchal organization of homosexual behavior where now we only have bits and pieces of attitudes by a handful of sex columnists. The classes of queer, bi-curious, heteroflexible, metrosexual, questioning, mostly straight/mostly gay, or any other way people define the middle spaces between pure homosexuality and pure heterosexuality will coalesce into a single “mulatto” definition that is interpreted in the direction most convenient for the interpreter’s biases. “Straight-acting” will become not just a weird internal insult but an actual threat.
Shit man, maybe we are actually here already.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

on trolls and trolling

This is a dumb topic to complain about since language is essentially discursive and amorphous and quibbles about meaning are moot, but I feel like the misunderstanding of this particular term contributes to the proliferation of its activities. I’m talking about “trolling” or “trolls” to be specific. In a number of recent culture wars type topics, commentators who are clearly not thoroughly versed in internet culture have been using the term to describe in general a segment of bigoted assholes doing bigoted asshole things. This has cascaded out into a number of smaller side arguments where people offer opinions on how to deal with these assholes, usually in the form of the aphorism “don’t feed the trolls.”
This idea is based on the concept that trolls are doing it “for the attention,” which is an idea that is at odds with the behavior of people described as trolls who specifically target political causes they disagree with. Their systematic campaigns of harassment and abuse are politically charged and not related to whether or not they derive attention for their behavior. Another issue is that it’s commonly understood that trolls do not actually believe in the things they’re saying, they’re just trying to start shit (for attention). In the case of these bigoted assholes, this is wholly untrue. While some of their more flagrant claims might only be inspired in the midst of passion, these bigoted assholes are wholly committed to the spirit of their bigotry.
So what we have here is at least two types of people who commit to disruptive acts on the internet. One, the more original type, is a type of person who is simply being emotionally manipulative in the middle of discussions to kill the time or whatever. The other is a type of person who is wholly invested into making the recipient of their trolling feel as much like shit as possible and is willing to take whatever measures they can to get there. They’re similar, without a doubt. Both involve the use of rhetorical fallacies to piss people off. The biggest and best way to illustrate the difference, though, is that a troll can be a troll while being perfectly civil and terrible confused as to why people are so annoyed at his implication that gays are basically the cause of all evil while bigoted assholes will at some point just devolve into a series of curse words and random capitalization and offensive photos.
Back in the old days we used to call trolls “devil’s advocates” or “contrarians” and they served the purpose of questioning the orthodoxy to ensure its purity. This new kind of bigoted asshole is just the same old bigoted asshole. Trolls will go away if you ignore them; bigoted assholes have an inexhaustable supply of self-righteous anger energy and a horde of faceless allies. Trolls recognize when they’re using rhetorical fallacy and employ it with intent; bigoted assholes either don’t know or don’t care. I’m not implying here that Trolls as people are particularly good for a community, since they can espouse some pretty hateful shit for no good reason, but I am implying that the people who’ve been labeled as trolls as of late are not the same and cannot be addressed or dealt with in the same way, so the label “troll” actively hinders an understanding of the motivations or methods that bigoted assholes have or use.

That is all.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Laziest Generation

The whole point of these missives, this writing exercise, those monographs is to share some kind of knowledge, some wisdom, some truth hard fought and hard won. You’re supposed to come away having a better appreciation for life and your place in it. The problem is, of course, that there needs something to be said before that writing can occur.
It’s 2:13 a.m. and I’m eating pepperjack and townhomes and feeling as lost and overwhelmed as I always do. If there’s some kind of truth in this, I don’t know where it is. If there’s wisdom, it’s not mine to share. All I can give you is my experience, which is all I can ever give you when it comes down to it.
There’s a narrative in anthropological academia, a narrative that implies that the reason anthropologists get into anthropology in the first place is because anthropologists don’t fit in well with their own culture and have the urge to explore other cultures to better understand why they’re personally wired that way. It’s a good narrative, one that describes a number of major figures. On top of the whole “reformer’s science” subtitle, a great many anthropologists are argumentative contrarians.
It’s sweet and sort of sentimental to read about these figures and discuss loosely what’s going down at the AAA convention, but it’s the sweet of nostalgia and daydreams, since it’s a culture that’s dying out every day – or rather it’s reverting to a pre-G.I. bill era where academia is a locked tower filled with overly wealthy dodderers. I’m supposed to graduate this semester, and really I’m getting out just in time. The budget cuts are deepening and major services are being slashed. The Children’s Center, an entire building on campus, is getting cut. There are fees for withdrawing from classes. There were talks of changing requirements to require transfer students to have to take something like 75% of their courses here; boosting tuition from otherwise (apparently) flighty transfer graduates.
On every campus in America there’s a bunch of clubs and activities designed to engage college students in some sort of collective spirit-building exercises. These constructs are designed purposefully to help ease college freshmen into college life, where they might feel suddenly isolated and uncomfortable removed from the high school they were previously attending. It’s a justifiable goal, though it also serves the purpose of extending adolescence and obscuring the financial cost of college through misdirection. For these clubs and for many Americans, college is just another step in the path to becoming a middle class adult. The thing is: college is also an ancient and erudite institutional method of intellectual development designed to acculturate and reiterate an intellectual class. Even further college is a road towards greater economic security, negotiated by ambitious individuals who still believe in class mobility. College for them represents a contract where in exchange for a series of individually pointless tasks they’ll earn leverage over their employers.
I’ve probably said this before (and I’ll gladly rant about it a dozen times more in person, willing didact that I am) but modern college is some kind of mutated aggregate of an assumed adolescent stage that’ll bottlerocket you off to middle classdom. Combined with our most recent “millennial” trend of victim blaming and the stagnant economy, college is actually a pretty bad deal. You’re paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend a place that treats you as an over-developed horny child in exchange for a piece of paper whose value drops every commencement. Then you’re jettisoned into the “real world” where your vain attempts at demanding recompense for your labors as per the implied social contract are met with cries of “entitlement” or “homeless with iphones” or “laziest generation.” It’s a catch-22 because the world loves catch-22s.
It’s not really worth it to go to college, but the biggest and worst problem is that it’s even less worth it to not go to college, to languish in entry level world as employers use arbitrary notions of “skill” to justify paying as little as they can get away with. Basically we’ve made college the modern indentured servitude, leading straight to the wage slavery constructed in the world.
There’s some argument out there that all the things that capitalism constructs are the same; that the story it tells is the same one over and over again. There’s some argument that all stories we tell are the same story. I don’t know if any of that is true and I don’t know what wisdom there is to curdle from them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

On obsession and desire

It’s eight and I’m at the bar and I’m feeling a little down and I’ve got a whiskey and diet and I’m thinking about him and where it went down and what I should have said

He’s still out there somewhere and probably not even thinking about me and I’m just sitting here and I should contact him. I don’t want to bother him, don’t want to risk making a worse impression than I already have
“I don’t want to apologize”
“I need to know the people around me aren’t going to hurt me”
“It sounds like you’re saying ‘I’m done with you’”
It’s 8:30 and I’ve got another drink and more people have come in and left. Thank god I don’t know any of them I’m not in any shape to interact right now. I’m staring at the tv instead but behind my eyes in my head there’s a play happening over and over and the best/worst part of me is trying to figure out how that could have gone better
I want it to be perfect, I want it to be how I imagine, I want it to be a life worth living, I want all my effort to matter I want to be appreciated I want to be understood
“Are you okay?”
“Hey, sorry we haven’t talked in a while, let’s catch up”
“How
You doin?”
It’s 10:00 and now Tosh is on doing his white guy on the internet routine over and over and I’ve closed out because I’m feeling pretty sleepy and still no one I know is here
I think I get it, I think I just like him because we connected sexually and that is the majority of my feelings here, since he’s so hard to talk to and clearly not interested in the same kinds of things I am and we’re different people. All of this has been really dumb emotional wrenching for something that wasn’t ever going to work out, and I know it. It’s just safe and easy and this way I can build my identity around romantic tragedy and feel sorry for myself instead of ever bothering to grow as a person at all
“Ugh, it’s like rubbing my uncle”
“I can be so mad at you but then you turn around and say something like that and it just makes me want to hug you. I hate it”
“Good night, Tomcat”
It’s 11 and I’m walking home and now my vision is all blurry and I’m weeping as I walk past all of our ghosts and all I can feel is all of the loss

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Creative Content

Oh man a lot of stuff has happened lately, yet I haven’t written at all. I don’t even know what writing is any more. I’m just hitting buttons and this little counter on the bottom corner keeps going up. I’m already at 42! “Word” is the best game Microsoft has made since “solitaire.”
I keep reading these articles (I read all the articles) about millenials and the generation gap and junk like that and reading about the ways that millenials are terrible or like the world is going to become a hellish collectivist totalitarian state and all individual identity will be absorbed into some kind of freakish union. Dave fucking eggers just put out a book about this. Apparently in some kind of dystopic future privacy will be theft from the people and some megacorporation is going to eat us all. The WSJ, a Murdoch mouthpiece, is hailing it as a The Jungle of our times (while simultaneously promoting policies that created the situation the book described, naturally) and is really excited about it. I think it’s pretty clear that this is some kind of Randian break-point for Eggers, who is probably just pissed that writing is worth shit-all today and totally blames it on some amorphous collection of internet entities disrespecting the individualist right of ownership of ideas and the ability to profit off of those ideas.
Depending on who you’re talking to we’re either on the teetering edge of a massive conservative/capitalist backslide or we’re watching the death throes of capitalism and its mealy-mouthed adherents. I’m leaning toward the latter, as the industry of packaging and selling thought is less and less profitable according to a capitalist system and these are not small industries. They’re too big to fail, or more accurately if they collapse a lot of our economy collapses with them.
Recently there was a government shutdown, a shutdown that was initiated by a group of radical conservatives elected in based on racially charged anti-government fanaticism and a successful system of aggressive gerrymandering. Those conservatives did what they said they’d do, which is oppose the black man in the white house at all costs. They finally did it, the bastards. They damned that dirty ape. Seriously none of what just happened is even remotely okay. This is a situation where in a modern era a group of politicians attempted to seize control of the entire government through rule-changes and absolutely insane stubbornness. The double-talk is just as crazy. Every one of them is either citing this event as a victory or as a painful tragedy invited upon them by a stubborn white house+supreme court+senate that refuses to kowtow to the minority. It’s crazy. They’re terrorists. Everything they say is carefully designed to create more terror to the benefit of their party. They’re not interested in you. They’re not interested in anyone other than their party and their power and they’ll tell you anything they can get away with to maintain their positions. Come 2014 they’re not going to lose the elections. Come 2014 they’re going to win even more seats for their moral courage and ability to believe the shit they’re saying. Come the next debt ceiling or other manufactured crisis, they’re just going to push a little farther, since this has barely hurt their chances of re-election thanks to the insane gerrymandering. We need a new system. We don’t need to fix the old system with incremental reforms or whatever the democrats might push for. We need to throw the system out and start designing a system that from the start recognizes that politicians are people and not rational automatons (or fuck, even neutral advocates for their constituency) and people will find ways to abuse the system in their favor.
Speaking of the breakdown of capitalism, I’ve been reading a handful of stuff by prominent older musicians condemning streaming music sites for paying shittily. Pretty much all of these articles follow a certain tone, one where the primary issues with these site’s poor pay is that it’s hard for new musicians to make any money from them and consequently people who are musically talented will have to pursue their art as a part-time hobby instead of a full time occupation, leading to a dearth of creativity. Or something along those lines. People aren’t being paid what they’re worth is the general gist of these. It’s really odd to me because all of these articles seem to rely on this idea that capitalism can and should be compassionate, that it should pay musicians enough to make a living and acquire food and shelter and so on (say, 40k a year per person). From a purely rational standpoint this makes no sense. If music is not worth 40k a year according to the market, it’s simply not worth it. There’s no such thing as a basic income guarantee under a purely capitalist system. So there’s nothing actually wrong happening here. Music has simply become less valuable owing to its more frequent creation and distribution. The creators of music are more often than not already wealthy so they have the time and energy to learn and create music, but this has literally been the history of all music since the time of poets and lyrists and people like that. Beethoven wasn’t exactly some urchin off the streets. Gottschalk didn’t just up and decide to leave his life farming and go music. So I’m not seeing what’s changing here, other than the profit margins of the handful of prominent older musicians.
It’s especially telling when none of these older dudes decide to actually question the system that creates the situation they seem to be mad about. At the most they’ll make some flippant statement about how terrible the recording industry that made them moderately rich is while ignoring any and all of its influence or the fact that they’ve made a number of conscious decisions to stay in the business and help it thrive. These aren’t just anyone, but people who’ve made their names as “alternative” musicians who hate all that nasty injustice stuff, names like David Byrne and Thom Yorke and Bono. It’s an act. It’s an act borne from a need to protect a system rather than create a new one. Solving the problem where musicians don’t have the time to create music is easy: you create a basic income guarantee, allowing musicians to work on providing their craft without having to worry about providing food or shelter for themselves. It’s a galling idea, but it’s a galling idea only under a capitalistic premise that all money is a zero-sum game and everyone has to fight for it or get crushed (or the premise of the actual system we work under, which is that rich people are born rich, stay rich and die rich, and the poor likewise are poor from cradle to grave). Under a system that gave a shit about people (i.e. not designed by the sociopathic wealthy) this would make perfect sense. Everyone gets to live at some basic level.
Part of this goes back to a complete (and deliberately cultivated, on the part of those with an investment into a capitalist system) misunderstanding of the premise of communism. The idea isn’t that no one works and the state gives you everything, the idea is that you get everything you work for. Sounds kinda weird, right? It’s not nearly as weird once you recognize how badly you’re paid for your actual labor. Say you work at McDonalds, right? You make burgers. Those burgers sell at a rate of around $400 an hour averaged out over the day. Those burgers (and coke and fries and electricity and stuff) cost the store maybe around $100/hour. So between you and your four co-workers, you generate $300 an hour in profit! So that comes out to about $60 an hour, yeah? Oh but there’s the manager, so let’s make it $50 an hour for everybody. Pretty sweet, huh? Oh but hang on the mcdonalds is owned by someone else and he decides to pay you guys as little as possible, since after all he owns the place. You did the work, the manager ordered the food and regulated hours and handled disputes, and the owner did… jack shit. But the owner knows he can get away with paying you guys literally as little as he can because that’s what makes rational economic sense, so you all make $8 an hour and the manager makes $15 so you’ll listen to her and the owner pockets the other $245 and calls it a day.
Massively injust? Maybe, but it’s only rational for the owner to do this. It’s a great way to make money. It’s rational to not provide health benefits, rational to skimp on customer amenities, rational to do literally anything it takes to make more money. The owner put forward the money to open the building after all. The basic premise of communism is to do away with the owner controlling the building and providing the opportunity for people to, if they so choose, work at Mcdonalds and receive /all/ the fruits of their labors (here, $50/hr). Pretty crazy, huh? Anyway that’s the general premise of Marxist communism. There’s a lot more interesting ideas in there (paying women for domestic labor, for example, or paying parents for the work of raising children) but this isn’t really what this post is about.
In this heady modern era, we’re watching all of our information become easily and cheaply translatable to a handful of machine signals, and not just all of our modern information but all of every form of information that can be put into a machine language. One of the core concepts of Marxist theory is that industrialization needed to be able to produce goods on a massive scale, that systems needed to exist to be able to sell millions of burgers per year. At the time of writing, which saw the tripling of crop outputs and an insane influx of available goods, this was a perfectly good prediction. Numbers that were going up were going to keep going up and so on. Here 100-odd years later, anyone with a computer and some spare time can produce a song, anyone with a computer who’s literate can write a book, and anyone with a camera can get their videos uploaded to a potentially gigantic audience. The cost to create and transmit media has dramatically fallen in the last two decades and this is the result of that: a complete collapse of capitalism in the face of virtually nil value for its products. The reality that stuff can be supported solely through advertising and data-mining shitty quantitative userdata reflects the alternate economic reality the internet lives in. The recent phenomenon of not paying writers or artists or photographers for their work isn’t because the internet has made people evil, it’s because writing, art, and photography have no scarcity value and minimal cost to transmit. There are millions out there sharing their stories, drawings and photos simply because they want to be heard and to participate, not because they want money. Millions of people derive value simply in being a part of something greater than them. That attitude does not mesh well with capitalism, and it certainly doesn’t mesh well with prominent older artists who made a living under the old rules and are now defenders of the status quo.
My argument? Pay those motherfuckers for their contributions to society. Don’t pay them what their contribution is “worth” but what they need to survive and keep contributing. Pay them because they worked hard and they work hard every day and there’s no good reason for life to be some kind of rigged competition. Kill the rich and kill your heroes and burn everything down until it’s better.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Look at banner, Michael!

Sometimes when I’m particularly bored or particularly procrastinating, I read about various proclamations of my personality. Partly it makes me feel good about myself (because pretty much all my personality profiles say that I’m smart and sexy and basically awesome, which I am, so that’s cool) and partly it helps me conceptualize myself from a perspective outside my own. I have a problem pretty often where I’m unable to see other perspectives, instead replacing the perspectives of those around me with my own. I expect a lot of people, at least in certain areas, mostly because it’s what I expect of myself. I’ll assume that certain people possess the same knowledge that I do, or the same frame of experience that informs that knowledge. I even often assume a similar vocabulary.
I’m sure I’ve written this before. It’s about the same sort of semi-hubris pridestuff that both fuels and unsettles me. Blah blah I can’t tell if I’m arrogant anymore and I’m not sure I feel bad about it. I highly doubt this is a relatable story. Here’s a more relatable story, I hope:
I’m sitting in a 89 degree house with a single box fan on me at 1:44 in the morning drinking store brand apple soda with a shot of vodka in it. I could probably sleep now but I’m choosing not to for reasons that aren’t wholly clear to me. I’m writing this very sentence instead. How meta. The A/C’s line is frozen, which according to the internet could mean a couple of things, from a lack of Freon to clogged filters. There should be someone out to fix it tomorrow, but in the meantime it’s heat city indoors. Not that I really mind. This isn’t that bad. I’ve got a box fan running now even.
Summer five-ish years ago was pretty hot and I was absolutely mortified of having to pay the electricity for air conditioning because I had little enough money as it was. I just spent a lot of time naked with a floor fan and took a ton of cold showers, since water was free. Same thing in the winter. Cold? Take a hot shower. It’s pretty amazing how well it works.
Three years of New Orleans later and the heat doesn’t really phase me. Sure it’s unpleasant, but I took a walk about 2 miles today just to grab lunch and get back and I didn’t really feel like I was dying.
Anyway before this gets into more rambling about heat, I’m going to get to the point of this essay, which is creativity. The creative process is a tortured sort of thing that works differently for every living being on this planet, including a complete lack of creativity by some. For me, the process is about compulsion. Maybe I’ll be awake one night late into the night staring at personality profiles and feel the urge to write no matter the heat. Maybe I’ll go two weeks without thinking at all about anything past whatever happens to me day to day. Maybe what happened with the unending beaddventure review will happen and I’ll start to write and then peter out and realize I have pretty much nothing to say. Who knows! Not me, that’s for damn sure. On the one hand maybe I should be jealous of people with a good work ethic. The kind of people who can diligently work day after day churning out word after word of a project and ultimately culminate in some kind of impressive finished work. I don’t know. I don’t really think they’ve got a handle on the process either, since so much of it is about forcing themselves to just get something onto the page.
Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it flows out of them like a broken dam. I wouldn’t know: that kind of consistency is wholly outside my experience. The point is, I write when I can, not when I should, and when I can write is pretty uncommon. Maybe after a drink. Maybe when I’m woozy and halfway heat stricken. Maybe only after 1 am or midnight or something. Maybe only when I’m in love. Maybe only when I’m not in love.
Here is probably a good place for a nugget of wisdom or a peal of truth or a bauble of rectitude. I don’t really have any for you tonight, and I’m not sure I ever did. The more I end up living, the less happy I am with anything anywhere and if I don’t know how to be happy, I don’t know how to make you happy either. Heck it’s not that bad. But it really is. Comprende?
Veering away from relatability again.
I am constantly saving the things I write to various places on and offline, and I’ve kept every school notebook I’ve written in for the last fiveish years. I’m doing this because I hope to one day be so famous and so successful that my myriad writings are considered valuable resources for studying my vast intellect and spurious character. Sometimes I think about convincing people I’m actually immortal and know everything. Sometimes I want to adopt the character of some obscure spirit or foreign god and march about demanding kow-tow (and later reciprocating, of course) and generally make a nuisance of myself.
I have trouble determining whether all of this is delusions of grandeur or just raw ambition manifesting in idle fantasies, but nevertheless on the offchance I do become very famous and endlessly debatable, the endless doodlings and scribbly notetakings and some small portion of the pining that has made it to print will be available for public consumption. At time of death too, unlike Twain’s 100 year clause. The prospect of actually earning that fame fills my mind with dread, though. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. That’s the third reason I read personality profiles: hoping to get some sense of how to make my life, how to make me work. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

I was asked to write this

A long time ago in the hoary old ages of time when I still shaved regularly and wore even stranger outfits and personally communicated with as few people as I could get away with (colloquially known as “the years I had to move my mid-tower from room to room searching for a wifi signal I could airsnort into”) I got involved in local politics. Mostly I did it out of some residual respect I had for Michael Moore’s blue collar liberalism and a desire to follow through on Moore’s suggestion that every individual should try to get on every ballot they’re eligible for. I still don’t think this is a terrible idea, if only to drive home the weight of the forces guarding that particular gate for those without means. The first campaign kickoff party I ever went to was a by-donation affair ($30), and I agreed at the door to spend some time canvassing for the candidate: a man whose name I can’t remember (Jeff something) but who looked remarkably like Mark Hamill and had a phone number that was super easy to remember (4, followed by 4 fives, followed by a 7 for the total amount of numbers, followed by a fifth five).
This was my whirlwind introduction to (local) politics, a hugely thankless affair where the minimal amount of work I had to do was to hand out cutesy brochures shaped like a cowboy hat (Jeff, the white hat, opponent, the evil greenbelt violating black hat) still lead a ton of people (who had previously agreed for me to visit, apparently) to believe I was there to sell them something or talk about Jesus.
Last week I went to the most recent campaign kickoff I’ve been to and I managed this time to duck both financial and canvassing obligations. Ernest “eddy-baby Freddy” Charbonnet held a pretty ritzy-doo high class affair at the top of the Basin Street Station, a sort of quasi-museum/office building/meeting space at the foot of the particular I-10 overpass exit that gets you to the French Quarter. The party was on the fourth floor overlooking a ton of landmarks, from the Mahalia Jackson Theater to the police station to one of the cemeteries to the old Iberville projects (the new projects down Orleans are obscured by the one windowless facing). The banquet room was marvelous and understated and ultimately a bit small, the six-odd indoor tables occupied by the time I arrived (punctually). There’s some really marvy skylights and an interesting series of paintings with a silhouetted black woman wearing dresses inspired by various famous paintings (mostly van gogh). The open bar was friendly, if a little oddly stocked, and they poured to rival a christmas party. Asking for mixer was a formality, just a willful attempt at deceiving your true beverage from yourself.
I biked to this event wearing black jeans and a Zephyr’s t-shirt along with sandals and my ratty old Goorin bros’ sorta army hat with some serious holes in the brim fabric. Most of my tattoos are covered, anyway. Still have glittery red and silver polish and three fingers of black and the yellow I impulsively put on half of two of my toenails, though. As usual I have no idea if anyone notices, but I’m by far the most casually dressed person there. At some point a few young-ish couples (relatives of other attendees, as far as I gleaned) come in with the guys wearing the bare minimum of a button-up and slacks, but I’m the only t-shirted individual. One guy did have a blazer and what appeared to be a track suit underneath. Professor Chervenak, inexplicably oft-interviewed political science professor at UNO, was wearing exactly the same thing he does every day thereby meeting the obligate monowear standards of professorhood (it’s in their tenure agreements). I had a lot of time to reflect on this and decide whether or not to be embarrassed. By the second drink I decided to simply be serene.
As far as substance, I don’t remember much. I came to this kickoff largely because I still follow a candidate from a previous race who is still heavily involved despite having lost his bid. Oddly enough, he actually remembered my name, despite my only personal interaction with him being a somewhat rude question about his age shouted in a crowded hall. I blame facebook, but I’m at least in part frightened by the prospect of anyone of any importance remembering who I am. It’s jarring, even though it’s something I’ve been interested in for quite some time. Funny enough, Eric Strachan ended up being the only person who knew even remotely who I was (it didn’t help that I botched the nametag) with the man of the hour Eddy Charbonnet very much not paying any attention to me. Which I must emphasize is totally fine, since I was still variegating on whether or not to be embarrassed and by the time I chose to be serene I was wholly uninterested in further human interaction. The point here is that this is all filtered through my head because it was a fairly alienating interaction that I had to stare at through my skull instead of getting lost in interpersonality.
I did spend a little bit of time chatting with a wife of a lawyerly looking guy and some time apologizing to Ed Chernevak for doing so badly in his course, but that was pretty much it. I couldn’t convince anyone else to come and I didn’t have any real strong ties to anyone involved in the campaign. A campaign which, if the short series of speeches was any indication, has about as much substance as my presence did. Strachan got on stage to look a little like a short Aaron Sorkin displaying his endorsement and introducing further endorsements from people I don’t know. Charbonnet got on stage to announce some really broad statements about his belief in the strength of city council as a balance to the executive office, some kind of statement about the two consent decrees concerning OPP and NOPD, and a very clear and strong statement that he’s not running against Stacy Head (who Strachan was the head of legislation for) but for the other at-large seat up for grabs on the council. He then introduced his kids and wife and got off the stage. I don’t want to say the speech lacked substance. Nothing really lacks substance, especially not the appearance of a lack of substance. What the speech did do was tell me very very little about why I should support Charbonnet. He passably hit a few popular beats he knew the crowd would react to and then got off stage. It’s a shame.
Platforms are contentious at best in politics and most major parties specifically write platforms that can be reinterpreted in some way (except of course the green party, which actually has some gonads) because nothing in politics is more dangerous than making a strong political statement. It’s even worse in local politics when nearly all of the players are dependent on a network of already existing players and a system of basic agreements with one another that there’s a certain way things are going to be done. Without Gary Landrieu’s hulking figure stalking about parties and crushing hands how can you expect to get the attention of the rest of the moneyed elite? Ideas are for idealists, the game is already locked up, etc etc. Louisiana is rife with this stuff. We practically revel in how corrupt our system is and our politicians are. It makes for books and great “character.”
It’s not really that democracy is a sham or anything. The system still works and even still produces upsets from time to time. The problem is that the people who’re most heavily invested in that democracy are simultaneously the least interested in it, which is why a person can start a campaign without a single platform or promise, just a party and a plea for yard signage. It’s going through the motions in case anyone is looking real hard but recognizing that the majority of your support is going to be won through back room deals and premeditated political alliances rather than strong popular support of an opinionated stance. That’s why everyone at a free party is in a suit, and why I’m not.
I’m not going to make some conceit about how I remember Huey Long and how awesome he was. That was some 80 years ago and I certainly wasn’t alive then. I will say this, though: for every memory that people in New Orleans have of a corrupt and inefficient government of foppish old-money lawyers and politicians, there’s a memory of a time when Louisiana was the bluest of the blue states, a haven for all the poor southerners and a beacon of public infrastructure in the south. We live in the highest tech city environment since Venice, why do we put up with cracked and broken roads and shoddy streetlight coverage? Why do we let our politicians spend millions on a streetcar line that travels less than a mile from a glut of hotels to the superdome? Why do we sit idly by while our noble leaders pretend to have moral convictions as the city crumbles around us?
We’re New Orleanais; we don’t have to put up with this shabby crap. If we can organize a fucking daiquiri festival because we’re frightened by a few provisos, we can run and elect a few candidates that don’t fucking suck.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Porn Review Special Report: Various Paraphilia

When I first decided to do these reviews, I only had one particular work in mind for a review. That work is the Unending Breast Expansion Add-venture, a collaborative choose-your-own-adventure style interactive erotic fiction document (whew) that debuted in 1998 as a paraphilia-themed version of other popular collaborative fiction projects. As the name would indicate, the primary paraphilia on display was breast expansion, which we covered in the last report. This is by far not the only paraphilia contained in the beaddventure, and I felt it would be disingenuous to introduce the work without a broader picture of some of the paraphilia at play.
  
(Trigger warning: Some transphobia, pathologization, what could be considered a form of bestiality, pervasive objectification of women)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

User Generated Content

The other evening I wrote a short twine game to try and decompress the emotional impact of spending any amount of time online. It's not particularly subtle.

You can play it right from your browser here.