Tonight, he will open his mouth and cheapen the halls in which he speaks. I wonder if sales of hard liquor and antacid tablets have risen in Washington DC. Seems there’s a niche market in there somewhere for rum-flavored antacid tablets for the bullshit-spewing male. Rums.
But maunderings about the livers and gastrointestinal tracts of Republican congressmen assumes I have a modicum of sympathy for their Victor Frankenstein plight. The Monster, at least, understood he was horrific. The present iteration of Republicans represent a shamelessness unseen in the national shouting match (once known as “dialogue”), one sewn together from the desiccated limbs of greed, lust for power, and utter disregard for anything but their own image and brought to life by the electoral equivalent of sticking a rusted fork into a socket while standing naked in a tub of lukewarm dish water.
I have no sympathy for them. I prefer to retain it for those deserving of it.
In five seconds, I learn the day’s starting number. In those seconds: a quickening heartbeat amid swirling anxieties of failure and the inevitability of a hospital return, IVs and bruises, before the busting forth of a moment of defiance in which I am Patrick McGoohan shouting, I am not a number, I AM A FREE MAN, a brief nanosecond of sheepishness, Perhaps I am a number, before a sense of calm at the interregnum between zero, two beeps and the display of the number which tells me I’m fine, thank you, and that I have its permission to record said number, stab myself, depress the plunger, clickclick, and proceed to eat breakfast. Repeat three more times daily.
Rewatched Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN for the umpteenth time last night. Like any great work of art, the rewatch brought something new: as Joseph Cotten’s pulp writer Holly Martins stumbled through the streets of postwar Vienna to looping strains of zither music, I couldn’t help but wonder how much influence—if any—did David Simon and Dominic West take from Cotten in their creation of THE WIRE’s Baltimore’s Detective Jimmy McNulty?
While one is a stranger in a strange land and the other a hometown boy trying to do right, both are drunkards stumbling through war-torn streets, disappointed by love, obsessed with their mission, and driven by their own egos and oft-underestimated intelligence to push every button on the stars of authority and stripes of politicians to unravel the threads of conspiracy, money, and power. And, in the end, their doggedness is proven correct, but at the cost of everything they believed about themselves.
Or perhaps I’m seeing things that aren’t there.
I’ve often admonished myself after hitting publish on these pieces that I’ve made them too much like a survey course, a mind-numbing effort a la “Music Technology” which substitutes deep insight for a wide swath of forgettable information. Part of that is the time limit imposed—as Pascal said, “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one”—a time limit I’ve toyed with abolishing; fortunately, my better sense kicks in and I realize that without it, I’d be tooling with these ephemeralities for far longer than they deserve.
Making my way through Zinsser’s ON WRITING WELL and came across this pearl among many:
“Every writing project must be reduced before you start to write. Therefore, think small. Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”
Thinking small / writing small requires time. The vast majority of these pieces are written as dashed-off warm-ups in a pre-work haze. Then again, maybe I’ll get lucky and my ability to focus on tiny corners will solidify within the chains I’ve built for myself–perhaps that’s the point of this otherwise pointless site.
And so the day begins: the march to Friday afternoon and the primetime of executive order idiocy. Will it be another mass travel ban that isn’t a religious ban but is totally a religous ban? A further erosion of the rights and protections of those who need them? Another wall? A better wall? Another pen-and-ink vilification of those who aren’t white, Christian, and heterosexual? Perhaps he will skip the song and dance and head off for more national security photo ops with rich white people who long to have their voices heard and be part of “the action” and, in transit, sign an executive order that simultaneously creates a new mass travel ban, erodes rights and protections, constructs another, better wall, and vilifies those who aren’t white Christian heterosexuals. But it’s early in the day, so who knows.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT brings everything one expects in a Tarantino film: jarring leaps from stunning cinematic mastery to blood-spattered snow to hilarity to violence to trademark verbal sparring to—surprisingly—an Agatha Christie parlour mystery (involving, of course, testicles being blown off). While EIGHT is undeniably an experience, the worth of that experience is another question; the simple truth is I have no idea if I liked the film or not.
With each successive film, Tarantino falls prey to his worst excesses; the flip side of that statement is that he is an artist who creates only for himself, an attribute that must be admired, even if the results are less than stellar. Looking at Tarantino’s evolution in terms of three–from the crime films of RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, and JACKIE BROWN (his best film, IMO); to the Grindhouse/Kung Fu/exploitation phase of KILL BILL VOLUME ONE, KILL BILL VOLUME TWO (though he counts them as one film, I consider them two, as they are so different from one another) and DEATH PROOF; to the pulp history phase of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, DJANGO UNCHAINED, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT–perhaps EIGHT signals another shift in genre, a shift that, if EIGHT is anything to go by, is overdue.
Scratchy throat from curses hurled towards grey skies for this obnoxious spring cold in February. Rainy, ugly; low of 52 degrees, high of 66 or thereabouts. What little sleep I managed last night was besieged by fever dreams of getting my Flash powers back and attending Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters where the only way to defeat Apocalypse was through acing a multiple choice pop quiz. Facing facts that the only way to fight this cold is to do as little as possible. So, banging out this piece to kneel before the allure of the unbroken chain before retreating to the couch for a day of as little as possible.
Possibilities for as little as possible: Netflix/Amazon catch-up; finish DeLillo’s MAO II; continue with Robert Lehrman’s THE POLITICAL SPEECHWRITER’S COMPANION and Zinsser’s ON WRITING WELL; be immovable vessel for Morkie comfort.
One of the things I’ve learned since diabetes entered my life is that I am numerical. By pricking my finger and giving a blood sacrifice to Tabitha, my glucometer, four times a day, I see the effect that carbs and stress has on my body. It’s a fascinating—and occasionally frustrating—metric that offers a possible solution to another problem: my unbalanced diet of media consumption habits that feeds on insecurity and lack of discipline. So, with inspiration drawn from either a food pyramid or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’ve come up with my own media diet:
At the base, the cornerstone and most fundamental: Books. The feel of paper, the inability to dash over and share without reading completely. The next, Paid Media: those services and subscriptions to which I dole out what little cash I have—The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, as well as streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime—each month. Next: Free sources: RSS newsfeeds (dinosaur that I am) or newsletters. The final: Social Media: Twitter, Instagram, whatever else may arise. The latter represents the carbs of my brain-diet. As I have to watch them in food, so to do I have to watch them in media consumption.
After the events of last fall and my own fear that I was losing my mind (I wasn’t, it was simply the ketones permeating my body via undiagnosed type one diabetes that eventually led to ketoacidosis, near-death, a four-day hospital stay, and the resultant rigor of four-times-a-day blood sacrifices), I’m doing all I can to stop that feeling of utter fragmentation from happening again. Maybe this will help, maybe it won’t. But at least it’s something.
Writing this with The Morkie on my lap in my office in a house in a town encased by fog. So too, my brain. Spring allergies in February: a new experience. If something of even the slightest quality emerges that has nothing to do with diabetes, a review, snot, or Donald Trump by the end of this 30-minute timer, I’ll be amazed.
… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ …
It appears that I will not be amazed.
Tried taking a day off from the book and this little garden yesterday. That seems to have been a mistake. Lesson learned.
MARCH is more than required reading; it is more than the latest in a series of genre re-defining non-fiction graphic novels: it is a call to action and empathy in an era where its lessons of non-violent resistance, persistence, and “good trouble” in the face of seemingly insurmountable hatred, bigotry, and bureaucratic cowardice are more necessary than ever.
Co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell utilize the best traditions of comics storytelling to transform history into the urgency of now through electrifying line work and attention to the smallest of details; their work unleashes the power of comics storytelling to its fullest extent in the service of Congressman Lewis’s remarkable story, a story that must be heard again and again and etched into our collective consciousness.
The battles waged in the era of MARCH are far from over. They are not a single battle to be won or lost, but an ongoing struggle to better ourselves, to eradicate the cancer of racism and hate from the fabric of our world, our country, our state, our town, our lives, and to point us towards a more tolerant world of open arms instead of closed fists.