Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams

“All I could do was Cry.” - Etta James (R.I.P.)

Saturday morning, 2 a.m. While I sit sipping another cool glass of Raging Bitch Ale, and try my best to shake the addictive urges inside of me for the illegal and ignorant chemicals that spark my receptors, I feel the “Raging Bastard of Privilege” seething, and he wants more! Nothing can appease this vile insatiable appetite. I should, nay I must, be “happy” and “content” with my life and “success” - but I’m not. I lash out, for more, more, more!

Of course, I’ve much to be thankful for; but nevertheless, when asked tonight (by the wife I love so much) “...what are you happy about?” I could not formulate a proper reply; instead I sat there stone-faced and silent. Admittedly, I felt like a shit for not being able to do so; however, anything that popped into my mind (at the moment) felt shallow, strange, savage, and -most unfortunately- contrived. Maybe I’m polluted? After all, contrived answers do seem to be the hallmark of our daily American discourse - whenever honesty is sprouted-out or sprayed from the lips of the crazed and confused citizens of this country, it is always interpreted as "rude, offensive, or hostile" to “the greater good”. So, when I couldn’t answer her question, I realized, that not only am I “not happy” (wah! wah! wah! - you pathetic whiner!) but that I'm -in all honesty- no better than that shallow swine of a man - Newt Gingrich; after all, I too am a megalomaniacal natural born villain, who -everyday- seeks immediate and instant gratification for his stupid pleasures, and all at the expense of those around me. I'm not a hero. My ego presents itself as a villain -the bad guy. "Don’t ever say I never warned you from the start."

Of course, ultimately, we’re not here (..even though I may be...) to engage in (yet another) narcissistic screed; after all, it is far too late for that. Besides, there has already been too many words wasted today/tonight (and everyday) on the trite and pious concerns of those who should be silenced for their spiteful and silly screeds. Then again, too many words have also been wasted today on the wasteful and unproductive back-and-forth of multiple bureaucratic processes that achieve nothing more than an empty benevolence.

No! This is not the time to waste on foolish personal musings (or sleep for that matter...)! Instead we’re here to discuss “where we are now.” Indeed, what is the “situation on the ground”?

Honestly, to engage in any autobiographical or masturbatory reflections at this point would only be -yet another- escape from what matters most. Or not... perhaps, I’m too addicted to the most vile of poisons? Politics. However, "there is no going back now." and, it’s true - “politics is the art of controlling your environment”; unfortunately, it seems as though our environment is truly beyond any of our control. Undoubtedly, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was right - “The American dream really is fucked.”

I can feel the sickness seeping-in. I pretend these false speeches and lies matter, but they don’t.

And here “we” are, only a few hours away from the “blood sport” that is the South Carolina Primary and, unlike any other South Carolina primary, voters will have the “opportunity” to vote for satire. Good. Admittedly, this election is, no laughing matter. Thankfully, Stephen Colbert continues to educate (and entertain...) Americans about the ridiculousness of Citizens United (which, also celebrates it’s two year anniversary tomorrow), but why should any of this matter?

Tonight, as I sit here shaking off my needs and wants, until I grow too tired to care (listening to Bing Crosby and the Ink Spots) on the dawn of this second anniversary of Citizen’s United, I know voters will gather, tomorrow (likely while I’m sleeping...) in South Carolina to vet their choice for a Republican candidate to run against President Obama; but ultimately, the “choice” seems to be already made for them (and everyone else for that matter knows) -the corporations have won. Hell, even Rick Santorum got “the Shaft” when it came to his own party’s primary results in the Iowa Caucus. The only “hope” for any political future rests with the Occupy movement.

Tonight, while Berney Sanders (a politician I do respect) spoke on Bill Maher - saying, “Let me be clear, corporations are not people.” I knew he was right; however, Bill's concluding “New Rules” also made it abundantly clear - Americans like a bad guy. They want to be (or at least often support) “the villain.” Which is why most Republican candidates can be so unapologetic about acting and behaving like some hybrid of Gordon Gecko as a rap mogul - flaunting their money, bitches, and arrogance.

There is something sadistically savage about American politics that turns honest people into hacks and good writers into company stooges. But we still go along with it all anayway, playing "the game", as the good soldier who knows no other way to really live.

It’s hard to feel optimistic on this cold New York night -as the first snow of the season falls on the bitter streets outside- but I know, that once the spring arrives, a new hope will bloom that no candidate will be able to avoid - We are the 99%.

Etta James was right - “All I could do was cry.” And how poetic that she would die on the day before these primaries. After all, there is no reason to do any less than cry (or, better yet, lash-out in a show of force!) about this horrible, wasteful, and totally useless election of 2012, which will likely only bring a lot of futile chatter and dribble. But I don’t blame those who won’t lash-out; after all, I too am a “company man” (or “little Eichman” - if you must Ward Churchill), too tired tonight to do anything, but stay awake till 4 a.m. writing (for what it’s worth). Eventually, I will curl up and sleep.

But tomorrow, when I awake, I hope to learn that “Herman Cain” (a.k.a. Stephen Colbert) has won the South Carolina Primary, because, after all, we all need a good laugh.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fuck Politics... Football Season Soldiers On!

The 49ers beat the Saints in a dramatic fourth quarter finish securing their spot in next week’s NFC championship game. But the warmth and sun over Candlestick Park was soon replaced by the bitter cold wind and darkness that surrounded Foxboro Stadium, where the cult of Christian personality associated with the Broncos talented quarterback, Tim Tebow, would face-off against the Patriot’s Tom Brady. Saturday night’s game (at least for me) was a symbolic battle that pit nationalism (Patriots) against religious piety (Broncos). In a way, it felt nice to root for “the hometown team” - Go New England! Thankfully, the Patriots won in record-breaking fashion and ensured Tim Tebow would know once and for all - Jesus is on no one’s side!

Sunday would provide football fans with two incredible games. First the Baltimore Ravens against the Houston Texans. Once Baltimore won, we quickly flipped the to Fox and turned the AC/DC way up! (My new tradition is to play “Hells Bells” before every Giants game so as to “ensure” a win.) I suppose, for those of us without religion, it’s sometimes difficult to shake our silly human need for ritual. Admittedly, I - like most Giants fans- went into Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers prepared for the worst, but hoping with all hope for a much-needed revenge comeback. Fortunately, Big Blue didn't disappoint and gained an impressive win on Sunday and are now also on their way to meet the 49ers for a chance to win the Championship round.

As football fans watched their teams battle it out through the postseason playoff weekend, political junkies would be gearing up for a different kind of game - the Republican South Carolina presidential primary. It wasn’t just the Packers who lost yesterday, Jon Huntsman did also, finally dropping out of the primary race. Huntsman immediately threw -what little weight he had- behind Mitt Romney. This was of course a completely hypocritical reaction inspired by the predictable amount of Republican Party peer-pressure. After all, Huntsman has been out for Romney ever since he entered the race. In fact, the second he announced his endorsement for Romney, his website took down any and all Super Pac adds criticizing the Republican frontrunner.

But as anyone who lives in America (or anywhere under the guise of a capitalist social contract can attest) - competition breeds strange, shallow, and savage creatures.

It has been difficult to maintain my mission to write about this election year as actively as Hunter S. Thompson did way back in 1972. Of course, the life we live in 2012 is far different from back then, but nevertheless, I guess it's worth a shot. I hope to have a more cogent assessment of "where we are now" by my next column - but what’s the sense? After all, there is no sense being really made from the cast of racist, fearful, and backward thinking Republican Party candidates. Moreover, I'm personally reluctant to begin commenting at all on "my" President Obama; after all, it is difficult to really say I fully support a President who has not been as productive and liberal as I would have preferred him to be. But we can leave that screed for another day.

I suppose the only person really making any sense of this horrible election is a comedian. We have all heard of Stephen Colbert's campaign to promote the "rights" of corporations (after all, they "are people" - as Mitt Romney claims). If you have not, you should really look into Colbert's (excuse me... "the definitely not coordinating with Stephen Colbert" Super Pac - Americans for a better tomorrow, tomorrow. Colbert has been brilliantly and satirically educating his audience (and the American public) about the influence and sway Super Pacs have over the current electoral process.

So, for now, politics can wait - football season rages on.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2012 - Another Campaign

...politics is an art, not a science, you dumb bastards, and so the only real discoveries are made on the ground, amongst the contenders, the mobs and the chaos.” - Mark Grueter

Good advice from my friend commenting on Hunter S. Thompson’s, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72; unfortunately, most of us are unable to really experience this art of politics “on the ground.” Instead, politics is experienced through the instantaneous and sterilized frame of the mass (social) media machine. Then again, isn’t this where we always make our decisions -through the media? The public square looks much different today than it did in 1972. So, is it possible to experience politics “on the ground” in 2012?
Forty years ago, as the Democratic primary season was gearing-up to select its candidate to run against incumbent Republican President, Richard Nixon, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson rented an apartment in Washington D.C. (where “life runs fast and mean”...) to fully cover the campaign. Ultimately, much of his coverage took place on the road, “amongst the contenders, the mobs and the chaos.” For twelve-months, Thompson wrote an ongoing column documenting his experiences and thoughts while on the campaign trail through his signature “Gonzo" journalism. Back in 1972, there were no iPhones, MSNBC, internet, etc. - writing was still done on typewriters. There was not much room for error. To get his writing to the editors in San Francisco, Rolling Stone magazine even purchased an early model fax machine (which Thompson would come to call “that goddamn Mojo Wire”) to expedite the process of submitting material for publication under an always looming deadline. “There was never enough time.” Indeed; however, I lack sympathy for Thompson’s predicament - the age of Twitter makes it very difficult (if not, arguably, useless...) to reflect - let alone write- on anything.

Ultimately, the Democrats chose Senator George McGovern from South Dakota as their candidate in the general election. Despite McGovern’s idealism and popularity with “the youth vote”, Richard Nixon proved too formidable of an incumbent to beat. President Nixon -much to the dismay of Thompson- won the general election in a landslide. In the popular vote, Nixon received almost 18 million more votes than McGovern -the widest margin of any presidential election.

Times were much different forty years ago and, in ways, one could almost nostalgically look back on these “simpler" times. Of course, the work and cult of personality that has now become “the legend of Dr. Thompson” did much to romanticize an, admittedly, grim chapter in American history (as if any chapter isn’t grim...). Thompson had a way of making things more exciting, poetic, and interesting (than, arguably, they actually were). Perhaps, my nostalgia stems from being jaded with the current political climate? Or, maybe it’s the picture Thompson paints of a life always on the move? He writes that Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72 was written “in airport bars, all-nite coffee shops, and dreary hotel rooms all over the country- there is hardly a paragraph in [his] jangled saga that wasn’t produced in a last-minute, teeth-grinding frenzy.” Such descriptions are an attractive alternative to an otherwise mundane nine-to-five reality of “experiencing” politics through the Huffington Post blog roll.

Although Thompson’s 1972 campaign was dramatically different than the 2012 election will likely be - what were the differences? Were there any similarities or parallels between the campaign of 1972 and the current political climate? Thompson was writing before Reagan and the birth of the “televised” presidency; accordingly, he precedes the Bush years, twenty-four-hour-a-day news-cycle, and Obama administration by decades. But what can be learned from reflecting on Thompson’s ’72 journey of “Fear and Loathing” and the election year that American political junkies are gearing up for now?

Thompson was not a serious political analysts and even admitted that his writings should be seen as more of “a jangled campaign diary than a record of reasoned analysis.” Although Thompson was a “political junkie”, he knew he wasn’t an expert; nevertheless, when flipping through the talking heads and pundits on every channel of the cable news networks or blogosphere, one asks - who really is an “expert” in this sordid game? Despite Thompson’s embellishments and exaggerations, there was something brutally honest about his take on the election of 1972. His purpose for traveling along on the campaign trail was “to learn as much as possible about the mechanics and realities of a presidential campaign, and... to write about it the same way [he’d] write about anything else -as close to the bone as [he] could get, and to hell with consequences.”

And so, why not?... Another campaign and, perhaps, another “jangled campaign diary” -far from the far in fact, I would say, I’m not even in the stadium, no... I’m comfortably and sedentarily ‘experiencing’ this campaign from the screen and my own domestic life. This is sheerly a writing exercise and personal experiment. So...“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” - Dr. Thompson

December 2011

I write this five days away from the Iowa caucus. (The MSNBC, yammering-on in the other room has a silly countdown clock in the corner of the screen...). Personally, I’ve been trying to avoid any and all political discourse these past couple of weeks; after all, “‘tis the season” and although I don’t religiously celebrate any holidays, I’m certainly thankful for the quiet time I have off from work and teaching to read, paint, eat, sleep, etc. - whatever my body wants, I give it. Indeed, there’s something marvelous and magical (one could say, miraculous) about this special time of year when celebration, relaxation, and reflection is encouraged. If only “everyday could be a holiday.

Then again, life tends to get a little dull when spent at home lazily sleeping-in and daydreaming the afternoon away. Although I loathe the subway commute, I do appreciate having to report to class and the office, such responsibilities compliment a more disciplined day. Such responsibilities give a man PURPOSE. And purpose, or perhaps, discipline is exactly what we’re here to discuss. Do I have the discipline to “get my head into the game”? To meet deadlines? To better discipline my body and being? Do I have what it takes to “campaign”?