reality and self awareness

A couple of experiences that allowed me to be fully aware of myself (but only for a second or two):

One: Guthrie Theater Acting Camp, circa 1978. First day with a bunch of strange, new, much cooler than me kids backstage. The camp “counselor”, also an actor in the Guthrie troupe, puts us all in a big circle and one by one we are to walk directly across the circle “normally”. As you can imagine, that’s impossible. The very fact that this group of young strangers are all watching you makes it absolutely impossible to walk “normally.” I believe I strutted, then sat down red-faced thinking what a lop I was. “Lop” being a strange little term that was popular among my small group of friends back then. It meant 1. uncoordinated; and 2. doofus. More or less.

This is an example as to why “Reality” TV is really the worst name for whatever that is. Anytime a camera (or the eyes of my fellow campers) is trained on you, reality slips right out the back door. Nothing that happens when the subjects know the camera is on can be remotely described as “reality”. It immediately becomes performance, whether we like it or not.

The other time, and this is rather embarrassing, I was standing mostly naked but for a shirt with the full length mirror to my right. I’m not one to stare at myself in the mirror and if you know me by sight, you know why. Pretty much average looking all around. But this one day, I’m standing there and happen to glance over to my own face at the exact same moment I pulled my belt up and it whips me right in my most personal privates, snap! and I saw my own face respond to the searing pain. Interesting, that. Painful, but interesting. I had no idea my face could ever contort in that manner.

The secret of being boring is to say everything.

The prescient Voltaire

The quote is Voltaire’s and so precedes Facebook by a few centuries, but would certainly have been uttered by him again had he had the distinct pleasure to read the daily, sometimes hourly, even minute-by-minute observations shared by his “friends”. Facebook has many uses for people, organizations and multi-national corporations. It’s become a sort of individually tailored town square through which we users all walk (some only occasionally, others never seem to leave) to greet our friends, hear the gossip and see the storefronts and street vendors. It’s ultimately a terribly lazy, and strangely passive (even camouflaged), way to go about experiencing the world. You can more or less hide in a bush by the sidewalk and just watch it all unfold from there (generally my M.O.).

That is my way because I don’t communicate well through anything like an online “chat”. The rhythm of the chat (or texting) is broken for me. If we are going to lay out long stories, arguments, treatises and the like and have another comment in return, then that sort of typing, sending and waiting for reply works just fine. But if we’re going to have a conversation with short sentences (not even) and shorter replies, then we must do that in person or with sound. To wait more than a half of a second for someone to reply to “Meet me at Luce” with “OK” is ludicrous. It’s a colossal waste of time and, keeping in mind the rule that 99 percent of all quoted numbers are made up, I would bet that we’re wasting millions of hours of time each year waiting for simple, often inane, replies.

The other problem with the chat business is it becomes chatty and chatty is girlie which is why I’ve always said that Facebook is for girls and chatty boys. Imagine any real man – real or Hollywood induced – and then imagine them posting their status on Facebook. John Wayne, no way. Bronco Nagurski, not a chance. James Bond, not unless it was really a trigger to a bunker busting bomb on the side of a mountain on an island somewhere in the ocean. That’s because it’s information lite; and these guys were men of few words and certainly wouldn’t waste any on “Having red sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil tonight!”

And that chattiness, especially in the one-way fashion it mostly unfolds on Facebook, becomes in its breadth, boring. No one can talk (or post) constantly and consistently say something of worth. And like the Menards commercials playing in the Menards while you are shopping, it first surprises, then annoys, then irritates and eventually slips a bit into the background as a minor irritation like a leg dotted with mosquito bites.

But like scratching the bites, I have this strange compulsion to read the incessant posts. Mostly it’s the proverbial train wreck from which I cannot turn. The gore, the sickness, the sadness, the sense of there but for the grace of the gods go I, are all somehow alluring, and yet simultaneously, and ultimately, boring.

That being said, here I am posting my own thoughts. There are two differences however: I don’t expect a reply and the related second difference, no one is reading this – my town square here is empty!

I guess we’re all broadcasting our thoughts with various degrees of thoughtfulness, intimacy and engagement.

Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding

It is the end of the school year and that is true also for North Como Pre-School up on Larpenteur Avenue. My daughter Olivia is “graduating” from there this spring (notice how many grades graduate these days?) and being it’s the end of the year, the resident Betta fish needed a home and Olivia was chosen among the whole class to have the fish. What an honor for her and a $30 tab for us to purchase the tiny tank, bubbler, plastic plants, water purifier, and so on.

I was first thinking we go full-on to a ten or twenty gallon tank as I had in high school. (I remember crumpling tin foil and then opening it up and putting it behind the tank. The light reflected off it at all sorts of groovy angles. It was a sweet 70’s era fish pad.) We could then fill it with rosy barbs, tiger barbs and any other fish we wanted. But someone pointed out to me that the Betta is rather unsociable with other fish, particularly other Bettas. In fact, put a mirror up to the side and the Betta would bash it’s little fish head against the image until it died. (I do wonder what the Betta would think of the disjointed image from my tin foil background. Some one-eyed Picasso-esque image of himself staring back. Freaky for the Betta no doubt.)

So we blew $30 on a tank for one fish we never asked for. A fish who has to live alone its entire life. An angry killer fish unable to inhabit space with any other fish – or he’ll kill it. Nice.

Anyhow, my daughter named her fish Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding. Middle name: Jackson. It’s a nice name, evocative of nature and, for me, Bill Cosby. The Jackson bit I’m not sure about but I don’t see us using the middle name much as Tree Stump Jell-O Pudding is rather much to say already.

After purchasing the tank at a store that overcharged us no doubt, we went to Target (where the kids were unruly, annoying and bordering on nutso) and after checking out, Jana and the kids walked ahead and I purposely hung back 25 feet to have, and I’m serious about this, a few moments of relative quiet. It was bliss. I walked past the checkouts in what felt like slow motion. I shut out every sound. I walked blissfully toward the exit, alone, like a Betta, though not as ornery.

But soon, Olivia turned and saw me, and as she is wont to do, felt bad for me all alone back there and came running over. It’s great to be loved. And odd that the only quiet time I get is at the busy checkout of Target. Maybe if I was a bit more ornery…

poor, lonely landlord

Poor, lonely landlord
love cannot find you
and you’ll be certain of that,
behind the walls, up the stairs,
raging at the injustices
you so carefully tend.

The hiss, the spit, the victim’s screech,
the trembling hands that torch bridge
after bridge after bridge
that lead to the island
alone where you sit
hissing and spitting and screeching.

[Penny-wise. Pound-foolish.
Save a nickel. Spend a friend.
Count your blessings. Not your jewels.]

But the walls are crumbling,
holes are opening,
the edifice no longer protects.
The gardens are dying,
they no longer feed
the imposter that’s stolen your soul.

There’s just you
poor and lonely and lording
over what
exactly.

sara palin is brilliant

Really. Let’s admit it. Politically she’s a fucking cipher, dumb as grizzly-shat-upon log but still brilliant in her own way. She can change this tiny world of hers and ours if she positions herself as the Redneck Oprah – maybe not so much in those words – but actually in that talk show manner. Stay out of policy and talk the talk she talks. For many it’s beyond scary ignorance, but for a very wide swath of people, she’s a straight-shooter, a truth teller, a hockey-talky-mommy.

Cater to them, outside politics, you’ll be genius. And you will be a bipartisan entertainer entertaining us all.

Mom

Jeez. Mother’s Day. What can a fella say that hasn’t been said already? It’s well-trod territory. We love our mothers. They brought us into this world and bypassed a thousand urges to take us out. They went through the pain of birth, something we can only imagine feels something like crashing down on the crossbar of our bike and sliding forward into the goose neck in the wreckage of another Evil Knievel inspired stunt. While one can never know the other, it’s pretty well accepted that hers hurt quite a bit worse than ours. We got blinding pain and nothing more. She got the ball, chain and glory of us for eternity as a bonus.

And no matter how old or successful we get, we remain a ball and chain. Our pain hurts our moms. We suffer. She suffers. Having kids is like re-setting your life in a way that while you thought the traumas of childhood were behind you, they return in full-force and informed by our ability to remember and inability to step in and make it all right. Loving your child means leaving them to the “normal” fears, frustrations and heartbreaks that life doles out. Loving your child then means suffering right along with them.

Sure, we also glory in their successes. In fact in the process of writing tonight, I stopped to put the kids to bed, during which, Ben, two, had his first poop on the toilet. There was rejoicing all around. He called in the ladies (his mother and sister) to allow them a glimpse of the sunken little turd.

It was a pretty nice mother’s day gift to Jana, when you think about it, that sunken, beautiful little turd.

And to my mom I say thank you for suffering along with me. Thank you for sending me back out in the world when I just wanted to hide away. Thank you for loving me when I deserved very little. I know why you did it though and it has something to do with all those sunken, little… Glory be.

Stop it!!

The term “Prominent anti-gay activist” seems to mean “Actually gay anti-gay activist” these days.

Why does this keep happening? This needs a little more looking into. There is some link to religion certainly. These guys tend to be very, if not balls-out (no pun intended) crazy religious. They go to church and preach the evils of homosexuality from their pulpit, be it there, at work, among friends and so on. But soon – bang! (again, no pun) they’re outed! And usually in some rather unsavory manner. It’s not like we find out they’ve had an ongoing, mutually loving affair with a man, but it’s call-boys, illicit sex in a gay bar bathroom, shit, throw in some crystal meth and bondage!

So, what’s going on? Are they so self-loathing about their feelings that they repress and repress and scream the opposite of their actual feelings? Is it the religion that tells them over and over that their natural feelings are sinful, evil and against their god’s teachings? Certainly, the church is involved. The legions of pedophile priests says volumes about the relationship.

Maybe it’s partly that they spend so much time thinking about gays, first in that very negative light, that eventually they get more used to them, then curious, start experimenting and then, busted and back to wifey (sometimes).

I don’t know, but the truth of the matter is that the more someone talks family values, the less i’d ever trust them to have any contact with mine. And the more someone hates fags (and yes, here it comes) the more I would bet they are beyond curious. It’s a cliche, but it just keeps on proving itself true.

Here’s the best part: “Rekers told the New Times he hired the escort to help carry luggage, not for sexual purposes, and that he only learned his companion was a prostitute midway through the trip.”

Now that’s ballsy.

Hey, Dad. I’m in jail.

It’s going to sound sexist and i don’t apologize for it, but the two mfers who shot and killed the cop yesterday in St. Paul, while being total tools themselves, were obviously failed by their dads. Boys need dads to raise them up right. And when a boy can grow up to think that killing a cop or anyone else  is anything other than appalling and even consider doing it, let alone doing it!, his dad fucking blew it. I honestly think that when a young male – say to 25 – commits a crime like that their biological father should be forced on television answering questions to their own crime of fucking up raising a kid. A little public shame would be great, we might learn something about how not to raise kids, it might have a scared straight effect making other dads pay a little more attention to their boys and so on. I like it.

I’m pissed off also because one of those assholes was sentenced to 10 years for an assault and robbery charge and ended up doing 280 days. My second cousin is doing a full five years for growing marijuana, which is on its way to full-on legalization in some states (sorry, Mexican gangbangers, you’re about to lose your lock in that particular profit center) and happening to have a hunting rifle in the cabin where he was growing. Mandatory minimum. Five years for growing pot. That is one fucked up system and the fact that judges don’t go on strike due to having to impose those mandatory minimums is beyond me. It’s like telling mechanics they have to overhaul the engine if the car comes in three times in a year. Even if it was in for wiper blades, new tires and a detailing.

Yes, i know women raise up good boys alone all the time, so don’t start with me. Go spend more time with your kids and buy some pot from a good local grower. The world will be a better place for it.

On Karen Carpenter and t.f.e.

You’ve heard it. You could have been living under a fucking bridge but you would have heard it blasting from some car driving by. The vocal track shat on by that fucking effect (T.F.E.). It slightly modulates so it mostly sounds like the singer just blew back an entire Bubble Up and is either burping or hiccuping or both. Constantly. Because they seem to have a penchant for using it throughout the entire track. Because it’s so fucking cool!

Actually, it’s lazy. It probably sounded cool some years back when it was introduced. A couple of acts might have benefited from the novelty. Cool enough. But it went from some cool vocal thing to what is what? Standard? Certainly ubiquitous. Now they’re like. That vocal kind of sucks, let’s put that fucking effect on it! Now it’s gone from sucks to stupid. Can you tell I hate that fucking effect?

But it does lead me to Karen Carpenter, the most perfect singer in the history of humankind. Karen Carpenter’s voice is easy to describe. It’s perfect. She has perfect pitch. She hits every note. She sounds like the very personification of ‘I’m alive!’ which, I know, is somewhat ironic and definitely sad. But her voice is perfect. She never noodles around notes. She sings the fucking note! As it was intended to be sung! Perfectly.

There are lots of great singers around now of course but can you tell I love Karen Carpenter?

I do.

A.I.

My wife and I have an ongoing argument as to whether you can be trusted to act as impartial judge of the art of a person you hate for some other reason. I say no. It’s my American Idol theory. I often have an unwarranted hatred towards one of the singers. Each week, I know they sucked; but each week, the judges hear something else. I think we have to recuse ourselves in situations like that. I could never properly judge say Glenn Beck’s work though I do wish him good health, love and happiness. As well as those young singer hopefuls!

She mentioned a few artists that she ‘could not stand’, but she recognized they were talented and she would listen to them if ‘they came on in the car’. I have one band that I was so annoyed by a magazine interview, that I went from loving them (at least the t.r. produced lp) to getting a kind of squeamish something in the stomach whenever they surfaced.