Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"For What Can I Fight?"


Atop Hakusan Mountain sits the lonely retreat of a monk. From here the monk feels the pulse of the land as a sailor feels the currents upon the seas. He can neither influence the tide nor the ship's direction, his is only to report from the crow's nest. But a communication breakdown has occurred in the island of Japan as she utterly disintegrates in the first half of the sixteenth century. It appears that the ceaseless struggles for power will leave the country in permanent chaos, vulnerable to invasion and to become a dreaded Chinese colony.

The curious samurai had traveled from the central Eastern provinces to seek the guidance of the monk whose notoriety had spread by those in the know. Masahide had made a similar pilgrimage in his youth only to be disappointed to find a man spouting mindless platitudes presented as wisdom. He thought he'd never trust another monk again. Yet here he was making this climb up the holy mountain. This time, he had to admit he felt something different even if it was just the eeriness of the mountain fog.

The physicality of the journey had been made all the more arduous by the conflict within. Masahide felt a headwind in every step, a hesitation in his stride. The constant questioning gave the feel of plunging forward through deep snow without snowshoes. Though having made even longer journeys in the past with ease this one left him exhausted and mentally broken. For a samurai, that is the worst possible state in which to be.

First sight of the hut removed his lingering doubts. Masahide did not know why that was but was experienced enough to accept his instincts. It's quite a step to claim oneself to be on a moral quest. "Who am I to do this? Am I not as foul as the next man? Am I not as full of worldly ambition?" For the first time he was to come face to face with those answers and this put more fear in him than any mortal enemy ever had. Something told him this was for bigger game.


Masahide received no reply to his tentative knock. Nothing about this is easy! He could turn back having never shown his face. Perhaps this was a sign to do so. You're only making a fool of yourself! Take this chance to run before it's too late. But he did not run. Instead, Masahide opened the door and peered inside to see a man sitting with legs folded before a fire. The man's focus could not be disturbed. Masahide felt no word he could bring forth would have any significance at that moment compared to the subject of the monk's concentration.

"Sensei?"

He was on his own to decide what to do. For a man seeking guidance that was the same as sitting naked on hot coals. Yet that is exactly what he did as he took a seat on the floor. As time passed and the closed eyes of the monk did not open, Masahide was forced to struggle with his demons. At times he was nearly driven from the hut in tortured agony from his inner arguments. He couldn't leave. He couldn't stay. He couldn't cry out for help. Time itself lost meaning.

Ironically enough, it was a platitude from the first monk that came back to him: "The finest wins come from surrender." That so infuriated Masahide at the time he stormed away at such an obviously ludicrous sentiment. But surrender he did, his questions washed away by an inner rain. It was the only possible way to remain in the silent hut. The battle of questions and answers would have to be forfeited.

"I'm glad you finally came," said the monk, knowing the moment of peace had arrived.

"You knew I was coming?"

"There are none so blind as those who see only with their eyes. You've been grappling with something for a long time. You debated if you should even make this pilgrimage. Your being is not whole, you have long lived in this state of conflict."

"All that is true."

"And now I must tell you I cannot give you the answers to your questions."

The samurai snorted in amazement. "You won't believe this but that's actually a relief. I feel more peaceful now than I have in ages. I feel free."

"That is because you were under the illusion I know something you do not. Part of you wanted to kill me for feeling you live at my mercy. Now you see there is nothing you can know that cannot be known."

"Were I to leave now with nothing more than that this journey will not have been wasted."

"We sit as one with nature. A few minutes ago you struggled with great effort to remain seated, but now no part of you wishes to rise from that spot. All eternity could pass first before you'd wish to leave."

"Again, that is true. The urge to remain here is overpowering and I do not seek to resist."

"That is the power of nature. We are Her servants to take such fruits as we wish. To fight Her is to starve."

"That seems so obvious now! I must ask to impose on your time, sensei. I know not for how long, but only as long as it takes for a leaf to fall from a branch."

"We shall wait together for that time and celebrate your departure as inevitable and in accordance with the universe."


The monk introduced the samurai to tea, a concoction of the gods. Masahide had heard good word spoken of tea but never had the chance to sample it before. While traveling there he wondered how any soul could live alone atop a mountain and not go mad. Now Masahide wondered how he'd ever force himself return to the "real world." Going from a state of disconnected to connected had brought order and balance to his world. He then started giving the answers he'd sought to seek.

"I'm sworn to my liege lord but I see no future for our clan. Stories across the land are of horror. The son kills the father. His brother then wants to kill him. We are a nation of infighters and that causes me great fear. The bakufu has delved into the same state of affairs. Our nation has no future on this path. Don't you see that too?"

"Our nation is on fire. But if a man were to look at only that he'd be lost. He could outwardly fight and win as commanded only to lose to the struggle within. You ask how can you serve your liege lord when so bedeviled."

"Exactly! It had not been clear before but that's exactly it. I do not wish to betray my lord but the confusion inside prevents my full service. I fear to think beyond that."

"But you already have. You foresee the end of your clan as stronger, more stable clans sense your weakness. With no central authority left to intercede you fear your life a fool's errand."

"It's true. Yet I have never said those words out loud."

"Those who dare listen can hear them well enough."

"Yes, I sense that too. I am not the most cunning in the clan despite my high position. I am most worried."

"And there are certainly those who would profit from your worry. They will use your doubts against you even at the expense of the clan. They seek only to ascend even if in the end it means the downfall of everyone."

"You understand everything so well! If only I could take you back with me to advise."

"I've only spoken what you've already surmised but refused to admit."

"Yes. I suppose so. But like you said, the land is on fire. I don't see the end game. A victory today is washed away tomorrow. For what can I fight?"


"More tea?"

"Hai, arigato gozaimasu."

The taste of the tea was exquisite. To taste this every day for the rest of his life would be certain victory, indeed. A victory!? Is he showing me a victory within that cannot be taken away? How true it is! And I also feel that continual victory however small leads to something more, to a real future. Am I dreaming?

"You are not dreaming. Fire can purify as well as destroy. Those who seek to harness the fire's power will be consumed by it. Many clans will be wiped clean from the face of the earth. Those who surrender to the higher cause will survive the fire - but only those. What you see as destruction is the beginning of the end of disorder and chaos. Yes, it will get worse before it gets better but in the end we will be one nation under one sword. And remember this also: in this world this is not the last of fire nor hopeless times such as these. Not every age is an age for song."

"I feel the hope! Maybe not in my lifetime, but I feel it. There's always a point to serving the greater good. I feel so ashamed for having given up. I hope you can forgive me, sensei." Masahide bowed deeply in supplication.

"I am not your Savior. The words you came to seek were already inside you."

"Ah, so ka." Masahide smiled. "May we blame it on the tea then, sensei?"

The monk returned the smile. "As you wish."

*****


Hirate Masahide returned to the Oda clan in that year of 1542 where he helped command forces in the victorious battle of Azukizaka over the Imagawa. After his visit to the holy mount his reputation as an honest and earnest soul only increased. The very vital skills of negotiation and alliance in those turbulent times proved useful to the survival of the small but noted Oda clan. Six years later in the second battle of Azukizaka, the Oda clan was defeated by the Imagawa clan whose growth of its power base seemingly could not be stopped. But Masahide did not lose heart.

When Oda Nobuhide the clan leader died, his son Nobunaga took over. Nobunaga was singular in his approach and behavior, he having no room to entertain conventional norms. His vision he alone could see and his outwardly erratic behavior took its toll on Masahide. Masahide's faith was tested by this young upstart who battled with his brother for control of the clan. Perhaps the monk had been wrong. Perhaps the fire would consume the nation, after all.

To feel his life served no purpose - to have the rug of belief ripped out from underneath him - suffocated Masahide's soul. He simply could not live if he didn't feel he was serving the greater good. Loyal to the end, he hoped to salvage Nobunaga's errant ways with an act of seppuku, showing his despair for the future of the clan. He had no way of knowing Nobunaga's act was one of deception to keep his enemies off balance while he gathered strength.


Nevertheless, Nobunaga was touched by his highly respected retainer's suicide of remonstration. While already sensing the need to serve the greater good of unification, Masahide's act affirmed this belief beyond all doubt, Nobunaga carrying this in his heart until the day he died, his retainer's voice a pillar of inner strength (just as the monk's had been to Masahide). A temple was constructed to honor Masahide and his integrity, a reminder of a value the clan must hold dear if to attain ultimate victory.

Nobunaga went on to unify Japan as no one else before in history, destroying the Imagawa clan who numbered ten times his own. He knew his success was in surrendering to the guiding winds of destiny. As other clans floundered in pettiness, Oda rose to the top of the heap. The Way Of Tea also took over the country in the latter half of the 16th century as tea became more available. Its use as a tool for mediation both on personal and political levels gained momentum until becoming a national institution.

The name of the monk is lost to history but his stewardship is noted in the heavens. Unseen and un-noted, those who held fast to the underpinnings of truth provided the crucial bridge out of chaos to prevent Japan from being thrown to the wayside as happened to so many nations in world history. There will come a time when the monk's name is known again when final accounting is done as the undercurrents of love irrepressibly and forever surface.


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Karmic Salesman


At our custom car dealership, a hungry customer arrives to see his much anticipated jewel. I'm usually stuck in the back office coordinating the build, never interacting with the end customer. That's how I want it. No one wants to buy a car from me. But this one was already sold and I was just presenting it to the customer since everyone else was busy. Maybe I couldn't sell him on me but I know I could sell in an impersonal way the work done on the car that speaks for itself. For once, my attitude wouldn't come into play.

"Just look at the seats. Finest possible example of Italian leather complete with a letter from the tannery's owner vouching this to be his very best. Just rub your hand along the trim and tell me what you think."

"Amazing! Flawless! Never felt or seen anything like that before."

"20 coats of paint, hand rubbed just as you specified. Check out the depth of that shine."

"Staggering. Simply staggering. Looks like I could stick my hand in it it's so deep."

"Leading edge liquid titanium shocks, one of only three sets in the world. Specially mixed Formula One compound tires made just for you and can only be re-ordered by you. Literally, no one else in the world will have tires as grippy as yours. Had a hell of a time negotiating that!"

"Outstanding! This should be a beast on the track."

"Variable horsepower setting for either road or track for maximum drivability, custom coded chip just for this car."

"Can't wait to get behind the wheel!"

"Only the best materials have been used. Some of the best engineering is in places you can't see. The rustproofing and internal construction will provide an integrity beyond that of even a Rolls Royce. A car that will literally last a life time, maybe two."

"I have to admit this may be the finest example in the world. Couldn't ask for anything more. I am stunned."

I was in agony the entire time, on my best most false behavior, but it seemed I'd made it through. Whew! Just get the fucker out the door and he'll never know what a miserable human being I am, mission accomplished. "Great! Want to go into the office to make the final payment?"

"Tell me, who was it who put this all together to make it happen?"


Shit, last question I wanted to hear. "That was me. I coordinated the build on this."

"Really? Hmm. Well..."

"Well? Well what? Don't you think it's perfect in every way?"

"Absolutely!"

"Then let's go finalize the transaction!!"

"I don't know..."

"What do you mean you don't know? You just said it was perfect! What's your problem?"

"You don't really make me feel good about this."

"It's not my freaking job to make you feel good! What does that have to do with anything? Don't you have a brain in your head? Just accept this car for what it is. It's everything they say it is!"

"What about you? Are you everything they say you are?"

"What does it matter who I am? Just look at the work I did and nothing else. That's all you should do."

"I know. Whatever. I just don't really want to."

"I'm not asking you to marry me or be friends with me or even eat a frickin' meal with me. Just maintain an objective attitude is what you're supposed to do!"

"Nah. Think I'll pass on that."

Motherfucker! This can't be happening to me! Wherever I go I can't escape myself. How am I supposed to get my whole life straight in the next 60 seconds so this guy won't back out on the deal? I thought I found a job where I could hide and not have to worry about my ultra-negativity. No one knows who's behind the keystrokes when ordering. No one even knows what kind of act I'm putting on when talking on the phone, holding my breath. This was supposed to be the perfect con. Fucked again, naturally.


The client starts edging to the exit door, my life evaporating before my eyes. Is this really all there is to life? Shit, get fucked, and die? I didn't know what to do but cry for help.

"Hey, wait!" I plead without a plan in my head, blind faith fear striking deep in my heart. Amazingly, he stopped, hearing something in my voice.

"Yes, what is it?"

I then glimpsed our top salesman at the other end of the showroom in keen conversation with a customer. I always feel good when around him, even I wanting to buy a car just to return the favor. Then inspiration hit me in the nick of time.

"Well, what if I told you that guy over there did it?'

"Julio? You mean Julio built it? Julio's cool!"

"Yeah, what if I told you Julio did it?"

"Sold!"

OK, so life can be good on very rare occasions by the skin of your teeth with improbable providence stepping in at the last minute. But surely it can't be this good all of the time?



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

GoodFellas Anniversary Party


It's been 25 years since the release of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. What Marty gives us is a fictionalized account of the life of Henry Hill. It's all about "living the life" and "being a big shot" and "not being the average guy" - or so it says. It's a slick and wonderful seduction and Marty ain't interested if he can't bend the truth. Once free of reality, a filmmaker can create any sort of fantasy he or she wishes. It just won't be relevant.

Do you really want to hang out with a bunch of losers like the Goodfellas gang? They were cheap and dirty and afraid. Don't believe it? Then go hit someone over the head with a hammer and see what it does to you inside. You'll only end up full of self-loathing and die in jail from cancer like Jimmy Burke, the De Niro character in the film. Here's a fun fact left out of the film: "Burke frequently liked to lock the young children of his victims in refrigerators." Throw in that cold water - and there's plenty more where that came from - and your movie is DOA.

Instead, we see wise-cracking high-livers with plenty of cash and a perverse pride in sociopathic behavior. They think they are rock'n'rollers (like in the very laughable A Bronx Tale), rebels living outside of society with their own rules. But it's just the opposite. They're a bunch of conservative cowards flinching in a prison of fear at any possible cross word. They have to have others think good things about them because they don't think it themselves. Who wants to live like that?

I jerked off in my jammies last night. You think that's funny?

Like a lot of creative endeavors, GoodFellas was done by parsing out the bad and filling in the blanks with a soothing lie to tie it all together. GoodFellas pretends to show the awful truth, posing what unpleasantness it contains as the whole truth. Scorsese knows if he did show their complete depravity he'd lose his audience who'd be muttering Good Riddance instead of GoodFellas. One has to imagine it wasn't Eric Clapton's epic love song "Layla" going through Jimmy Burke's mind while committing serial killings as portrayed in the film. But it certainly sells better and the director knows that once seduced the converted will defend the film's portrayal to the bitter end.

So in honor of Marty's landmark lie I made my own quickie video as a tribute. I channeled my inner Scorsese as I wondered how he'd treat the biggest gangsters of all time: the Nazi Party. He wouldn't detail the concentration camp commander who lost his prolific sex drive as he absorbed the realization of the atrocities, hollowing him out as a human being into agonizing desperation and depravity (Read some of the post war debriefing interviews for that and other stories of psychological destruction). Nah, he'd concentrate only on the "party" part, supplying them with a classic rock soundtrack and witty moments of hilarity.

Don't get me wrong, Martin Scorsese is a very highly skilled filmmaker. I loved The Color Of Money, I loved his part in Quiz Show and I certainly wish I had his talent at my disposal. Be that as it may, his proclivity for anything bent is a dead end street. There's far more to film in the starburst of truth than the black hole of the bent world. One only need look within.

Below you can view my un-masterpiece.



Monday, September 21, 2015

Black Mass (Film Review)


In blogging - as opposed to writing - you can take shortcuts. It's a self-serving creative outlet, something to do; you can spell out your thoughts or feelings in shorthand if you wish. It makes no matter outside of your own personal satisfaction, in the end you're simply masturbating in the dark. What you do will not see the light of day and that's OK, that's part of the deal. Main thing is to keep that in perspective (many do not).

So I can recount plot points in my head without fully spelling them out. I can say "Jenny was sad" to make record of the picture in my head. Or I can show instead of tell and say, "A stinging tear dripped down Jenny's swollen cheek." I saw the stinging tear in my imagination but used the shortcut of simply saying she was sad. The reader cannot see what's in my head, though. So when doing actual writing, there is no graver sin than using shortcuts (fear can often inhibit one).

So while you may have concocted a wonderful, telling story in your imagination if it is not followed by the requisite execution it's all for nothing. Your story then becomes about not what it was but rather about what it was not. In the one-note characterization of Whitey Bulger in the repressive "Black Mass" we are twice told in narration that after a family death he "was never the same again." It's a splendid example of saying without showing. Whitey is exactly the same throughout the entire movie. He's not Scarface on a downward journey. He starts in hell and ends in hell.

Get ready for two hours of the same sulking look

I've always thought Johnny Depp was overrated. The last few years have borne that out (Hi Tonto!). He picks the perfect part for a comeback but does nothing with it even though the script was no friend either. He channels his inner Christopher Walken in many scenes, but never does he match the horrifying depths of Walken in, say, "At Close Range" where Walken is spinning around in conflicted torment in a pickup until he finally realizes he's going to kill his son. That was an unforgettable moment. Depp's character was mostly done in the makeup room.

In the godawful trailers before the movie we see one for "Legend" about the sadistic Kray brothers of England, their atrocities made hip complete with a stimulating jazzy soundtrack. Just sick. "Black Mass" hopes to be compelling too in the gangster genre. I love anti-heroes as much as anyone but the whole Scorcese trend of mass killings to classic rock tracks is an invitation to a delusionary perversion. Making people feel good about their sins is the oldest political trick in the book. Save the lies for the bloggers, guys.

I knew something of the Bulger story from the History Channel years ago. The film was illuminating in the background of the hard to swallow tale of how two FBI agents got roped into his murderous activities and it is yet another exploration of Boston's sociopathic Southie mentality. But we never get to know Whitey. We see what he did not why he did. We can conclude he was a man who'd stopped living on the inside but we don't see that tragic descent; the blogger/writer kept that in his head. For me, "Black Mass" is more about what it wasn't than what it was. Show, don't tell! Non quod dictum est, sed quod factum est, inspicitur.


It's dismaying to see blogging in movies. Anything I can do myself doesn't interest me. I'm not selling this crap here, I don't have to be fair. I come off far more dogmatic than I'd ever be in real life. In real life - unless I completely write you off - I always look for the common ground and hope to build on that. But actual art has to transcend the person. Every soul is helplessly bound to serve a greater purpose. True art provides that purpose. But if you're just going to jerk off on the big screen, you'll be remembered about as much as any of the millions of lost blogs floating down the raging river that is the internet.


See a really scary character

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sad Sam Suicide Society

"I read the news today, oh boy."

Two fell from the sky asking why:

"What's a black man? What's a Jew?
"What is it your money can do?

"For children under the sun
"Freedom dies when you're numb.

"Remember to feel your own pain
"Every living soul is the same."

*****

"Even after you've destroyed everything you still want to live. Staying after the fire was my biggest mistake."

The sound of summer cicadas filling his ears, Sad Sam looked down the barrel of a gun. He was to be a part of nothing anymore. He got the news today: his wife had remarried. Another man would be feeling his soul mate's body, writhing in nightly passion, traveling the world. Who can Judas ask to be his friend? He'd made his life unimportant. Why? Why? Why burn down the house that held his dreams?

*****

(Irving, TX) A fourteen year old boy commits the ultimate crime: to trust the society in which he lives. He constructs a labor of love, to share and to give. "This is what life is about." But those who labor to destroy take him as the enemy. "We must make the world safe for we who seek to destroy. Otherwise, who will ever love us? Certainly not this brat!"

He brought his love to school that day, oh boy. Those with eyes for love welcomed him. But the destroyers quickly took over. "This is the Age of Death! Death must rule or we die like fools! We are in charge to keep death safe." Laughing, death's defenders handcuffed and perp walked the boy down the school hallways, a stern message to any who might dare live. The Mayor applauded. "Considering what we do to kids nowadays, how can we possibly trust them?"

*****

In the Suicide Society, the killer is held up as prophet and shaman, his words ruling all others. "We must listen to the killers. It is they who know us best. Hear these high priests and learn wisdom!" Feeling the praise to come, the killer awoke before dawn. He put his collar on. He draped himself in judicial robes. He carried a cross and a flag in one hand, a phased plasma rifle in the other. Sunday morning go-to-meeting time.

"Revelation is here!" announced the kept killer. Only he knew who should live and who should die, the never-ending question terrorizing the guild of guilty guardians. Silent sufferers flocked to the bullets in sweet relief, begging the rest to join them. "Salvation at last!" The outcome of many dreams were decided that day.

*****


"If only everyone else would get their life straight,
"I could get mine straight."

Sad Sam was alone. The universe went still. What was he waiting for? What was he hoping for? Who can own the sun?

"I had to do it...I had to do it. I couldn't let her see who I was. I couldn't let her see what I'm doing to my life..."

Sam's future had gone up in smoke. He faced a life sentence of meaningless slave labor without parole - monsters of the world would see to that just as they had seen to Jesus. He'd been keeping himself alive with a lie. She is never coming back. Everyone was living life but him. The soul broker selling stocks has a house. The struggling mother with two children from two fathers has a house. Even God has a house without even needing one. Sad Sam stood atop the mountain of fools.

His last thought haunted him into eternity. The one fear greater than the end of the world, however inconceivable, incomprehensible, or impossible: What if he'd never needed to burn down his house in the first place? What if he'd really had a future there he did not see? Maybe he wasn't the bum he thought he was until the day he'd thrown it all away.

*****

The spider web in my head
Shows a graveyard of the dead.

(Irving, TX) When pretty little policemen all in a row heard the news of the boy who brought love to school transgressing against the age of death, they were overjoyed.

"It's a love bomb!"

"A bomb!?! Yippeee! I can't wait to nail that bastard! Haven't I been saying kids are shit for years? Especially mine!"

"We're on the frontline of terror now! We'll be famous! We gets to fight us some real live terrorism!"

The three SWAT members then erupted in a shared moment of mutual masturbation. "This is so exciting! I get be useful and a shithead at the same time!"

The teacher, the principal, the police and the Mayor surrounded the handcuffed and isolated child. "Admit it you little fucker! You want to blow up the world! We'll get you, you fucking piece of shit! I'm protecting my family here, Muslim motherfucker! Do you know what it's like be bullied at school? I sure do!""

"See? I knew anyone different than I was no good and a terrorist. Now we get to terrorize you! HAHAHA! Just like God wants us too. God wants us to piss on you like yesterday's newspaper."

"He's being defiant! He must be punished! We cannot be perceived as wrong or we'll be laughed at by the world. We'll teach you never to do this again. You hear us: NEVER! Not for a minute, not for a second are you ever to trust us again!"

*****

"An artist without an art is a dangerous man."

As lost children looking to be led, all eyes were on the prophet killer sitting in his robes and collar in the interrogation room. Nervous hands twitched awaiting his words. Who would it be this time? Who would he name? What if he names Wall Street and greedy CEO's? We'd be fucked then! He knows we're a bunch frauds. He knows we go through show trial elections that have no meaning. He knows our idea of "help" is to corrupt and control. Please, please, please blame it on somebody easy to hate!

"I did it because..." The killer stopped, his hangman's eyes enjoying the moment, a puppeteer dangling his puppets. "I did it because it's Tuesday."

"Tuesday? Yes, of course! That's awesome! We'll immediately remove Tuesday from every calendar in the land! No more Tuesdays! Teach the children the new enlightened way."

Johnny started ripping out Tuesdays from the wall calendar when he got home from school. "Look, Ma! I'm making the world a better place! I'm making us safe!"

"What makes you say that, Johnny?"

"A wise man told us so."

"What was it he said exactly?"

"He said we had to pretend to do things that make us appear 'caring and moral'. He said if anyone found out how we really are we'd be dead."

Johnny's mother hesitated, then thought it over. "Here, let me rip out the rest of the Tuesdays. Don't want people to think poorly of us, do we?"



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sitting With Sad Sam Sitting (Confidence Games)


Cowardice and self-pity are my two main attributes. I cling to them as a desperate child to a parent. People are the problem, not the solution. Natural disasters and plane crashes I cannot applaud enough. The fewer the fuckers the better. But on my return trip walking past Sad Sam sitting in the burned out wreckage of his home, something snapped. I did the unthinkable and went over to him to see what's what, violating my no-guard-dropping policy. Smart or not?

"Hey, man." I barely recognized my voice being friendly. But that faraway look on Sam's round face led me in. "Been a while, Sam."

I also almost never address a person by their Christian name. It feels too personal (Emily the one exception). So here I was completely out of character, doing the role reversal of trying to get someone else to open up instead being the stubborn mule myself. I kicked at some debris.

"Can't believe this place is still standing. Still, it's probably better than the shelter."

"Mmh."

Sam had made an affirmative sound. Breakthrough! I knew who he was in the eyes of the world. In the goddam eyes of the preachers he was a commodity to be converted; a rent producing object to the landlords who falsely rule us; just another piece of debris in the landscape to those rushing by in a mad rush to oblivion. But in the anti-world of the shelter, Sam was a star. His act of self-sabotage was notorious and unforgettable, a blaze of shining pain across the night sky.

My biggest fear was to come off as being critical. I mean, it's my natural demeanor and I hate the vicious do-gooding assholes who try to run peoples' lives under the guise of "helping". I had genuine curiosity and concern. I had to show a commitment. I sat down in a clear spot on the floor as tension's pitchforks poked me.


I wanted to say, "She's not coming back!" Instead, I said, "OK if I sit here?" No answer, as expected. "Started walking this route to avoid the masses. Life hasn't changed for me. Guess it never will at this point. I look out and I see nothing. I mean, I'm completely outside of everything. I can't breathe in that fucking shelter but I've no place else to go."

"Me neither."

"Is this where you stay?"

"More or less." Sam didn't look at me when speaking. The burned out wreckage around us bespoke the burned out wreckage within.

"I'm sorry." Another thing I never say. I was just letting the river take me where it will for once.

"Don't be. It just is..."

"You don't want a house, a regular place to live?"

"If I take a house I die."

Whoa! Damn, he is in a bad spot. A thousand questions. Was this his last connection to his ex? Did the pain make him feel alive? What a high price to pay! Sam only saw his reflection when sticking his face in the flames of hell. As someone who's longed for a house his entire life, Sam's statement was tough to wrap my head around. How close to suicide is he, living devoid of self-trust?


"That's rough, man." I was feeling really uneasy at this point. I couldn't just disappear like a Cheshire cat. "I can hear the echoes here. For me, it's songs I remember." Don't always bring things back to yourself, jerkwad! "I hear them and I go straight back in time, like a bullet." I gave out a wry smile.

"I haven't heard the radio in a long time. 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress'. I can't hear that anymore. It used to hurt to hear it. Then it got to be like someone I never knew. Sitting here is about the only safe place left to be."

"I gotta ask, man. How are you getting by? I can't get out of crap job hell."

"Oh, I'm dying. Don't kid yourself."

"Just not making ends meet...?"

"I do stuff. But it's killing me."

"Oh - know that feeling!"

"The lie keeps getting bigger and bigger. I'm not really making it at all. Where does it end? It can't end good. I always end up here alone."

"Maybe everyone died in '09," I ventured (2009 being the year Sam burned down his house, causing his wife and life to run off).

"How the fuck can that be? How the hell is anyone as stupid as I am? Do you know anyone who's burned down their own home? Who does that? I'm the only one..."

His voice was sharper, long held venom coming out.

"We're in a confidence game on this planet. You can read about it all the time. Our unworthy leaders preach on and on about "trust." No matter how rotten the shit they've done, in their minds it's OK to lie like maniacs 'in order to maintain the public trust.' Cocksuckers."


"They are lying? What for? No one has done what I've done..."

"Dude, they melted down the whole fucking economy! You're small time, you just burned down one house! These assholes burned down a nation's."

"That can't be! That's like saying nobody can make a marriage work. Somebody has to be able to."

"Nobody who can do that burns down their house."

Oh, shit! He could read that as an accusation. I was just speaking observationally, not in judgment. Fuck. This diplomacy shit is hard as hell. Thank God he took no offense. His eyes registered a momentary flicker of hope, that maybe he wasn't seeing the whole picture.

"So you're saying everyone's living a bigger and bigger lie? Doesn't seem right. I thought I was all alone in this..."

"Confidence games are the one thing I know. This one started in '09 too. These clowns think it's some sort of act of morality not to admit their crimes. They know they haven't resolved anything - in their lives or anyone else's. But everyone wants so fucking badly to believe we're fine they completely swallow the lies these guys hand out. I'm pretending I'm fine too - but I know I'm dying."

"A world pretending. That just blows my mind. What a scam. Can that really be true?"

"I guess if you're looking down on us from on high it must look like some sort of sick communal dance. You're not alone in your sin, Sam. I understand why you can't leave. Nothing anyone else does can make it any easier. Worst part is she doesn't know. She won't know if you live or die. We scream in silence. We rack up debt as a plea for help. No one's saying anything."

"I don't know how to go forward. I'm just treading water, selling my tomorrows today. I live on the moon and air is running out. If she thinks I'm actually surviving that's the worst death of all. I can't take it."


"Hey, man, ever stop to think I'm stuck in a shelter because I burned down my own house?" That got his head to turn around. "Maybe I didn't use lighter fluid and a match but it's been destroyed. When I saw you sitting here, I thought maybe you'd found a way out of this hell. I want to know the way out...if there is a way."

"I just wish I had a time machine."

Oh, Christ, time machine talk. There's no way back, dude. I came here hoping - I see now - to find deliverance from my own notorious act of self-sabotage. But Sam hadn't found one. In fact, he was determined to die here as if he were still one with her. He's secretly hoping she'll pass by, see him there in his suffering woe, and not think him such a cad. However false, it was the last shred of hope to which he could cling. In reality, Sam was playing a confidence game on himself. The forced march of time is plucking our souls, waiting for the day nothing is left.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sad Sam Sitting


Walking down the street is a different experience for every soul based on circumstance of pride. Were I striding the streets of Manhattan I'd be feeling glorious concrete under my feet participating the grand parade that is New York. Were I an angry lover storming off in a huff I'd see nothing of the street below me be it gold or ghetto. Were I someone whose life is set but whose car broke down I'd look upon it as an inconvenient adventure. But when walking down the street is all you've got to get from point A to point B, the world is a frightening place.

You feel as if you've a target on your back, easy pickings for the predators be they police or perps. How can one argue to be a success in life when forced to stand in the elements? The fuckers in their fancy cars fear you because they fear to be you. They know the unforgiving cruelty of life under their thumb, you're simply evidence to be eliminated. It bothers some less than others, but for me I always take the routes with the least amount of traffic and visibility. I may be stupid but I know enough not to trust the sorry lot who run this world.

Seems I've had occasion to walk stranded just about everywhere, even the gold lined streets of Frisco where I got sick by a newly constructed library and left a fine mess as unintended commentary. But most of the time I'm sauntering through trash lined streets by those who've no stake in the system same as I. That's the only camaraderie I have even if they are mostly wolves. Part of me has a powerful urge to pick up the trash in the parking lots to give a veneer of hope back. But that's like writing in the sand to be washed away by lapping ocean waves.


Amazingly enough, gentrification is coming to south Dallas (aka the wrong side of the tracks). This gives me mixed feelings as I walk along what used to be an area with a force field of low rent buildings and low rent lives. White bread fuckers had no use to come here then. Now they travel through to their freshly built apartments while we remain in a glass menagerie on the other side of their German windshields. I hate to see rot. It's good to see flowers among the weeds. But I'm sure there's a price to be paid for this somewhere - and that price won't be paid by those with money (Hi, Mr. Staubach!).

So I've had to alter my treks to stay safely within the yuppie repelling force field of what is still the overwhelming majority of undevelopment. Not that I don't know that white rot is everywhere, it's just that here we don't have the money to hide it. You'd be surprised at how many souls see having money to hide their rot as the most important virtue in their life - important to the point of killing I might add. As for myself, I see that crushed plastic Coke bottle on the baked black pre-war tarmac and think: that's me.

And that's how I came across the burned out shack of Sam's still standing somehow after all these years. It's off by itself on the yellow grassy end of a block. I always wondered why no other houses were built around it back when the area was developed. It's as if the builders knew its coming fate. What shocked me more was seeing Sam sitting in it, knife still in his soul. I could clearly make out his distinctive profile sitting on one of those metal folding chairs you always see at convention centers. As lonely as I felt on my own trek, seeing Sam stuck in time made the universe spin around me in disoriented despair.


Sam had a woman and a life at one point. I don't know all the details. He had some sort of meltdown and literally burned down his own house. Apparently there was no recovering from that, his woman wanting no part of it. Others at that time in the shelter made fun of him for torching his own home, especially when not even for insurance money. He was in a state of shock then but then like so many others he simply disappeared not be seen again. But he'd always stuck in my mind as I too am my own worst enemy and wondered how he ended up.

Part of me was shocked to see him still alive. Whoever the woman was he was with was the love of his life. He kept asking for her at the shelter. Sitting in that shack was his last remaining connection to what had been. He could move neither forward nor backward. Whoever claimed time heals all wounds never talked to Judas. It was a crystallization seeing him stone-like in the still silence: he couldn't trust himself to build another house, homeless for all eternity.

My brain went all haywire, part of me thinking I should call 911. However futile, we each cling to the idea there is help to be had for every situation - or at least there should be. But "Sad Sam", as he was nicknamed, has no recourse. Though above average in intelligence I knew he was working some crap job where he could avoid the killing knife in his soul. In that moment I even sensed he only stayed alive as a form of punishment to himself. I suspect his former woman, though, would see his continued existence as only a furthering of his betrayal, as if he'd had no feelings all along.


I suppose we each write our own narratives as we see fit to make sense of our lives. No man changes the world except by changing his own. Just as those who kill to hide their rot cling to that as their morality so does Sam cling to his self-punishment as his sole remaining virtue. Try to give him a life and he'd violently resist. Were he to try and have a life anyway he'd only hear his ex's voice shooting him down. "She wants me dead," is what I imagined him saying to himself as I passed by. I know that feeling too so perhaps I was simply writing my own narrative as I see fit.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Walls Of Poverty


When I go to a nice restaurant it's a Big Event, only for me it's like a celebrity sighting in reverse. I feel the spotlight is on me the entire time as the biggest fraud in the place; completely nerve-racking. I can't help the feeling I'm arriving on the red carpet to the world premiere of a highly touted film. No amount of rationalization or attempted reasoning can drive it from my head. I'm on display for all the world to fear and loathe.

This time it was a downtown outdoor café patio on an unusually pleasant late summer day. There was something about the noon sun that day that was quite friendly. Even we prisoners of the world were welcome. So I took up that invitation hoping I wasn't being foolish (yet again). I managed to seat myself comfortably and placed my order without incident, a casual master of my domain. Stuck feeling like a celebrity - and having to live up to that profile - these minor victories gave me a major boost. I was feeling a tad heady on that glorious weekday afternoon.

What am I going to do to fuck this up? That's the usual question that pops up in these situations. But I had a hard time containing my excitement. I stopped to think that if someone were to ask me why I felt so excited at that moment I could provide no explanation. "The sun, the air, the people, the time of day...I don't know." How could I explain to someone that in my extremely dire circumstances it felt good to be alive? Yet, there I was.


And then She came in, sitting alone at the table next to me. Now I had a hundred spotlights on me. Fucking God must have read my mind on exactly who and what I wanted to happen at that moment. Sure, I was opening myself to the universe like I rarely do but I did not expect this to happen. I will fail in describing her. Purely feminine in every way but not frail. She had a face that would let her get away with any desire but she never used her looks. She was warm, exciting, fun and fantasy all rolled into one. Most guys would be too wrapped up in fear to ever approach her - me included.

"Whoa, boy. You've only got a glance at her. Maybe you're just making her up - as you're wont to do." I thought my heart was going to explode as I made my confirmation look. Wow. She really is the real deal. Sheer perfection. She was a star dropped from the heavens. Normally I'm not in position to come across a personage such as she; our paths would never cross. It was then I realized this had been my secret wish all along.

But we were coming from two different directions.

I was a trespasser in this world, living beyond my means. When I do things like this I confess it to no one. I don't want to hear the vicious criticism of the mental ankle-biters chastising me for my lack of fiscal prudence. Yes, they too may be victims of the insane, just passing it on, but keep it out of my world. Beyond the scope of explanation, pushing back my own voices of doubt, I do on occasion like to step out and get a taste of the living world. Technically, I should never do this, preserving my income for the rainy day that is today.


Frankly, I expect to be punished for these episodes, not rewarded like I was today with a surprising feeling of invitation from the universe. I can recall even years afterwards these forbidden interludes as I suffer to survive a glistening shining pain in my head in my hour of joy. I start to wonder who I am, why do I believe like I do, where am I going. It's certainly a heady feeling walking in the clouds on borrowed time. God forgive me.

But She was comfortable in this domain, her natural habitat. She rolled out some sort of map or diagram of a place she was going to visit on vacation south of the border. Truly, she lived in a world far, far from mine. She was poring over it, using this what I assumed to be a rare alone time to make plans. I check out the other guys on the patio and they're all making furtive glances at her. You could feel the inflamed hearts but I didn't have my usual pangs of jealousy I felt when seeing an A+ Dallas babe.

I began to feel detached, disoriented, like the President making a state of the union speech, posing in a sea of lies to maintain my false position. People paint others with their own brush, She probably thinks I come here as naturally as She does. I'm rescued by the arrival of my French Dip sandwich as I pretend to be occupied in a self-contained manor. Much as I'm dying to talk to her, just to be in her sphere for a few moments, I must stick to my guns of better to keep my mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. Believe me, I've removed all doubt on many occasions before.

Now you can love me!

If only I had money! I could join her in this world! I muse between bites. Then I wouldn't have to sit here like a fraud waiting to be exposed - that it might be an entire year before I splurge like this again. Just imagine if I could roll up here in a Maserati, a member in good standing. Walls of poverty are the hardest to scale. Why am I not feeling the hate like I usually do? It's her innocent air, yes.

I realize a breaking point is coming, a time when I'll boil over. I don't care if I make a fool of myself, just a few seconds of her captured attention would nurture me for years. I start to feel woozy with pangs of despondency. Indefensibly, I turn bitter at my denied feelings for her due to my lack of proper funds. If I had the money then I'd...I'd...what? Would I be any more of a person then? More able to please her and take care of her? Do I use my poverty as a way to wall out my failings?

She deserves a real life and a real person for a mate. She's not flashing those fine limbs as a ploy like I've seen so many short skirted women do on a downtown Friday night, drenching me with agonizing envy. I've always lamented my life without a woman like this angel; mightily cursing the world. I never stopped to ask what my life would be with a woman like Her. I'd still be separated by walls of poverty no matter how much money I have. I should have known this pleasant excursion was nothing but a trick by the universe after all.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Loneliness Of Jesus

Know-it-all kids

"I think I've just seen the worst of today's example of arrogant youth. This twelve-year-old Galilee boy dare lecture the temple elders! What can a child know of the truth compared to an adult? Only an adult holds the keys to wisdom!

"Furthermore, the child did this by abandoning his parents, causing them to search in a panic for three days! There is no hope for a disobedient child. He cannot be trusted. There is no greater betrayal for a child than to do as he wishes.

"This much I can guarantee: if that child does not repent there will be no place for him in this world. He will be the outcast of outcasts, deceiving himself as to the importance of his life. An unrepentant child dooms the world. Who will stand with him? Who will be with him in the end? No one."

***

"I have heard this new voice speak and while he says good things this much I can tell you: he's too much the radical. This man does not know when enough is enough! He speaks in absolutes that no one can follow. I followed as long as I could by he only kept going and going, never stopping. Eventually, he'll leave everyone behind and where will he be then?"

***

"How can he be performing miracles I do not comprehend? Nothing exists beyond the limits of my knowledge of nature! If I cannot walk on water then neither can he - nor anyone. When the ages pass and his deeds are revealed as fairy tales I will be vindicated as his name disappears from the world as it does for all charlatans. Let it be my self-appointed name, Reason, that lives forever."

***
The original Republican bribe

"You know who I am. You can speak of the past and the future but you know you cannot escape living in the now. I am not a fool. When I offer gold to other men their eyes light up with fever. But you see only useless rocks. This I understand. In fact, I know you are alone in what you understand.

"Humans walk with the mud of the world upon the their cloaks. But you are different. Who shares the experiences you do? At the end of the night who can sleep with you? You live in permanent exile. Do you expect them to change their ways for you!

"It does not have to be this way! A little dirt can do no harm. Then they'll see you're one of them. You'll be accepted and praised in every land, spreading the Word as you desire. Do not walk pure among these murderers. No soul can be expected to! To do a great right, do a little wrong. All I ask for is a little dirt upon your radical white linen and you will be saved in this world!"

***

"See that man upon the cross! Who can help him now? Had he been practical, had he compromised, he would not be sorely suffering but instead in this very moment be living as a king in a palace of palaces. This is what happens when a man goes his own way instead of listening to others. Do not put yourself above others or you'll suffer a mighty fall! We did not put him on that cross. His own stubbornness did. Praise be to the Lord!"

***

Suffer your children unto the army

"He said he wanted to save the world. What a fool! The world goes on as it ever has. He promised life, but received death. Clearly he did not know what he was doing. To stay alive in a world full of liars one must lie. Try to stand up to do better and you will be torn down. That man had no sense of reality. Who can relate to him?"

***

I am beseeched by every soul: I want to live! They ask for it, plead for it, beg for it, wail for it, nonstop night and day. Yet so few accept when offered. I hear them say the path of Life leads them to death and stop short in their tracks. I can only offer love. Without it we are isolated, alone and afraid. It is what every soul seeks - even if pursued by no one in the world. Do not abandon yourself.

Oh, and P.S.: Fuck that devil for misusing my man Shakespeare's brilliant truth!

***

"I am here today to tell you I follow in the tracks of Jesus! And in good conscience I can go no further. Many oppressors stubbornly try to push me forward but I stay my ground on my faith! Once, I was racked with guilt, I did not move forward but Jesus saved me and I now stand still by the authority of God! You self-betrayers who weakly follow your own wants will find doom as you push ahead. Only we who stay behind will live."

I'm a thug for God!


Monday, September 07, 2015

Myth Of Moral Technology


After the apocalypse, the entire narrative of human history will be re-written and clarified. Our vision of the past is rooted in the present - which needs to justify our present myths. To justify the delusions of the present one must warp history to feed that narrative. Many heroes and villains will switch places in the inevitable time of our rebirthing (one could argue it's our actual birth) as the wool is forever removed from our eyes (and woe be to the Egyptologist!).

But while it will be a great relief to be able to speak openly and objectively without the burden of some warped soul feeling offended you've denigrated his or her personal god driving them to acts of violence, the delusions remain precariously in place for now. The greatest running delusion throughout history is that those in power - whatever power that may be - are there by virtue of their virtue. "God must love me because I am king," whether it be in a household or corporation or nation. The reason so many are raised to power with messiah complexes is because so many of us have messiah complexes, quod erat demonstrandum.

After watching the wonderful "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" I was reminded yet again of the undeniable drive in the human heart for a moral purpose. In my book I had the Fizbot man, he worshipped his Fizbot because it brought him worldly success and thus it became his god. (What is Fizbot? Anything that brings worldly success.) And as our geek superheroes sit atop the mountain in today's clime, most then fall prey to the Fizbot god that put them there.

Some people equate this with a tech IPO

John Lennon set the standard for success, never matched since the time of Christ. He never held a job, didn't do anything he didn't want to do, and that personal integrity of "all you need is love" put the riches of the world at his feet. Now everyone wants to claim that mantle. How much is your life an act of love? That is yet to be revealed. In the meantime, pretenders point to the sky after every home run claiming it's an act of God.

Zuckerberg, as one example, is wholly ensconced in his Fizbot, completely convinced he's - and I quote - "Connecting the world!" Thus Facebook is a moral endeavor and any comrade who opposes the revolution is an enemy of the state. It's an awesomely uplifting feeling to believe your work serves a higher purpose, a greater feeling than any drug can ever provide. To hear that your purpose is not what it purports to be causes a religious reaction of murderous proportions. Hey, Zuck, you ain't on any moral quest, drop the façade and you'll be a much happier person. Fizbots in the end always consume their followers until eaten alive.

This may seem trifling but is significant in its greater indication of the larger mentality: one can notice that places like Facebook (Yahoo/YouTube a notable exception) only allow an option to "Like" a posting. One is not allowed to register a No vote for the statement "Jews should be killed in gas chambers." (And equivalent statements such as that are made 24/7, 365 days of the year, though more veiled and politely.) I'm sure the rationale for no "Dislike" option is to provide a "positive environment" or some such bullshit all censors use. Truth is, to admit there is evil in the world destroys their moral authority; no authoritarian has a use for honesty - and no censor fosters communication.

Why yes, there is a substitute for morality: comfy cushions!

We hear these hilarious stories of these supposedly liberal Silicon Valley tech companies "changing the world for the better." But are they really bringing us to new levels of humanity? Is that not the domain of the human heart? Is not Uber as predatory as any robber baron of old? Does putting nicer drapes in the break room really make you progressive? Fuck no. In the end all these entities must operate under the rules of capitalism but this mythology encourages the ruthless behavior of an entity convinced it's on a moral crusade justified in any action it takes. Drone strikes by any other name.

As far as Jobs goes, I really, really, really want to like him. It pains me not to but ultimately I doubt very much that had I been presented with the same opportunities he had that I'd do much better than clinging to the myths he did with absolute desperation to the point of self-destruction. As the mother of his first child put it, "He blew it." At the end of the night we each have to live with our selves no matter how adored we are. That's what Steve lost over time, never becoming whole.

That said, there are those who conflate the good ruthlessness of a visionary with the bad ruthlessness of a capitalistic environment that puts money above all. Art without ruthlessness to its intent becomes warped and useless. Jobs knew this innately and I loved the clips in the film of him holding fast to what he knew was the way to go. Visionaries are ALWAYS attacked by lesser souls (as Einstein said) and were they to cave in to that they would be wasting their gifts. (Sowwy your wittle feewings got hurt.)

Thinking about masturbating later

The theme of the great "The Social Network" was that Zuckerberg was compensating for personal failings by making Facebook a success, ergo a king is a king by virtue no matter how rejected he is by girls. How true that is in Zuck's case is irrelevant as it speaks to a greater truth seen in the tech world of wanting to claim - like Jobs - of following in the footsteps of Gandhi, MLK, and Lennon by reason of their corporate success. That's a very appealing myth and when you compare a Steve Jobs with IBM blue suits or an unredeemed sociopath like Bill Gates, it becomes quite believable.

Work, in and of itself, has no meaning. God needs no computers nor the fields tilled nor the oceans explored. It's only as meaningful as it is to the worker doing it. So we all hunger to attach meaning to whatever work we do even if we know in our heart of hearts it can be misguided. To put it another way, a man put here to be an artist can never be fulfilled doing the work of a doctor no matter how many lives he saves. On the other hand, being the artist you were put here to be is no substitute for having the family you need.

A thousand trips to Kyoto temples makes you a not a monk to be. Steve Jobs fulfilled his visionary dreams and that's to be highly and unequivocally commended. In that sense he'll always be a hero of mine and a part of our fabric. That he thought that entitled him to shortcuts in other areas of his life, while understandable, is regrettable and robbed him of us before his time (while also ripping a part of that fabric he became). The Rise Of The Geek has been a fascinating story and the merging of creativity with technology is a great triumph. But corporations are not art and in the end must be (oh so ruthlessly) eliminated for real art to survive.



Sunday, September 06, 2015

When The Killer Speaks

People don't kill people. Boners do. Just ask me.

When he turned over in bed he did so straight on his morning wood.

"AAAWWWW!"

It was like a knife straight through his heart, piercing him when least able to defend. Punished for trying to rest. Tortured for wanting to live. Drowning in a sea of hate. A time to kill.

"Are you happy, god, you goddammed cocksucking asshole! Am I suffering yet enough for you? Wish I could make your goddam ass wake up in the morning with an aching boner, you fucking shit prick. See how your fucking ass likes it!"

But no relief came from his god or any god. Just pounding pain. Demons feasted on his brains, pulling apart nerve endings, chewing on them at will. Electrocuted by insanity, his body writhed in the early morning light of an unknowing sun. With no end in sight, black death pushed his head under water with merciless might. God's will be done.

He reached his hand above water but the room echoed emptiness. Had even a foul voice scorned him in his moment of need his fate would have been sweeter than the suffocating silence. Whatever women he knew before would not know him now. A steady drip of acid eating into his soul flowed from hell's mouth. If the end was not near, then he must make it so.


The gun meant power. Power to change things. Power to bend the world. Power to alter life as his had been. What choice did he have but to kill? How else would anyone hear his demise? In the purging personality parade of pop culture he was the laughed-at reject. Soon, no one would be laughing.

"If god cares then god can stop me. If god lets this happen then god's to blame. What does it matter what I do anyway? She's never going to love me. Make this shit stop! Somebody make it stop!" But death's dream answered the bell.

The world was on fire as he military marched down the road. Time to be known. Even in the last moments he prayed for the dripping acid to stop, to spare him. It did not.

If I'm not spared, then neither are you motherfuckers!

A uniform filled his car with gas. BAM!

A mother pushed a stroller. BAM!

A black man turned to see where the sounds came from. BAM!

A redneck with a concealed weapon started running away. BAM!

A speeding BMW screeched to a halt. BAM!

A homeless man cursed him, throwing a pickle. BAM!

"Everybody knows my pain now!"

Then he put the gun to his head. Click! No more bullets.

For one night the killer was the talk of the town.

"We Must Determine What His Motivations Were In Order To Prevent This From Happening Again!" raged the headlines.

"Obviously, anti-police rhetoric swayed him to shoot the cop."

"Obviously, the mother being Jewish shows a rise in anti-Semitism."

"Obviously, killing of the black man was racially motivated."

"Obviously, shooting the redneck proves a liberal agenda."

"Obviously, the BMW driver was a victim of class warfare."

"The homeless man was just random."

"Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable --
an affront to civilized society," sayeth the killer.

From that point forward, only nice things were said of police brutality, Jewish jealousy was better hidden at country clubs, civil war statues were dismantled, compassion was demonized as evil's enabler, and the poor were vilified for making the rich look bad. The homeless man was not mentioned; nothing to be done, as always.

In the interrogation room, the killer spoke again. "I had to do it! She doesn't want to be my friend. She hates me. She cut me off. I don't want her to feel bad for not communicating. I had to prove I wasn't worth being friends with, to let her off the hook. Now she's glad not to be my friend I bet! I did her a favor, at last. I finally did something good!"

"Dude, that's just plain nuts!"

The next year random killings doubled again.




Friday, September 04, 2015

The Greatest Shot In The Hustler

"Now why did I do it, Sarah, why did I do it? I could've beat that guy, I could've beat him cold. He never would have known. But I just had to show him. Just had to show those creeps and those punks what the game is like when it's great, when it's really great. You know, like anything can be great, anything can be great. I don't care — brick-laying can be great if a guy knows. If he knows what he's doin' and why and if he can make it come off."
There are a number of great moments in The Hustler including the one above (which was not in the book). Here the screenwriter is explaining his own art - and of art everywhere - through the Fast Eddie character. This scene is crucial as a fulcrum to the film, making Eddie's pool quest relevant. He seeks to test himself, being forced to realize that to bring one's art to the highest levels is a moral endeavor. So easy to have conviction without morality and so easy to have morality without conviction. The rub is in the merging of the two.

The great thing about pool is that it's a street game that can be elevated into art. Also, it's a game that in any shot can be a moment of great skill even in the midst of otherwise mediocrity. With its easy accessibility and allure it's a con man's paradise. But this takes a different sort of trickster. Not only does he have to be an expert liar and reader of human nature, he must be a master of the game. That is what elevates the pool hustler from an ordinary swindler.


The film would have been nothing without the artistic pool shots. Sure, they had Mosconi on set for some of the close-ups (Willie in the movie) but the principal actors themselves had to be seen making unedited shots or the whole movie loses credibility. Gleason was already an outstanding pool player and his "dancing" around the table was a delight to behold. The viewer couldn't help but feel he was getting a glimpse into an elite world of transcendent play. That left a tough act for Newman to follow.

Newman proved a quick student of the game. Imagination plays a part in pool when dissecting the layout of the table ("Making shots no one has ever made before."). Newman was flawless in his portrayal and seeing him actually make that first shot in his final showdown with Fats showed him as the fast and loose player he claimed to be. To be the best, first one must give one's self up. That's what separates the pretenders from the contenders.

In my other (half) life, I'd like to think of myself as an expert pool player. I'd have been purely a "feel" player, knowing without knowing the angle to take, the right speed, the right cut. On rare occasions I've been able to let it flow, shocking myself on what I could do. That allowed me to understand what the players were talking about, that the cue stick is "a part of you" and a feeling comes over that you "just can't lose." In pro sports they call it "being in the zone." But while most of us can never experience that in a football game, anyone can capture it in a game of pool.

"I loved her, Bert. I traded her in on a pool game. But that wouldn't mean anything to you because who did you ever care about? "Just win, win!" you said. "Win, that's the important thing." You don't know what winning is, Bert. You're a loser, 'cause you're dead inside and ya can't live unless you make everything dead around ya!"
But the greatest shot in The Hustler is not a pool shot but a camera shot. In a speech to the emotional cripple Bert, the camera cuts to Fats where Eddie unintentionally hits home with his remark of "Just win." It's there we get a much needed understanding of the life of the Fats character. Gleason's self-reflective glance of questioning remorse proved him to be the man of character he was hailed to be. In a few second seconds of screen time we see a lifetime in Fats. Absolutely magnificent.

There really was no other way to work Fats' inner life into the script. We could have seen a shoehorned shot of him entering an immaculate apartment that's dark and lonely. That or something similar would have told us volumes. But nothing could match the volume told by the unintended arrow hitting him when least expected. It was genius of the director to include this shot, not only because the audience hungered to know more about a character portrayed as a legend but also because the depth it added to the film and - most importantly - creating a moment of genius in a story about genius.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Solaris Syndrome

"Before you formed in the womb
"I knew you;
"Before you were born you were set apart
"To find me."


They told me not to come here. They said the sun's reflection off the Solaris ocean would burn out my eyes. They live in fear.

Now I'm here at the space station, I wonder and wander. When I was traveling I knew why I was coming, but having arrived I've lost my cause. My mind is blank. I live in fear.

If I return to Earth will I remember why I needed to come? Or did I never really need to in the first place? Is this the work of an outside entity or is this me? Who can understand?

Seems I came to find freedom in a prison. Men hold hope in leaving their doubts unspoken. Despair is the root of all philosophy. I can move neither forward nor backward; I must make up a dream.

Who can come to me here? Is there life beyond these walls? Do I dare hope the ocean is alive as some believe? Or are they making up a dream too? I both pray and deny life is more than what I see.


Is she who I hope she is? In my darkest hour do I find my greatest light? I feel I'm trying to grab snatches of fog. Looks so real until I try to take hold. Won't it disappear if I let go?

Can I trust her? They say she's made from the mass of Solaris. Is this what happens when you wander too far? I was determined to find...what? Her? But how? But, yes. I came here seeking she who did not exist. Was that not madness?

Madness. Mass. Mayhem. Morose. Mired. Marooned. Mute. Maimed. Misguided. Meditated. Myth. Miracle.

Is wisdom beyond me? She looks for the sun and sees me. Does she not know how I got here, that I came from nowhere? Maybe she's asking herself those same questions.

The other two are angry with me. They say my love is not real, my joy an illusion. For them, sympathy is a sin. Yet I too must know what's real.


I stand alone. The decision is mine. They won't tell me what they feel. Every mind here goes blank. Few speak with a script unwritten. The mirror comes for me.

To know what I want is easy: to be with her. Is knowing that enough? Something is alive that was not before. Only the cynicism of science demands a question of a miracle.

It is right I keep this alive. But does a stupid man deserve a miracle? I am exposed here for all to see. The wickedness I hide on Earth is laid bare if I stay under the Solaris sun.

Reasons for failure are infinite. Only one reason to succeed. Pride births men's shame. So easy to destroy, it's frightening. I feel nothing must happen to the Solaris ocean or we will perish. I can give no scientific proof of this fact.

In the light I see and am seen. Our love is glorious to behold. Questions in the dark are absent in the light. I speak to the other two to save them, to tell them it's alright to stay. Communication is what will save Mankind. How clear and obvious it is: life is life, that's all I need know.