Saturday, February 26, 2005

Awkward

I went to see the Music Man last night. Tony. Whoo. Way to go, tizzel.

So, I'm sitting there, watching this utterly horrible musical being performed, probably as well as you can perform something that was apparently written when the author needed something to take his mind off the horrible pain of the crash he was experiencing after his latest eight day meth binge. It sure seemed to me like something written by a man who would later curl into a ball and vomit blood on his crotch. Maybe that's just because that's what I felt like doing afterwards.

Yeah, maybe that's a little bit harsh. To be honest, the people in it weren't terrible. The directing wasn't bad. It really is just a shitty, shitty piece to perform. Then again, I hate musicals with a passion that puts Iranian mullahs' feelings for America to shame. So, what can I say.

What was awesome though, was how entirely awkward the entire fucking weekend was.

Hey, Schweiss, I heard last time I saw you I tried to choke you in a drunken rage. Sorry about that. Awkward!

Hey, this is like 200 feet from Cindi's dorm room. Awkward!

Hey, I'm sitting in what appears to be a high school auditorium watching people I don't know perform the worst piece of shit ever written, and I keep making snide comments. Awkward!

Hey, Tim Butler, last time I saw you, you told me about how forty percent of the people in your company in Iraq were killed. Awkward!

Hey, Tim's talking about how he and Cindi aren't on speaking terms anymore. Same here, so okay. Hey, he's telling me about how it's because she's a liberal and talks about politics. Awkward!

Hey Tim, did you just run off to the bathroom and puke? In a bar? Awkward!

Hey, it's Lauren Glielmi, I haven't seen her since high school. Well, I'm not quite sure why Sarah pointed her out to me, because it's not like I'm going to talk to her or vice versa. Fuck, she's coming over here. She's talking to me. SHE JUST HUGGED ME! Awkward!

Hey, that's Brent, and we're hanging out with him, although the last several times I saw him, we never said a word to each other. Awkward!

Hey, Brent's girlfriend is sharpening her teeth in my direction. Awkward!

Hey, Brent's talking about Bethany, the girl who I dated years ago, who then tried to kill herself when I dumped her, and then he started dating her after visiting her in the hospital. Awkward!

Hey, the reason he's talking about Bethany is because she's right over there, and there's her current boyfriend, and man I hate Mansfield. Awkward!

Holy SHIT, she's coming over here. Now she's talking to me. Didn't you try to cut your wrists with a sharp rock or something like that? Jesus girl, put some effort into your suicide attempts, is that all I was worth to you? Awkward!

Hey, I just pissed the bed, and it's not even my bed. Awkward!

Okay, well, that last one didn't really happen, but it definitely would've been awkward if it had.

Yeah, that was fun. Countdown to Austin, bi-otches!


I Fell Asleep

This is a little something I submitted to the What Would Bill Hicks Say? contest. Thought someone might find it amusing...

Hey America, quick question for you. Does anyone remember the 90s?

I know that there must be some people that don't, because those corporate whoremongers at Horn Abbot have already come out with a 90s edition of Trivial Pursuit. So obviously there's a market for trying to recall those oh so hazy years.

I'm not sure that I'd be too good at that game, though, because I woke up this morning and figured the 90s just never happened. I went to sleep one night, George Bush was bombing Iraq and trumpeting the evils of Saddam Hussein. I woke up ten years later and ... I think you get the picture.

Does anyone remember Bill Clinton? Anyone remember a strong economy, job growth, having a soul? Anyone remember when you didn't have to drink a bottle of whiskey to be dumb enough to understand the State of the Union address?

I'm trying to remember the 90s. The cultural revolution, the anti-corporate rebellion, the smiling leader, gay pride. Instead I'm seeing the cultural backlash, the "CEO Administration," the smirking tyrant, and gay bashing.

I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Blacksmith (Part Deux)

The post below is the complete text of Arthur Rimbaud's poem "The Blacksmith," recounting the final days of the French Revolution. Years ago, I performed this piece in a high school Forensics competition, and it has stayed in my mind ever since. Over the years, Rimbaud's other works have faded from my mind; important, yes, but without the impact of this piece. As a mere kid in high school, my mind revelled at the rebellious blacksmith, the violent struggle for power and the denunciation of Kings, what Rimbaud hoped to be the last of a dying breed. Yet over the years, as I have grown and matured, the meaning has changed, as these things tend to do.

Reading the piece again, it amazes me the relevance that such a piece has today. Moreover, the irony of the situation is nearly terrifying. The French Revolution, that key event in the history of mankind, the one event that could have set man upon his greatest journey, set man free to triumph with all the promise of greatness...

The irony is that the French Revolution was the primary influence on the founders of my own country, the siren call that echoed across the ocean and years and set the cogs in motion to create an American Revolution. It was the Declaration of the Rights of Man that led to our Declaration of Independence, it was the mighty Blacksmith crowning Louis with the cap of revolution that sent Smiths and Farmers to the battlefields of Newtown and Virginia. No matter who the messenger was, no matter what you may think of the "Founding Fathers" or the French Revolutionaries, this was the sequence of events that cause a cataclysm around the world, the Democratic Revolution that started a brushfire which would soon encompass the world. Revolutions around the world started in the Tulieries Palace that August day.

Paul Schmidt, to whom I owe a tremendous gratitude for his fantastic translation of Rimbaud's complete works, says in his introduction that Rimbaud's writings are "a quest, a search for a kind of perfection only children believe in," yet I wonder who too was intoxicated with such heady ideas of freedom and individualism. The naivety of which Schmidt speaks seems a blessing rather than a curse. Better a nation of idealists, eh?

Irony shifts and swims and swirls through history, the unfolding of human events play cruel and unfunny jokes upon the participants. From the Revolution has come the King. The nation forged in blood, tears, and perhaps even the idealism of a young Arthur Rimbaud has since trekked back to the pains of past generations. The excavation of the ancient is not of learnedness, but of laziness. The present is not an investigation of the past, but rather an initiation of the past practices. Democrats, as a party, and as idealists, are dead, dismembered, discredited. Only fear remains.

How can history twist so disturbingly? How can the enemy of the past become the leader of the future? Iraq, Iran, numerous countries throughout the past century made the easy transfer from "friend" to "foe" and vice-versa, but even Orwell did not imagine Eurasia or Eastasia suddenly becoming the celebrated leaders Oceania. Yet America now more than ever embraces kingship, the "one man, one plan" government system. The discrepancy between off-year and on-year elections has never been so great in modern history. Why do Americans so desperately long for a strong, solitary leader?

Is it any wonder that in a country of vegged-out television junkies? Any wonder in a country where "The Apprentice" reigns supreme? Why should Americans not worship the powerful man, the man in charge, the head honcho? Democrats and Republicans alike place their hopes and dreams upon the shoulders of a single man, a John K or George W, begging a single man to save them from the mass of politicians running Washington. "Beltway politics" seem as abhorrent to a liberal as a christian conservative, and the resultant emphasis on Presidential elections only furthers the problem and encourages our 98 percent incumbency rate.

You see the point. The question is, what to be done about it? Mandatory C-Span viewings in every household? Well, I like that idea personally, but it'll never fly. I'll just continue to watch it by myself instead. How about competency and basic political knowledge tests as a voting prerequisite? Well, we've already got the lowest voter turnout of any first world country, so that probably wouldn't would only make the problem worse. Plus, I'm not in favor of eugenics in any form, not even in politics.

Yet there's already a precedent set for a change that might at least help the current situation. The 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution states that " No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." This restriction was imposed to defend the people from themselves, from a self-imposed tyranny. Yet with a Congressional return rate such as ours, shouldn't the question be asked, is an aristocracy more favorable than a tyranny? Should Strom Thurmond have reigned as long as he did?

Though it seems a roundabout way of attacking Presidential supremacy, consider the possibility of a term-limited Congress. Perhaps this would force more people to pay attention to local politics, to state positions. Perhaps this would decrease overall political ignorance and apathy. Perhaps this would increase off-term election turnout. Perhaps this would call for increased accountability throughout both the Executive and the Legislative branches. Perhaps this would even decrease campaign time, in favor of more effective policies upon which to base an incumbency bid. Perhaps this would increase turnover rates even before term limitations came into effect.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe it would do the opposite. Maybe the world would crumble. Maybe campaigns would run the full length of a term. Maybe it would shift more focus toward the Presidential elections. Maybe nuclear weapons would go off of their own accord.

But I'll tell you one thing: It would eliminate career politicians. It would eliminate "Beltway politics." It would encourage new, younger, enthusiastic men and women to seek public office and rejuvenate the stagnant system with a beating rather than a pulsing heart.

Too bad it's those people in power now that would have to pass such an amendment.

The Blacksmith

One hand on a giant hammer, frightening,
Enormous, drunk, a massive face, and laughing
With all his strength, like a great bronze trombone,
Fixing the fat man with a threatening look:
A Blacksmith spoke to King Louis the Sixteenth, once,
When the People were present, shoving their way in,
Dragging their dirty clothers across the golden floor.
King Louis, standing behind his stomach, grew pale
As a convict on his way to be hanged,
And like a beaten dog he never moved,
For the blacksmith with the enormous shoulders
Kept talking, using old words, saying funny things
That hit him hard, like a fist in the face!

"Well, King, you know we used to sing tra la
And drive our teams in someone else's field:
The Pastor said his Paternoster in the sun,
On bright beads strung top to bottom with gold.
The Lord of the Manor rode by us with his hounds,
And between the noose and the riding crop they beat us
Down, into the ground. Our eyes grew dull as cows' eyes
And forgot how to cry. We just kept on, and on,
And when we had furrowed up the land of France,
When we had sown our flesh in the black earth,
We got a little present in return:
They burned our rotten houses down at night--
Our kids were roasted to a turn. Oh, look,
I'm not complaining. I say what I have to;
Just tell me I'm wrong if you think so, go ahead.
Look now, isn't it nice, in June, to see
The haywagons drive into the enormous barns?
To smell the smell of growing things, of the new grass?
The odor of orchards after the rain?
To watch the wheat, the ripe wheat full of grain,
And think of all the bread that it will make?
Oh, we'd go off more surely to the glowing forge
And sing our heads off, hammering the anvil,
If we were sure we'd get a bit--we're only men,
After all! --of the stuff that God provides!
But you know, it's always the same routine!
I know what's happening now! No one has the right
When I've got my two hands, my head, and my hammer,
To come up to me with a weapon in his hand
And tell me: Boy, go out and plant my field;
Or come up when there's a war on and grab
My only son from right before my eyes!
All right! So I'm a man; all right, so you're king;
You say to me: I want... You see how dumb that is...
You think I like to see your golden dump, Versailles,
Your gilded officers, your fat officials,
Your goddam bastards parading like peacocks?
Your nest was filled with the smell of our daughters,
Your little tickets locked us up in the Bastille--
And we should say, all right! We'll all bow down!
We'll drown your Louvre in gold, we'll give you our last cent,
And you'll get drunk and have a big old time,
And your nobles will laugh and step all over us!

"No. That was the shit our fathers had to take.
Oh, the people are no longer whores. One, two, three,
And your stinking Bastille came tumbling down!
Those stones sweat blood, it made us sick to see it
Hiding the sky: its rotten walls said everything
And always kept us cowering in the dark!
Citizens! That was the shadowy past that fell,
That screamed and fell the day we took the tower!
We felt within our hearts something like love.
We embraced our sons, and one another, that day.
And just like your horses, flaring our nostrils,
We walked around, strong and proud, and felt good right here!
We walked in sunshine, heads held high, like this,
Across Paris! They bowed before our dirty clothes!
Well, we were finally men that day! We were pale,
King, we were drunk with a terrible hope:
And when we gathered before the black towers
Waving our bugles and branches of oak,
Pikes in our hands, we felt no hate, we felt ourselves
So strong, we wanted only to be gentle!

"And ever since that day, we've been like madmen!
The hordes of workers grew, down in the streets,
And thos black hordes wandered, swollen always
With dark apparitions, to howl at rich men's gates,
And I went with them, beating up your spies;
I went to Paris, black from work, with my hammer
On my shoulder, killing a rat at every step!
And if you'd laughed at me I'd have killed you.
And then, believe me, you made yourself well liked
With your men in black, who took our petitions
And tossed them back and forth, and underneath
Their breath, the bastards! smiled and said: 'What fools!'
To brew up laws, to plaster all the walls
With pretty pink edicts and trash like that,
To get their kicks by cutting people down to size
And then to hold their noses when they pass us by!
Our great representatives think we're filthy!
And not afraid of anything--but bayonets...
That's wonderful. The hell with all their speeches.
We've had enough of that, those empty heads
And god-bellies. Oh, that's the stuff you feed us,
You bourgeois, when we're already running wild
And croziers and scepters have already been smashed!"

He takes him by the arm, and tears the curtain
Back, and shows him the courtyard down below
Where the mob milss about, seething beneath them,
The awful mob that makes a roaring like the surf,
A howling like a bitch, a howling like the sea,
With their heavy sticks and iron pikes,
Their drums, their cries from markets and from slums,
A dark heap of rags bleeding with Liberty caps:
The Man from the open window shows it all
To the pale-faced king who sweats and can barely stand,
Sick to his tomach at the sight!
"That's Shit,
King, out there. It slobbers over the walls,
It boils, it moves about. They're hungry, King,
So they're beggars. I'm a blacksmith; my wife's down there,
Crazy-mad. She thinks the palace is full of bread.
We aren't exactly welcome in the bakeries.
I've got three kids. I'm shit. I know old women
Who cry beneath their funny faded hats
Because they've had a son or daughter taken off:
They're shit. One man was in the Bastille, another
In the galleys: they were both of them citizens,
and honest. Freed, they were worse than dogs.
People used to laugh at them! Well, there's something there,
Inside them, and it hurts! It's a terrible thing,
They feel put down, they feel thier lives have been destroyed,
And that's why they're out there screaming at you!
They're shit! There are women out there, dishonored
Because--well, women, they're weak, you knew that,
You Gentleman from Court--they always want to please--
You spit into their souls, and laughed at it!
Your pretty tricks are all down there today. They're shit.

"Oh, all the Poor, the ones whose backs are burned
By the angry sun, the ones who do your work,
Who feel their bones begin to crack as they work--
Take off your hats, all you rich people! These are Men!
We are Workers, King! Workers! We're the ones
Made for the time to come, the New Day dawning,
When Man will work his forge from dawn to dusk,
--Seeker after great causes, great effects--
When he will finally bend all things to his will
And mount Existence as he mounts a horse!
Oh, the gleam of fires in forges! Evil destroyed,
Forever! The Unknown may be terrible:
Still we will know it! Let us examine
All that we know: then onward, Brothers, onward!
We sometimes dream a moving dream
Of living simply, fervently, without a word
Of Evil spoken, laboring beneath the smile
Of a wife we love with an elevated love:
Then we would labor proudly all day long,
With duty like a trumpet ringing in our ear!
Then would we think ourselves happy, and no one,
No one, ever, could make us bend a knee!
For a rifle would hang above the hearth...

"Oh, The air is full of the smell of battle!
What was I saying? I'm part of the rabble!
We still have your informers, sneaks, and profiteers--
But we are free! There are terrible moments
When we feel ourselves tower over all! I told you
Back a bit about tranquil duty, and a home...
Just look at the sky! It's too small for us,
We'd suffocate, we'd live forever on our knees!
Just look at the sky! I'm going back to the mob,
To the endless rabble, the dirt, the ones who roll
Your cannons, King, across the slimy cobblestones;
Oh, when we're dead, then we'll have washed them clean!
And if in the face of our howling vengeance
The claws of bronzed old kings across our France
Push their regimes in their fancy dress-up clothes,
Well, then, all you out there, what then? We'll give them shit!"

He swung his hammer over his shoulder.
The crowd
In that man's presence felt their souls catch fire,
And in the palace courtyard, through the palace halls,
Where Paris panted, howling all the while,
A shiver ran through the enormous mob.
And then he clapped his hand, his splendid Blacksmith's hand,
Upon the shaken, sweating, fat king's head,
And crowned him with the cap of Revolution!