Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not Another Art Paper

Don't let the title fool you. It is, in fact, totally another art paper.

 Last week, I went to Gadsden to find a work of art. I scoured the Cultural Arts Center and the Gadsden Museum of Art for that single perfect work that would truly speak to me. I saw numerous paintings and photographs of portraits and landscapes, sculptures, abstracts, and drawings, but there was always something missing. I had all but given up when I saw one that evoked stronger emotion than any I had ever seen. It was called Mama Bird.
It held more color than any painting I had ever seen, had more moving parts and texture than even the most dynamic sculpture in town. It was a curious thing, in the diverse reactions it generated. Personally, I felt horror and disgust at the sight of it, while others didn't seem to react at all. I daresay that nobody around me was even aware of this masterpiece's existence. There was a certain mock naturalism to the lighting, as though machines were trying to simulate sunlight. The pieces moved without thought or motivation, yet it was remarkably structured and industrialized. If you looked closely, you could see that it was a pointillist monster built of hundreds of tiny people trapped within the skin. The pinpricks of color were masterful, to the point that you had to really draw yourself back to see what the work truly was.
Machines worked across its skin, operated by slaves, the faces of which were dramatic caricatures of misery and shame. These men and women were made to look the same, to blend in with the machine. It almost seemed to be making a statement about the shame of individuality and humanity as a whole. The grand focus was on the Machine, the mechanism for which they all lived. The dredges pushed and pulled, dragging vain people down the belts to the juicers. These braggarts and swaggerers were no different than the workers, were made from the same materials, yet were glorified as they were robbed. The workers fed them into the Machine where they were squeezed of their very lifeblood. The liquid gold was toted to the top of the work and it finally became clear that you were looking at a pyramid of meat. At the very top, perfect and beautiful, wearing only the finest clothes, were vampires.
They drank of their willing victims, eschewing all dignity and drinking like dogs from their buckets. They gorged themselves until they made themselves sick, and would purge their stomachs into the mouths of the overseers beneath them. The overseers, in turn, would sick into the mouths of the underseers beneath them, who would feed the seers beneath them in such a horrific manner. By the time the blood reached the slaves, the feeding had been reduced to a few oily drops.
I looked at this artwork, this “unstill life” and wondered why nobody else could see it. They stared with glazed eyes and empty hearts, stepping through the artwork and feeding the Machine. I wanted to tell them that this was insanity, that nobody should ever help make such a monstrous and foul work...but I felt the tidal pull, that drive that dragged me inexorably down those belts to the slaves and their juicers. For all of my pomposity and assumed wisdom, I had inadvertently contributed to Mama Bird by going to Wal-Mart with the rest of them.
Some would say that what I saw had nothing to do with art. They call me pretentious and vulgar and a fool, telling me that I have no concept of real art. Art is painted, art is sculpted, art is performed, art is written. But these aren't art, merely the methods of artists. Much like biology, geology, and physics, art is one of the highest sciences. Art is, at its very core, the science of metaphor. Going all the way back to the most primitive cave paintings, it has served as the most beautiful lie of human existence: The statement that this is that.
It's easy to look at the Mona Lisa and the Sistene Chapel and declare it art. You have to, because you're told to. To compare an abstract to the works of Leonardo and declare them equals borders on heresy, but an honest man can't help but do so. The observer may be able to more easily identify what the “great works” are, but that doesn't mean a thing. Anybody can paint a dog and make it a dog. A computer can print a dog of such detail that no human artist can match it, but a printer was never declared an artist. Art is the ascription of meaning. Any copy machine can draw a dog, but it takes an artist to say the dog represents faithfulness.
Oftentimes, it's not even the creator that intends the meaning. Sometimes a dog is just a dog and a knife is just a knife. Abstracts are truly beautiful in this way. A brushstroke here, a brushstroke there, and you have a pretty picture. It's colors on a canvas, nothing more. You show it to your friend and he sees an expression of anger. You show it to another, and they see the texture of flowers. From cave art of mammoths to the realistic and grotesque skulls painted by Bob Eggleton, we lose sight of the big picture: Both are nothing but paint. Whether the viewer (or even the artist) can readily identify with the work, it doesn't matter. Art is what is made of it. What moves one man to tears or laughter or shrieks of terror is another man's everyday life.
All men are artists, whether they admit it or not. From dullards to pragmatists to pretentious toffs, we all see the world as metaphor. Nobody looks at a painting and dismisses it as nothing but paint. It's obviously people in a boat. The pixels of television and computer screens are pointillism at its most basic level. To make sense of any of this requires imagination. The goal of the artist is to only take this further. To see Wal-Mart as a menagerie of horrors only requires a slight change of perspective.

Then again, maybe it doesn't.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Simulated Poverty


This past Friday, I went to the Gadsden Museum of Art to see the works of graffiti artist, Scape Martinez. Beyond using the prolificacy of street art to determine when I was in a bad part of town, I've had very little exposure to this artform. I feel as though my inner art critic failed me. I was unimpressed by the works that I saw. Allow me to elaborate. I couldn't hope to paint such intricate works, certainly not with spray paint. The best I've managed was when I, in a fit of idiot teenage rebellion, tagged my bedroom wall with a massive pentagram. My parents were of the strict, religious breed, so this made sense in my enraged state of mind. Afterwards, when the bloodhaze of anger had lifted, I hid my “masterpiece” behind a rug I nailed to the wall until I moved out. That being said, none of the artwork spoke to me. It was very elaborate and colorful, but even if I could spare the funding, I would not have paid the four thousand dollars that was being asked.
I was struck with the strangeness of what I was seeing. What was now hanging in a museum had been called criminal activity for countless generations before this one. Perhaps it strikes a chord with our love of rebellion, but could it be considered counter-cultural if it wasn't done in protest? It seems almost a parody of freedom and poverty. This seems to be a prevailing theme in our culture of excess. Rap music is the urban equivalent of bluegrass, where a poverty stricken sub-culture finds solidarity through art. It’s what makes the works of Ralph Stanley and Tupac Shakur, two musicians one would rarely compare, beautiful in their imperfections. This, though, this was only aesthetically appealing and nothing more.
It may be my rural upbringing that robs the works of emotional value. I have nothing to associate them with. I know that greater artists than me have documented graffiti and have garnered an appreciation for it. The famed author-turned-painter, Clive Barker, did such in his wonderful novella, The Forbidden. This was later Americanized and re-titled Candyman. Mr. Barker used this story to describe the ugly beauty of the street art he had seen. Indeed, the most notable scene of the film, when the boogeyman’s lair was discovered by entering the mouth of an elaborate painting of a screaming face, was taken second for second from the story.
As I write this, I think of other street art I've seen. Horrible obscenities standing side-by-side with such beauty as to move the viewer, these are a reflection of urban humanity. For every “thug-nificent” gangsta wanna-be, there are dozens of people struggling just to keep their children fed. Though often viewed as the just being kept under siege by the unjust that roam the streets, the lines between these two classes are often blurred. Many gangs are clans of rogues, led by their pauper princes. Though violent and brutal to outsiders, they are nothing more than the bottom rung of society struggling to survive. Love and hate permeate their struggles for what destitute scraps of power they can steal.
I guess that’s why this art has such an appeal. Life is empty without struggle, for to struggle is to truly live. By looking at these sanitized paintings, we can approach this vagabond life without concern for dirtying our hands with the soot and grime of poverty. Living in our shells, we can only observe images of actual struggle, so that we can tell ourselves that we understand it. We float in our clouds of safety and claim to sympathize with our fellow man, but at the end of the day we go to our air-conditioned homes, feed our children, watch television, and slip into our clean beds. Are we really alive when we only live vicariously?
I stepped away from this simulated poverty and saw the photography exhibit. There were dozens upon dozens of photographs showing dogs and cats and birds, spruced up with the occasional lizard; essentially the closest that the domesticated modern man comes to seeing actual animals. There were a few exceptions, such as the face of an elephant, but these were depressingly few. Animals, scenery, portraiture, we surround ourselves with such lovely things. It seemed almost to compliment the insult to poverty: Look at the lives of poor people, now go back to your real life of pretty things.
But there was one that gave me pause and I hate myself for not remembering the name of the artist. It was a black and white photograph of a middle aged woman, with all of her hanging skin and scars. Time had turned her belly button into an inverted V of wrinkled skin. Her face wasn't pictured, but the folds of her neck were clearly visible, as were the spotty patches of skin that are caused by years of exposure to sunlight. She was topless, but there was no nudity. She was using her arms to cover her one remaining breast. She was a breast cancer survivor, somebody who had endured true pain and suffering. Her scarred and aged body was ugly, but so remarkably beautiful I wanted to cry. There she was, naked and vulnerable, but strong and defiant to the hateful stars above.

Her nude form spoke more of pain and struggle than any sanitized street art ever could.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Holy Hipsters

I hate french fries. Like, I refuse to believe that there is a single person on Earth who truly loves them.

We all know they're like little greasy nuclear bombs that wriggle their way from our stomach right into our arteries. We know that any manner of inedible contaminant can easily fall into that fryer and pass off as that weird fry at the bottom of the bag. We know that if not for the metric shit-ton of salt that's poured over these things, we would despise them down to their last molecule. We know all of this, but we still eat them. Unless you're a health freak, in which case you need to get on out of here, you vitamin water chugging mutant.

You're goddamn right.    Source

We eat them because we're told to. There is literally no other logical reason for it. We're told from an early age not to waste food or to waste money, but food costs money, so it's all about the Benjamins or whatever. It's cheaper to just get the combo, even though we know that the fries are going to be the greasy nail in our over-sized coffins. The reason they add so much salt is because fried potatoes taste like fucking fried potatoes and no sane person would eat them. It's like adding sugar to a doughnut made of farts: You would probably be better off just not eating it.

This had nothing to do with the rest of the article.

Oh, right, it kind of did. Let's make up a person. He has brown hair and blue eyes, each with 20/20 vision. Each of his eyes, I mean. His hair is incapable of vision because it's hair. He is 5'9 and 160 pounds, with an IQ of 100. He makes $30k a year at a job that he hates, lives in the suburbs, and doesn't listen to rap, metal, or country music. He is completely average in every way, except for his name. His name is Timothy Terwilliger IV, because fuck this guy.

Now, Timothy Terwilliger IV wants to stand out from the crowd but can't figure out how. He tries to get a tattoo, but settles for a handshake and a scornful glare from a man who may or may not be a biker. He tries to get a nice car, but can't afford it. He can't sing, he can't dance, he can't draw or paint or act, so what's a boy to do? He decides to be French. Now, he doesn't want to move to France. Average men don't do that. He learns a few choice phrases in French and tries to impress his friends with his cultured language. He studies French fashion, French food, French movies, French kissing (with his pillow). He basically becomes that mysterious crispy object in the bottom of the bag, the one that masquerades itself as a french fry. He knows he's not French. We all know damn well he's not French. But he's gonna call himself French nonetheless.

Timothy Terwilliger IV is now a fucking hipster. He's pretending to understand something he doesn't and looks down on others for not making believe that they do too.

He also grew a beard. Source

Now, there is no doubt that Timothy Terwilliger IV is obviously pretentious and annoying. He's mocking another culture by pretending to be a part of it. You don't think that uneducated imitation is mockery? Try going to downtown Atlanta while wearing blackface and see if they accept you.

Now with that in mind, I'll raise this question: Are Christians hipsters for calling themselves children of Judah? Now before everyone gets up in arms, hear me out. I'm not making a statement about whether there is a God or not, that's beyond the scope of this article. I'm not going to patronize you for your beliefs, no matter if I disagree with them. You believe in God and Heaven and all that...but it has nothing to do with you. You remember that Old Testament, the one you just kind of skim through looking for red letters? Yeah, that's the history and culture of a completely different nation. All that stuff that Moses said about The Law? It was called The Law because it was the legal system of his people. He didn't write it for you or your mama or Judge Roy Moore. He wrote it for his people. In that time, you would have been killed or enslaved by the Children of God. Why? Because you weren't a Child of God. Fastforward to the New Testament. You remember how they raised a big deal about Gentiles? That was you. When Jesus said  "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel", he wasn't exactly being all inclusive.

Yeah, you keep walking, homie.    Source

You don't think this is pretentious? Most Christians don't live their day to day lives any different than an atheist. Every once in a while, they might take to the knee, but how often do you see Christians living among the homeless? How often do you see them living the lives of ascetics, monks, martyrs, whatever you want to call it? What if somebody claimed to worship the Egyptian gods, but only had the vaguest understanding of Egyptian rituals and culture? And they didn't really do anything to practice their religion except donate money to Egyptian infomercials? Yeah, you'd call them a hipster asshole.

As I said, it's great that you believe in God. More power to you. But don't claim to be a moral authority and think you can tell other people about the Jewish culture because you bloody read about it. Don't be a hipster. Find your own way to worship God. Don't keep eating french fries because everyone you know does it or because "It's the way it's done." You're in the wrong hemisphere to be recognizing Israelite rituals. Don't eat your parent's french fries. Eat Freedom Fries. Eat Fried Tater Crisps. But don't do it because "it's tradition", because, I hate to tell you this, but "it's not your tradition".

This has just been some random thoughts by a casual observer. If you agree or disagree, that's your prerogative. These observations are casual and so I wouldn't be surprised to find them inaccurate and in the end, grossly off-topic. But they're my thoughts and it's boring to keep them to myself.

Monday, April 29, 2013

On Leadership

You won't like him when he's angry.   Source

That's the beginning of the big boss fight when 90's Jesus smacked it down with Zeus on a scale more epic than any mere mortal can conceive. That also has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Continuing what I was discussing in my previous article, I'm having to get my GED. Because I'm not made of money (that's some other Eggleton), I'm taking a class so they'll pay for the test for me. They asked for me to write an essay for Language, so I wrote the article below. I did no research, nor did I do an outline. I did it all in one draft. It's a GED class and anybody who can't crap out an essay better than this doesn't deserve a diploma. Without further ado, here's my polished turd of an essay.


   In these questionable times we find ourselves in, one must raise a question of leadership. What makes a good leader? The common man will raise many points in an attempt to grasp such a nebulous concept. He will say that a good leader is somebody he can trust, somebody he can have a beer with, perhaps even somebody who has a good financial history. It seems imperative for the common man to be able to relate to his leader.

   This is why the common man is a fool. He searches for the father he never had, a powerful patriarch to guide and protect him through life. We edge toward a time when we may be led by a matriarch, but even those women we may elect are forced to fill a male archetypal role. The commoners wish to have leaders they may relate to, yet they turn to deceivers who have accumulated more wealth than a thousand common men.

   This seems a cynical view of the wealthy elite, and some may write this off as jealousy. But one must ask, how does such a person become rich? By taking the money of others. This is the basis of all economics. Though theft is considered a horrifying concept, simply outrageous, confidence games are legitimate. What is advertising  but convincing others to give the con man money for products they don't actually need?

   With this being said, our current system invalidates all candidates who aren't millionaires. The common man trusts their leaders? If these men of greed had a knife to a peasant's throat and were offered a million dollars for murder, would they do it? Every commoner, these followers, would say yes. They would then rationalize it by saying that anybody would, but they only do so out of the romance of Stockholm Syndrome. When afflicted by this perversion, a boot on the neck feels an awful lot like a kiss.

   If you want to vote for somebody you trust and vote for a liar, are you in any position to call anybody mad? In this nation where those we trust raid the coffers and murder the citizenry under the guise of protecting national security, we must ask what is missing. It is certainly true that a leader is somebody we can trust and relate to. In branches of civilization beyond the hearthfire, into the towns and cities and counties and  states, all the way up to the national and global levels, we are searching for grander versions of our own parents. As adults, we long for the patriarch and/or matriarch that will protect us from our own decisions and the decisions of others.

   More important than our ability to understand our leaders is their ability to understand us. For us to trust them, they have to trust us. In the ancient world, a king who divides himself from the people was a king who would one day divide himself from his own head. We send the poor to fight our battles overseas while the wealthy never know pain. In ancient Greece, it was the wealthy elite, the kings and noblemen, who protected the others.

   Why was this? Because they could afford the best weapons and armor. A leader is not a sanctified rose, to be spirited away and protected. This is a cult of personality. Leaders are but flesh and blood, mere men and women like us. They are to be starving and bleeding with their people, fighting and working alongside their fellow man.

   Someday, we may stop searching for these perverse mothers and fathers. We may look to elect our brothers and sisters, those who understand us. If the common man may elevate his peers to such a state, he may someday come to have the confidence and loyalty to trust himself to take charge of his own fate. Though we may never see this day when there are no slaves, there are no masters, we can still dream. Dreams are the one thing the thieves may never steal.

And now I give you a picture of a puppy.

Cute, indeed.   Source

Friday, April 26, 2013

Not Dead But Dreaming

Sorry for the long break. Life interrupted cyberlife and life doesn't play fair.

Let me tell you something about homeschooling. It sounds like a good idea on paper. What parent doesn't want to teach their kids and protect them from the corrupting influences they'll find in public schools? You build a relationship with their kids, keep them from drugs and crime, protect them from school shootings, all that. Sounds great, huh?

In practice, this is a terrible, terrible idea. Your kids need to experience other kids. They need to learn how to socialize and build friendships. If their only friends are mom and dad, who are they going to turn to with their problems? Everyone likes to romanticize their relationship with their kids by saying their kids can come to them with anything. Ask yourself two questions; First, are you going to be able to be there for your kids? And secondly, are they going to want to tell you about their problems?

Everyone likes to think that they will always be there for their kids. But when you're tired from working to put food on the table, most parents will come home, have dinner, and get some Me Time in front of the TV. They seem to assume that their kids will voice in their concerns, but you're both hypnotized by the talking heads in the glowing box in front of you. You watch American Idol or some such rubbish, call it bonding, and call it a night. This isn't bonding at all, it's coexisting. How can a teenager learn the subtle nuances of communication from this? Do you really think that they'll talk about their personal problems in this situation? You're not their friend. You're an authority figure and a distant one at that.

People adore the idea of being friends with their kids, to reclaim that closeness they think people had back in the day...but they're not willing to put forth any effort to fulfill this. Relationships require work that nobody seems to have time for these days. We live in a state of misery and loneliness only an industrialized society brings. In no other part of human history have so many people occupied the same rooms and been so distant. Close families and friendships are a wonderful thing, but are we capable of this? We show each other bite-sized bursts of love during every other commercial break and dive back into the quagmire of distraction. Those dollar menu social scenes are only broken down further if everybody is buried in their phones, Liking each other's statuses on Facebook and reading what some dickbag on Twitter is saying. The good times are gone, but are they lost forever?

In all probability, yes. With nobody wanting to make a change, nothing will change. It's easy to say you want change yet you won't turn off that fucking TV.


My original point, before I got distracted like a monkey with a taser, was the problem with homeschooling I haven't addressed: It doesn't mean a goddamn thing. The State no longer recognizes homeschool diplomas, so, for all intents and purposes, you're forcing them to drop out. I fell out of the blogosphere because I was trying to go back to college. I put two years into community college once upon a time and I'd like to finish that up...unfortunately, all that school time was for nothing because I have to get a bloody GED to go back. 

Being poor (again, college dropout in the hizzy), I couldn't afford the $50 for the test, so I had to put thirty hours into the class to prep for the GED. Surrounded by broken hopes and broken minds, I realized one thing very quickly: I was massively overqualified for this class. Somehow they managed to find me thirty hours of work that wouldn't put me to sleep and I'm now off to get my GED...eight years after I graduated from high school. The gods are real and they're damn lunatics.

But everybody, I'm here to tell you that you can do away with that headstone you were lovingly carving out of gold for me. You can take my picture off the milk carton with offers of a million dollar reward. I'm not dead, I'm not missing, I've just let shit get in the way. I hope to once again regal you with obvious wisdom, with all the subtlety of a drunken, raging Sean Connery.

SourceI Googled "drunken raging Sean Connery"
and this is what I got.
Hey Google. That's rough.
Just the way you're mama likes it.

I'll be here, hope to see you here too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Web of Fate Book I: Brookhaven

This is a sample chapter from my upcoming novel, Brookhaven, due out this fall. If you like it, feel free to share it...just give credit to JC Eggleton, of course. This will be my first novel and is being published through Abbott Press. First, a little backstory...

“It’s a terrible world we live
in… I would sooner eat my
children than raise them in a
place like this. So much senseless
death and destruction! There’s
... no purpose in it!”

Thanks to the words of a mad god, Brookhaven, Alabama, is
collapsing into a state of anarchy. Each day, more residents find
themselves with no choice but to obey the voices. As a cook
suffers the violent consequences of telling his boss to shove it, a
small man attempts to become larger than life with the help of a
hunting rifle. When a local priest is brutally slain, police officer
Marcus Dodd sets off to find a ruthless killer who leaves no trail.
As the body count rises, Officer Dodd is pushed beyond the brink
of insanity into a world of demons and lunatic gods. In his search
for justice, Dodd is unwittingly immersed in an unforgettable
battle between good and evil.
In this gripping tale, one man must confront a city gone mad
without succumbing to his own insanity. But only one is laughing
as the darkness threatens to consume them all.
And now for the sample. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter I: Black Dog
“Frederick Mathers.”
His tongue felt thick and unwieldy, barely able to wrap around the syllables of such a name. It had been a long time since he had heard the name, let alone spoken it aloud. It was the name of a madman.
“Frederick Mathers.”
It sounded so alien to him, but the nostalgia of speaking the name was amazing. It had been so long since his mouth had spoken much of anything without the slur of alcohol or the giggling of a diseased brain.
“Frederick Mathers.”
In the years of insanity, he had even forgotten his own name.
Lost amidst the throbbing chaos of day to day existence, Fred wandered without any understanding of what happened to him. It began with the voices. He remembered that clearer than anything before it. It seemed like they had been the beginning of his new life.
They had been discrete at first and always when he had been alone. The chittering of some alien insect he could never find. Distant laughter that he seemed to barely be able to hear. He had tried to ignore it, pretend it wasn’t happening. Then he had seen the black man.
Black wasn’t speaking of his skin color. Not really. Those people were brown. This man seemed to be a statue chiseled from black glass. He had been like a living shadow launched off the wall like a giant shark in a crappy 3-D movie Fred had seen that year. It had hurt his head to look at the man, but there was nothing he could have done to make him go away.
It was those damn eyes that always got him. They were glowing yellow and always staring. Always watching, never blinking. There were no pupils, no whites to those eyes. Just yellow Christmas lights shining from the living dark.
After that, he could hear the voices more clearly. Sometimes they just laughed and laughed, slipping into songs that both delighted and terrified him. They sang about love and loss, about funny men in top hats, about ripping their own skin off. Other times they held conversations with themselves. Sometimes they tried to hold conversations with him.
And sometimes they told him to do things.
Bad things.
The Black Man was always there, even when he wasn’t. Fred could always almost see him just outside his range of vision, standing at the edges. He never spoke. Not like the ghosts…or aliens…or elves. He had never seen where the voices in his head came from, but he had his reasons to doubt that the speakers were human.
But all of that seemed like a nightmare forty years long. There was too much to forget, but unreality had already set in. The newfound silence was smothering and he felt so lonely.
He didn’t know what the decades had done to the world, but they must have been pretty rough.
The city was abandoned.
He wandered the streets, not daring to speak. The buildings around him gave off an aura of foreboding, dark and looming over the cracked and vacant sidewalks. Shadows had grown longer and seemed to shift when he wasn’t looking. They made the back of his eyes itch. Yet there was no blessed insanity to fall back on. Not anymore.
He looked up into the sky to try to figure out what direction he was headed. He vaguely remembered being able to do that when he was younger. But that seemed to have changed too. The sun was going to go down soon and he’d lose what little precious light he had.
He hadn’t paid attention to sunsets in a long time, but he was pretty sure that the sky turned yellow when they happened. The sky was yellow alright, but try as he might, he couldn’t find the sun. He spun in all directions, wondering if it was hiding behind a building.
Where the hell is the sun?
In his daze, he almost missed the man sitting in the outdoor cafĂ©. He was dressed in an overcoat and fedora, like a spy in a 1950’s movie. Also like a spy, he seemed to be hiding his face behind a newspaper, pretending to read…or maybe he was actually reading. No point in sensationalizing the mundane. Government spies were crazy talk and Fred had had his fair share of that! Yes sir!
He approached the figure, trying to be quiet and not to disturb his reading. You never scare spies. They could have guns hidden anywhere, ready to go off at the first sign of trouble. He hoped the guy didn’t shoot him. If the guy had a gun, Fred was screwed. He stood silent by the side of the table, waiting for the spy to notice him.
“You stink,” the man said without moving his paper.
Fred looked down at his own stained and torn clothes, his filthy bare feet. It kind of hurt his feelings, but the potential-spy was right. He had spent the past few decades shitting in trash cans after searching them for food. He didn’t stink, he outright reeked! The odor of old sweat and piss surrounded him like Charlie Brown‘s friend, Pigpen.
“Sorry about that. I’m getting better, I swear.”
The man nodded behind his newspaper, turning the page. The headline on the front page read: Travis Conrad awaiting sentence for war crimes.
“Indeed. I must apologize my rudeness, but I’ve been reading the news and it’s made me quite cynical. What’s your name, friend?” His voice was oddly musical, rising and falling like a stage performer. It was so…smooth…
Fred grinned proudly as he announced “Frederick Mathers.” It made quite a difference to say it to someone besides himself, as though cemented it in reality. Even if that someone may or may not be a spy. He held out his hand to the stranger.
He didn’t take it. Just turned the page.
“A pleasure. Have you read the news lately?”
The stupid grin faded from Fred’s cracked lips.
“I, um…I don’t think I remember how to read.”
The man laughed from behind his paper. It wasn’t the restrained laugh of a sane man, but the liberated cackle Fred always heard in his tortured dreams. Fred didn’t feel disturbed. He felt comforted, as though he had met an old friend. The manic laughter echoed down the empty streets, giving the illusion of a live studio audience filled with drug addicts.
“Why, Fred! You never truly forget how to read! It’s just like riding a bike!”
Don’t remember how to do that either…
“It’s a terrible world we live in. You seem to have missed out on the highlights, my friend, but trust your dear pal. I would sooner eat my children than raise them in a place like this. So much senseless death and destruction! There’s no purpose in it! Fat men call themselves heroes while they send strong, courageous, nameless young men to die for them and call it war. These same fat men steal from each other and call it economics. They dare to call themselves “self-made men” after plundering the riches of the poor! And the drugs! Everyone is burning their souls away with drugs to expand their minds and their empty husks wander the streets! You know a thing or two about that, I’m sure…”
He lowered his paper just enough to tip Fred a wink before quickly hiding again. There was only a flash of his face, but-
Hair. Too much hair for a spy! Too much for a man! Get out of here! He’s bad, he’s evil, he wants to hurt you! Run away! Now!
Fred stayed put. That wink had seemed to pull the heat from the air around him. Cold sweat ran down his lower back and made him shiver. He felt light headed, almost like he was high. The spy rambled on.
“Something has to give! Somebody has to show this world that what they’re doing is wrong! If nobody stands up to these monsters, they’re going to keep on stomping and biting until the entire planet is just a bunch of cosmic dust…and that’s where you come in. Fred…I want to give you the greatest gift a man can receive. I’m going to give your life a purpose. Would you like to change the world, Fred? Would you like to be something more than you are?”
Fred felt something inside dissolve and pour acid onto his guts. A voice six miles gone informed him that he had pissed himself. The shakes had gotten worse, he could barely stand. There was something here, a static charge in the air. He didn’t want to run anymore. He wanted to die, just be swallowed up by the earth. Energy was building around them, like he was watching an invisible thunderstorm build up behind that damn newspaper.
Something was about to give.
“You’re not gonna kill me, are you?” He couldn’t hide the hope that climbed into his voice. He felt so pathetic, like he were standing before Jesus Christ himself. This was no man, he was something more. He was standing in front of the most powerful thing on earth with piss running down his own leg. Tears burned lines into the grime on his face and he crumbled to his knees. All that happiness at finally being lucid again, it had all been an illusion. What would he do with his life? He had wasted the worthless thing and traded it for a life of the lost and damned.
“I want to fix this fucked-up world, but…I can’t!” Desperation had crept into Fred’s voice, a voice that was rising into a scream. “I can try to help you, but I don’t see how I can! I’m only one man and a useless one at that! If I had shoes, I probably couldn‘t even tie the laces!”
The god-thing’s body seemed to relax, but his grip on the paper didn’t. His voice dropped into an oily purr. “Fred…Fred…” he soothed, “don’t you have any faith in yourself? One man? Men have shaped this entire world! Alexander the Great changed the world by cutting a knot in half! Albert Einstein went against the norm, turned the way you see the world on its head! You’re not an ant or a dog, you‘re a man! Now act like one!”
Fred’s head was beginning to hurt. The pressure in the air was trying to crush him, but still he plodded on. Exasperated, he cried “But those men were great! They had talent! Power! Intelligence! I don’t have any of that!”
The newspaper fell away and everything inside Frederick Mathers died. His eyes bulged at the face of God. A part of him wanted to say it looked like a black dog, but that wouldn’t be right. He had seen dogs with fur as black as ink before, but dogs have lips. This god-man seemed to grin from ear to ear, dagger-like teeth bulging from its head. It looked more like an unholy hybrid of dog and great white shark.
The fedora hid the eyes, but Fred was willing to bet they were yellow.
“Talent? Power? Intelligence? Why, I have those! Let us begin…”
Feathers. The beating of a thousand wings. The world was lost in a storm of black feathers and Fred woke up.
There was no gradual slope from dreaming to consciousness. All at once, the voices came back. He could hear them all: the insects, the laughter, the screaming, the singing. It was like breaking the surface of the water and finding himself in the middle of a pool party.
His back hurt. He had been sleeping wrong on a bench in the park and was paying for it. He twisted under the newspaper he had been using for cover and looked up at the night sky. The stars seemed to swim and dance, flickering out, returning to life, then burning out again. Did they normally do that? Probably. Stars are like Jesus in that way. That was why people used to worship them as angels…wait, was that right? His mind was swimmy after his brief stint with sanity. Memory and delusion blended into one.
There was only one thing from the dream that was lingering, that flapping.
He choked on his breath as countless birds began to scream at once. The roar was unbearable and he threw his hands to his ears. He could see them now, thousands of them. They swarmed like locusts in the air above him. He saw flashes of black and navy as their feathers glinted in the dim light above him.
A light weight settled on his chest and feathers tickled the sides of his face. He looked up into a pair of yellow eyes that glittered with intelligence. It lunged forward, two quick stabs and he saw no more. The world fell apart into pain and darkness.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Counter Culture

I would like for everyone to take a moment of silence to mourn the passing of counter culture. We hardly had time to get to know it and may never have time to truly understand it. It gave us some of the greatest art of the past century and we will enjoy the memories for the rest of our lives and will weep for the generations to come that will never experience it first hand. Most people know the counter culture as the goths and emo kids, weird and pretentious artists that can never truly say what they stand for. The most common criticism concerns them trying to be different from everyone by looking the same as each other.

Either two emo girls or two emo boys. Or maybe it's an emo boy and-
you know what, forget it. It's just one emo kid.   Source

Most people never really tried to figure out what the source of this terrible, terrible fashion statement was. They would write them off as whiny teenagers and keep walking and, most of the time, this was true. But few realize that this trend was only the latest and most pathetic incarnation of a social deus ex machina: Counter-culture. Going back the generations, we have industrial, grunge, punk, metal, disco, hippies, all the way back to beatniks in the 50's. The former generation writes off the antics of the latter as them being rebellious teenagers, just like they used to be...but they forget why they rebelled in the first place.

In our society, there is always The Norm. This is the standard for with which society maintains equilibrium. The Norm can be as mercurial about certain things, but for the most part it stays somewhat the same. The counter culture arises when young people are exposed to the sucktacular nature of our society and try to buck it off. Of course, a single rebel is worthless. They look absurd and sound like a lunatic, speaking cultural heresies. They find themselves sad and alone, on the fringe of society. It's here that they find others like them. It doesn't occur to most people that rebels aren't trying to be different from everyone, they just want to be different from you.

Most especially you.     Source

They band together and piss everyone off around them, but manage to make some of the greatest art of any modern culture. Nirvana, Marylin Manson, Ozzy Osbourne, and The Beatles (their later work) are all in the same vein of our nations circulation, which is ironic, seeing that two of them aren't even American. The counter culture isn't limited to music, of course. Francis Ford Coppola, Andy Warhol, and Stanley Kubrick have shaped the art and movie communities, which worked with the music industry to influence our culture. They were all counter cultural in their day and have since become icons of a time and world long gone.

Of course, not all of the counter culture is counter cultural. There is a vast expanse of participants who don't give a damn about a cause or a purpose. As I said, this sub-culture is responsible for the greatest art this world has seen and that can be very lucrative. Indifferent people adopt fashion styles and musical tastes in a hope to be edgy and different and it doesn't matter to the merchants of these clothes what their customers believe. The lunatic fringe becomes a commercialized product, causing the crazies to either conform or risk being lost forever. The younger generation watches the previous sell out and create the next paradigm. This is how it has always been.

But the counter culture has fallen off the face of the earth and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Every day, American bombs go off in Iraq and Afghanistan...and Somalia...and Yemen...and Pakistan. After a decade of war, literally nothing has been accomplished except alot of people have died. Society is in an unprecedented state of distress, with nationwide protests against the war, the 1%, and authoritarian legislation. The stage is set for music, film, and publications full of rage and passion, art that simultaneously decries war while calling for rebellion. Never has there been a wider gap between the ruling elite and the common man. But where the counter cultural movements have always been about sexual freedom, racial inequality, peace, and not a small helping of drugs, the hipsters are take a stand against not being pretentious. Drugs are involved, but only as long as they're ironic.

But maybe that's for the best. When the nation is a powder keg that's smoking cigars while shooting fireworks, maybe it's a good thing that nobody fans the flames of revolution.

This has just been some random thoughts by a casual observer. If you agree or disagree, that's your prerogative. These observations are casual and so I wouldn't be surprised to find them inaccurate and in the end, grossly off-topic. But they're my thoughts and it's boring to keep them to myself.