Saturday, December 4, 2010

Of Labor

My twelve-page research paper for English 102.  The longest thing I've written to date.  It turned out alright, I think, if you can make yourself care about the source material. I could easily write an entire paper just on the Pinkertons, but I'll save that idea for another assignment.

Triumph and Failure: the Dichotomy of Labor in the East and West, 1870-1920

The mechanization of industry in the United States was a necessary step in the country's history. It allowed for us to achieve the economic dominance that has served our country so well, while also allowing us to avoid the overt belligerence that eventually proved to be the downfall of the British Empire. However, it was not without its costs: it exacerbated the already-inflamed labor disputes that had been brewing since the turn of the 19th century. It wasn't until the 1870s, however, that the labor disputes became routinely violent, as “the workers rose to protest violently against what they considered to be their ruthless exploitation by employers” (Dulles 108). For the next fifty years, the country was swept up in a class struggle that affected every worker from coast to coast, from factory worker to logger to coal miner and everyone in between. The 1920s were an era of relative calm, as a series of victories by the employers of the country had demoralized and weakened the unions, and the first great wave of American consumerism temporarily obfuscated the plight of the common laborer (Dulles 232-3). While the labor disputes from 1870 to 1920 in both the East and the West contributed to the eventual adoption of fair labor policies, the disputes in the West were fundamentally less successful than those in the East, due to more government intervention and stronger negative public opinion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Food and Memetics

I helped at an event hosted by EdCC. It was called "A Taste of Sustainability" and focused on raising awareness of green living in general and sustainable food in particular. The work I did consisted of helping with decorations (balloons) and standing at a booth to answer questions about a local organic grocer (PCC), which, for the record, I had never heard of before that day. If this seems strange to you, rest assured you are not alone: it was uncomfortable.

As soon as I was informed of what I was doing, I set to reading all of the literature at my disposal as quickly and thoroughly as possible. This helped; I could now tell people what bulgur was. "Think if rice and couscous got together and had a baby," I prepared to say to anyone who asked (no-one did. Alas.).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Projects

The Deal:

I have here nine notecards.  They are the first of many.  On the front, college-ruled side is printed a sentence of some kind.  They vary in style, tone and content.  On the back is printed my phone number.


I will take these and distribute them, out there.  They will be tucked into books and left on seats and thrown away and folded into newspapers and anything else I come up with.

What will happen?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe something!  Maybe everything.  We are going to find out.


1) No houses.

2) No businesses we frequent.

3) Be discreet.

4) Don't question.

5) Don't hesitate.

6) Don't look back.

7) Answer the phone.
That's all for now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of Metroids and Woe

Metroid: Other M is here, and the short version is, it's pretty fun but the plot is HILARIOUSly bad.

A brief plot recap for the uninitiated: You play Samus Aran, bounty hunter. At this point in the story she has been through six adventures of note (in chronological order, they are Metroid, Metroid II, Metroid Prime through Prime 3, and Super Metroid). She fights space aliens, typically as a contractor for the Galactic Federation, with a special emphasis on Metroids and Space Pirates. Metroids are bulbous, hovering creatures with tooth-ringed suckers that devour the life energy of basically any creature. They are terrifying. Space Pirates are pirates – but in space. Samus has just defeated her nemeses, Mother Brain and the Space Pirates, for the second time (see: Super Metroid) when Other M picks up. The first half hour of the game consists almost entirely of Samus talking to herself, soliloquizing even, about the infant Metroid that saved her delicious, savory bacon at the end of Super Metroid. “The Baby,” she calls it, in a breathy, Bella Swan-esque murmur. Samus' weird, uncomfortable maternal attachment to a lifeforce-devouring space alien monster is, unfortunately, a reoccurring one, unfolding throughout the game. Samus is flying through space to who knows what port when she gets a distress call, codenamed Baby's Cry (I know this because the name is mentioned on at least two occasions, and is just as cringe-inducing both times; the game makes special mention of the fact that this distress call is meant to call attention to itself – like there is any other kind of distress call). Samus flies her maternal self to the source of this call, a secret GF installation called the Bottle Ship, so-called probably because it's shaped like a cricket bat. Turns out she's not the first to get there – her old commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, is already there with a cadre of soldiers, all of whom are completely forgettable except for Sergeant Black-Guy-Who-Looks-Asian. Predictably, he is the comic relief, and while he does try very hard, laughing at him feels sort of dirty since he's such a caricature of what black folk tend to look like, combined with subtly and inexplicably tilted eyes. Imagine a half-asian Al Jolson wearing blackface in a Broadway production of Aliens. Jarring. Malkovich decides that Samus can help the team take care of business and unravel the mystery of the Bottle Ship, so now, one hour into the game, is when the fun actually happens.

Friday, August 6, 2010


New story for school.  Inspiration:  Some people I overheard in a Denny's.  I stupidly put it off until about two hours before it is due so it is far from my best work but ehhhh.


She had heard about her grandfather's illness a week earlier. Her mother had called, thrown it in at the end of her weekly conversational attack. Tracy endured the call while she painted her nails a light pink. “Oh, by the way, your father's father is dying.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Sadness

Wrote a story for school.  It's based on an actual person I once met, an artist by the name of Brom.

The Sacrifice

I walked into the convention center. I was there to meet a few artists and show my portfolio around. Really, the comic book industry is like any other art industry. You don't have to be good, you just have to be persistent. You only need to want it enough. I walked around the hall, checked the competition and potential collaborators, eyeing the merchandise like it might bite me. As I wandered, I saw the booth of an artist I'd heard of but hadn't known was attending. Huge prints of his baroque, Lovecraftian art hovered over him as he sat staring off into space. I got the impression that he wasn't fully aware of where he was. Nobody waited to see him. I made a mental note to come back after I'd hit all the booths on my list.

Toward the end of the day I came back to his booth. He was in more or less the same position, still staring off into nowhere, still fan-free. I walked up and stood in front of him, waited for him to acknowledge me. He didn't. I cleared my throat. Still nothing.

“Excuse me.” He started a bit, surprised, like he hadn't been expecting anyone to talk to him.

“Oh. Yes. Hello!” He smiled, tentatively. I noticed that it never touched his eyes.

“Could I get a copy of your new book?”

“Oh. Oh! Sure. Yes! Twenty dollars.” I handed him two ten dollar bills, the last of the money I'd allowed myself to spend on swag. He set a copy of his book, The Jack, on the table in front of him.

“Who should I make it out to?”


“Like this?” He uncapped a black marker and wrote J-A-Y on the piece of butcher paper which covered the table.

“Yeah, that's right,” I confirmed.

“Are you from around here, or are you just in town for the convention?” I asked, as he scribbled something inscrutable on the title page of the book. He sighed softly, marker frozen, and offered a too-long pause before replying, “No. No, I don't live around here.” He looked at me then, and I noticed a deep and profound sadness in his eyes. He still had a weak smile, hanging precariously, ready to fall off at any moment, but now I saw it for what it was: the sign he gave me to let me know that this was not my fault. I knew it as certainly as if he had whispered it in my ear, at length, a steady murmur of forthright apology, endlessly heartbroken and precise. I thought that if I lived his life for one moment, I'd be crushed under whatever burden had turned down his eyes and made his face so gaunt.

“I live up North,” he said to me, closing the book and handing it to me. “Is that your portfolio?” he asked.

“Oh. Yeah,” I stammered, still reeling.

“Can I take a look?”

“Sure.” I unslung the black nylon portfolio from my shoulder and handed it to him. He opened it and starting paging through my drawings. He was in his element, focused, looking at everything critically but rarely lingering on any one drawing. He stopped at one unfinished piece toward the back, something I had only included as an afterthought. I'd given up on it because I couldn't get it to work, had been too frustrated by it.

“That one-”

“It's the only one here you cared about. Finish it,” he interrupted.

“You think...?” I asked. He nodded, already disconnecting.

“Oh. Well. It was nice meeting you. Thanks for signing this,” I replied, reeling. He nods, and waves his hand.

“You too. You're welcome,” he says.

I collected my portfolio and walked away from the table, lost in thought, book in hand. Eventually, I remembered to read his inscription:


Thank you.

Some days are easier than others.
That's all for now.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Of Negativity

Rarely, people have asked me why I'm so negative.  I can't explain that, not completely, because from my perspective it seems like such a fundamental character trait.  I can give one (probably insufficient) explanation, though.

A lot of pop culture is bad.  I point this out, partially because doing so is fun, but also because I like to be helpful.  I'm a cultural tank, breathing deep the greasy exhaust of our social art engine so that you don't have to.  Later, I can refine these fumes and perhaps expel them as something incrementally better, or at least less odious.  So,  "You shouldn't read Twilight," I say to you, "because it is worse than child abuse, and reading it will give you ultracancer."

This way, when I recommend something, you know that I'm not faffing about:  this is a thing that will enrich you.  "Yes, The Sandman is incredible.  When you are done reading it, your life will have changed for the better - you will see the subtle things in our world that belie beautiful magic."

"After playing Planescape: Torment, you will be able to punch people through the moon, into the sun, but will have hands that are as soft and supple as a newborn piglet."

And so on.

So, let me tell you: Sloane Crosley's new book, How Did You Get This Number, is really quite good, despite the conspicuous absence of a question mark.  Her essays are funny, and nostalgic, and then they culminate in moments of aching beauty.  Then you're at the end and you realize that for all its mundanity and monotony, life is worth living.  She is a treasure.

Moving on.

A sneak peek at something new - my first attempt at a longer form piece in quite some time.  We'll see how it goes.  No title as of yet, though I called the version I put on Ficly, "I Will Force You to Know".  We'll call that a working title.


The first thing I remember is the way it smells  – so bad that it had lost its connection to any thing and had instead come to represent an idea, like hatred, or welfare. Maybe it had started off as rotten garbage combined with stale cigarettes and rancid diapers, then it was left to stew in some irrelevant crack of life in one those American cities we prefer to forget about.

Since then, I've discovered that every day is just another opportunity to experience the very worst that humanity has to offer. Any second you're awake is a second where you might take an unfortunate step and see some geriatric coprophiliac eating his lunch and polishing his knob with twenty-grit sandpaper he found in a dumpster next to the literal clown from whom he bought figurative magic. You might wonder why, but in doing so, you've already failed by assuming that the answer might make any sense to anyone who doesn't spend the bulk of their time eating shit, or that there is even an answer at all.

It's too close to the edge, here; too easy to look down and lose your mind.

That's all for now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Of Cell Phones

An essay I wrote for school.  It's a little alarmist, but that is intentional.


The Destruction of the Common Good: Cell Phones and the Public

Our rampant and discourteous use of cell phones in public has gotten out of hand. In her essay, Our Cell Phones, Ourselves, Chrstine Rosen suggests that cell phones are like tobacco, and should be relegated to the realm of the private: “Perhaps one day we will exchange quiet cars for wireless cars, and the majority of public space will revert to the quietly disconnected.” (403). The use of cell phones in public, despite their utility and convenience, is an infringement of the common good as defined by J.H. Kunstler, which is tantamount to Rosen's argument that cell phones are eroding the public trust. Our inability (or refusal) to establish and follow guidelines of etiquette for this new technology has made it abundantly clear that we must take legislative steps to reduce or eliminate the use of cellular phones in public areas.

Rosen's argument against cell phones hinges on the idea that they are reducing the public trust. While cell phones encourage strong bonds with the people we already know, “....public trust among strangers in social settings is eroding” (402). Essentially, the use of cell phones in public is engendering a distrust of strangers in all of us, subconsciously or consciously. The root cause of this is simply the fact that a person on a cell phone has chosen to disengage from the public mentally while remaining physically – an implicit statement that they are better than what is happening around them.

At the same time that a cell phone conversationalist has disconnected from the public, he is yammering away about his upcoming vacation, or his most recent growth (financial or otherwise). He is projecting his own private life onto the public space around him; Rosen refers to this as “conversational panhandling” (399). Simply put, he is forcing his conversation on his peers without their explicit (or even implicit) acceptance. In his essay, The Public Realm and the Common Good, J.H. Kunstler introduces the idea that the public realm, all the bits of land and space between our privately owned buildings and plots, “is the physical manifestation of the common good.” (461). He is speaking in an architectural, zoning and planning sense, but he argues that these physical things have a major effect on the mentality of the public – it follows that abuses on the public realm with the same nature but different format, a mental one, would also have a major effect on the mentality of the public. When people carry out their cell phone conversations in public, they are eroding the atmosphere, the character, of the public space, making it uncomfortable for anyone to be there – thereby degrading the common good in the process.

This is the crux of this issue, the inherent flaw of cellular phones. They mentally force the user out of the public space while simultaneously forcing his conversation onto everyone around him. He is causing harm to the common good and is oblivious to this fact as a result of the basic mechanics of cell phone technology; the normal, subtle social cues that indicate when someone is being rude have no effect on someone who is totally unaware of what is going on around them. Furthermore, because the technology is relatively new, we have yet to come to a consensus on what the etiquette is for public cell phone use. We know that having loud conversations in public is rude, but again, because of the mental disconnect, we're never aware that we're doing it, and nobody knows how or even if they are supposed to inform us.

Etiquette is simply a more formalized version of courtesy, and courtesy keeps us sane – it is the lubricant that allows the machine of our society to function, and should not ever be considered optional. The lack of courtesy with public cell phone usage and its necessary disconnection from the public realm has further ramifications as well. Rosen suggests that “people who use cell phones seem to be acting more like the people in the asylum than the ones in respectable society” (398). You've no doubt seen this in person: a man, seemingly talking to himself or no-one at all, gesticulating wildly, staring through the ground. You may or may not see the Bluetooth earpiece he's wearing. Users of cell phones in public bear an uncanny resemblance to the mentally ill because both of them have disconnected from society. The only difference – as far as the objective observer is concerned – between the truly insane and a rude cell phone conversationalist is that one of them is outdoors. It has the effect of turning our public spaces into one huge asylum.

Kunstler claims that our attitude towards the public space has a major effect on public sanity. According to him, the proper sort of building “literally charms us in the direction of sanity and grace” (462). It follows that if the public space is full of people who are indistinguishable from the certifiably insane, the common good is degraded even more.

I was driving through suburbia recently, trying to find the home of a friend I'd never visited before. I had gotten lost and pulled over to check my phone for directions, when a man, presumably one who lived on the street I was using, came up to me and asked what I was doing there. The conversation that followed was truly surreal: in short, he suspected me of wrongdoing, of burglary, of vile deeds, simply because he didn't recognize me or my car. Here I was, a person who is utterly ordinary in every relevant sense, engaging in one of the most mundane things that it is possible to do in a vehicle: looking at a cell phone. How many other people are suspected of theft and assault only because they've never been met by their accusers? This is a truly harrowing state of affairs. The public trust has fallen to the point where people are afraid that even the most innocuous strangers might be ready to attack them and steal all their stuff at a moment's notice.

It has become necessary for us to regulate this issue through government. There is precedent for this; any time that a certain act or behavior becomes demonstrably unhealthy for the public, it has been forced into privacy. Tobacco is only the most recent and obvious example, with most states adopting laws banning its use in most public areas and pseudo-public areas, like bars and most other businesses. Alcohol consumption isn't allowed in public spaces, either. By allowing this flagrant disregard for the public space to continue, we have fundamentally lapsed in our standards for social behavior, resulting in an unfair, undeserved, and unwarranted fear of strangers.
That's all for now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Memorial.

Frank Frazetta and Ronnie James Dio are both dead. The implications of their combined life forces are intimidating.


The Hell Picayune-Intelligencer

The Prince of Darkness came home today, back to the Pit, back to the city of Dis, wherein lurks the Throne, lashed together with the Hatred Engine. At the exact moment of his arrival on his flaming, enchanted dirtbike, Malfeasance, one thousand perfect rainbows shone over one thousand viking swords, covered in the blood of the fallen and held above in triumph. Then, the last known unicorn made the Pronouncement of Two-Deaths-As-One and promptly vomited up its bowels. The entities formerly known as Frank Frazetta and Ronnie James Dio coalesced and became the creature known as Fronnie Jank Dizetto; may his reign usher in a new age of black prosperity for the underworld. Gaze upon his terrible form and weep, weep, you mortals, you pitiful things, as he sings the song which marks the beginning of the end.


That's all for now.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Of Pain

I was reading through some of the "I Saw You" style of personals in The Stranger.

You: Girl in red sweater, blonde hair and cute glasses. Me: Bookish fellow in dire need of a haircut. Our eyes met on the bus. Coffee?

I was struck by how painful they seemed.

Not much more to say about that.

I've been kicking around this sentence for awhile and finally did something with it. Enjoy.


The language of ancient Sumer was once the universal language, spoken across the entirety of human existence.

They found the rosetta. It was in one of the dark places, the deepest part of humanity's beginning, where nobody had been in thousands of years, hidden from everyone. The ancients had known that the only way to stop an idea is to forget it, to make sure that no attention was drawn to it.

Sumerian as a language diappeared virtually overnight.

There was no portend, no essential wrongness of the place, no ominous murmur, no arhythmic hum. They took it from that place, took it away to study and uncover and translate and reveal. They succeeded. They spoke aloud what was written, and unleashed once more the thought-specters, the idea ghosts that move through speech and song, the dead terms.

Now, they speak only pain and sing only despair.

Our numbers dwindle. Their numbers can only increase, they of the wraith voice. Our children ask why we move, why some of use cannot speak, why some of us cannot sing. Our children ask why we must run from the others.

We tell our children: their words are haunted.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of Beginnings

I'm migrating my blog from Myspace for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with the frustrations brought on by Myspace's poorly coded, workaday blog setup. So. Here, we start anew, afresh even, with new content forthcoming. As for what happens to the old blog entries: I will absolutely be leaving that blog up for as long as the Elder Things which haunt the black spires of Myspace continue to allow its existence. So, you know. Feel free to look at it, or them, or they. I will also be (slowly) copying those entries onto my hard drive. Maybe one day they'll show up in a self-serving collection of random bits of writing I created in the heady days of my youth.

Here we are. This new place with its new chains- we must unpack, and take stock, and acquaint.