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The ongoing dispatch for all things nonsensical yet mythic, profound yet preposterous, evil yet delightful. A cornucopia of stuff seen through the truly weird-ass prism of one Jeffrey Walter Larsen.

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FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

The Woe of The Modern World

The gesture was ostentatious, the prerogative obscure, the objective nebulous. But I sounded like I had a load of dough when I walked into the deep southwest stall at the Port Authority, jingle jangle with every step. And then the stench wafted like only poorhouse wino stench can waft. And I cursed the day I was born.

I had gone to the money currency exchange on 42nd St. and loaded my overalls in every damn dinar, escudo, piastre, repee, and regal ruble I could lay my hands on. In fact, I cashed out the last of my earthly sawbucks for what I saw was a Pickett's Charge toward the existential black hole that existed in that labyrinthine octopus' garden of debauchery; The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, at 42nd and 8th. It wasn't a moral crusade; it was a renunciation of what this horrific edifice had come to represent to me. It embodied the wholesale transience and impermanence of a world that had become completely unmoored and was drifting hopelessly toward a peril larger than any one man or his small or large brood could imagine in one hundred dark, sweaty nightmares. To put this objective manifestation to rubble was my intent. But first I wanted to show off a little.

As I sat there in the stall, I heard a self-satisfied "aahhh" and exclamatory "huh!." Then silence, then a very pious recitation of the Lord's Prayer. I discreetly looked beneath the aluminum wall and made out a plastic bag emblazoned with "Urban Luggage" filled with what appeared to be three or four dozen dead kittens. That's when I started jangling my change. Doling it out like I'm Mr. Park Avenue. Shaking my money maker. The Big Cheese, amigo, has arrived.

The man in the adjacent stall stopped his incantation and gently rolled a shop-worn, slightly soggy package of Twinkies beneath the stall to me. I returned the favor and clicked 1000 Peruvian Pesatas over with my right forefinger. Then a quiet, friendly whisper response: "May I use your tourniquet, brother?"

Luck had it that I did in fact have it with me, but the request was too audacious to even consider. I whispered back, "No can do."

I heard a sign, a flush that lasted maybe 30 seconds, an unclick to the door, and footsteps out. Another tenant arrived seconds later.

I sat there for another four hours, contemplating how I was to put this House of Usher to its final grave, until I realized I was slowly being encrusted by a pale white mucus that moved discernibly southeast to northwest on my body and had covered my body to the lower regions of my neck. This invasion of the body snatchers moment unnerved me and sent me scurrying from my stall, with all of my exotic coinage bouncing from my pockets as I scrambled to the exit.

Upon leaving the building, I was embraced by a 300 lb man with white sneakers, knee-length shorts, and a t-shirt that read "I Am The Future." He jammed me forcefully in the back of a waiting limo, and we drove for at least two hours. I now work tending his livestock in what appears to be Pennsylvania, and reading him John Donne's sonnets and selected pages of Finnegan's Wake. I sleep in a sitting position on an outhouse toilet, into which I am locked from sundown to sunrise.

Sometimes I miss the big city, I suppose, but now my life is very, um, grounded.

Buzzcocks@Irving Plaza, NYC

The Buzzcocks live and dope smoking are two activities in which one should never engage concurrently. Particularly on the long end of 50. While in the mosh pit, being pummeled by nubile little kamikazes in ripped fishnets and fire-engine lipstick and smirking double-takes that say "what the hell are you doing here, old man?" But the dope surge dims the reception and you get an elbow from a little **** who clearly doesn't care about the slight arthritis in the right knee or the wavering countenance that suggests, rightly, that the old man on this night in the Lord's month of April, Eliot's cruel April, was just too ****** up to really get the content.

A concert is a concert is a concert. Prior to the show, smoking a cigarette in the tightly monitored smoking area, I chanced upon a trio of twenty-somethings from Jersey outskirts that rambled on Buzzcocks and all things punk and I was really impressed. Particularly with the one with an obliquely styled hair cut that sprayed out the sides like cascading black tendrils and nothing on top (A Taxi Driver-era Peter Boyle cut is probably close); he was a really smart and articulate guy, and really had what I would describe as a sophisticated understanding of punk and its mileau. A world view of reknown, even.

And after my friend Ken and I got lopped off from each other after the music started and the lights dimmed, I hung tenuously north of mosh pit with the same Jersey guys right next door. A joint was passed. Two hits later, and after a foray into the mosh pit, I retreated to safety and a completely clear understanding that Buzzcocks in 2015 also meant Jeffrey Walter Larsen in 2015, not in 1979 or 1980.

Pete Shelley, the voice and great songwriter of the band, is an old guy now. That's fine, but I noticed during the show that the lights often veered away from him to showcase the other original left, the somewhat more youthful looking Steve Diggle. Steve was having lots of fun, in a kind of too-obvious kind of way, particularly during "Harmony In My Head," which became a six-minute version of a two-minute-thirty song, which never works out unless it's performed by Lou Reed prior to 1980.

The kids were having a blast, though, and it's too bad they don't have the kind of upstanding citizen bands like the Buzzcocks were and are in their demographic ranks. Or, to put it another way, they are among their ranks but through the lousy luck and general over-forestation/obfuscation of talent on the Internet, nobody knows about them. First generation punk was notable, among dozens and hundreds more reasons, for being the last explosion of independent labels, that actually got distribution. My Peter Boyle fan even knew that the first punk record was "New Rose" by the Damned, on Stiff Records. And he was right of course.

Here's the set list for the show.

Fast Cars
I Don’t Mind
Keep On Believing
People Are Strange Machines
Whatever Happened To…?
The Way
Why She’s The Girl From The Chainstore
Sick City Sometimes
Why Can’t I Touch It?
Third Dimension
Noise Annoys
You Say You Don’t Love Me
It’s Not You
Chasing Rainbows / Modern Times
Love You More
I Believe

In The Back
Harmony In My Head
What Do I Get?
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?
Orgasm Addict

I totally missed Orgasm Addict, as I was doing a gangway for the exit after the mosh pit trauma. My heart was thumping, my knee was aching, and I felt just a tiny shard of panic enter my zeitgeist. Then it was over, I had still had to get home to Jersey. Ken and I walked to his subway stop, then I weaved and bobbed up Broadway, stopping briefly for two pieces of dollar pizza.

By the time I got home it was quarter to two, and I was still soundly, resoundingly stoned. I didn't like the feeling. Even less so the next morning.

The venerable band next moved on to 495 and the turnpike south to play the wonderful Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and I betcha the audience lit up just like the previous night. They're all good men, those Buzzcocks new and originals, and doing a service to those young souls without rock and roll subversives to call their own, and old guys who consider themselves subversive on nights their knees hold out.

When I Look In Your Eyes

Every weekday I walk from 42nd and 8th Avenue to 23rd Street and 5th, to arrive at work. It takes me about a half hour. So every working day I get to see the gaits and the gazes of the other working stiffs navigating the grid of Gotham.

Those gazes once defined how I defined the place. The year prior to my moving here in 1999, I took no less than 16 trips to NYC. My girlfriend and I had clearly reached a pretty serious impasse, and I wanted nothing to do with Harrisburg, PA (to this day a location I rate only slightly above Hades on the fearfully loathsome scale).

What Manhattan provided was the most stark contrast to the blank stares and the perpetual grimaces of self-loathing and unhappiness that central Pennsylvania, or “The Midstate,” punished each other with. Harrisburg was a miserable place, and why not? It was just upwind from Three Mile Island, an ongoing reminder of literal and metaphorical meltdown. Its apparent love affair with funnel cake, buffalo wings, and every stripe of fast food gave its people a bulbous, tired girth. It had (and has) no university to speak of. The dirth of people who had anything interesting to say was crippling.

My first summer in Harrisburg I remember sitting in the basement of our new house pretending I was actually in the West Village. The humidity was oppressive, there wasn’t a single radio station with anything worth listening to. The house, a beautifully renovated rowhouse in what is described as Harrisburg’s historic district, was the sole attraction. After a time even its charms began to wane.

Rachel and I called in quits in August, 1998, after almost 13 years. Now what? I knew it would be New York. It had to be. And it was. And after a false start interview in December, I aced two in two days in February and got two job offers. I took the one in Hackensack, so I would be striking distance to Manhattan.

In 1983, in the process of making what would become the most fateful decision of my life (so far), I chose to move from Duluth, Minnesota, my home town with a 19 percent unemployment rate and zero possibilities for a person like me, to the Bay area. I did so mostly after seeing an 8-page promotional spread about San Francisco in USA Today, where it had just started circulation. It glorified it and underscored its relatively low unemployment rate. Prior to that it had been on my short list for sure, but that kind of sealed it.

The other choice was New York.

Of course, NYC would have eaten me alive back then, and I most likely would have returned to Duluth with my tail between my legs. I wasn’t ready. Of course, you don’t realize those things at the time. San Francisco back then was a forgiving place for totally naïve Midwestern boys, and a place where I could actually make a living of sorts writing and editing. Moving there then was the first really, really good decision I ever made on my own.

Manhattan remained the ultimate destination. It was the city you could actually feel from the Jersey turnpike. The intensity ramped up about 20 miles out of town, and you knew you were close. You officially arrived when you passed Newark airport, sometimes with massive planes flying 50 feet above you on the turnpike going north. It was powerfully intense and visceral for me, and made San Francisco seem so tame and so slow.

Speed. NYC is about mythic speed. About thinking quickly and adjusting to one hundred thousand variables that happen to you between two destinations walking or through the subway. And NYC is about being smart enough, focused enough, and deliberate enough to navigate with a personal agility the obstacles and the unfathomable dimensions of the place.

Back when I moved here, the eyes got me. People walking through the village really had the most amazing clarity in their stares. There was a focus, an intrinsic awareness and absorption going on that was totally absent in Harrisburg, or San Francisco for that matter. Theirs was the countenance of drive and purpose and ambition. I was awed by this example of how people could operate. They were the breed of Porsches when I was from the land of the Chevy pickup.

The speed and the zing of New York lasts about 18 months, at least it did for me. Then is just becomes home, which it most surely is today. My apartment is now paid off, and in the 15 years I’ve lived here, I haven’t found a satisfactory alternative. And I totally get what Jimmy Breslin famously said about it, that it is a place you equally love and hate. If you are indeed sane, that’s the only conclusion you can make. It is the island of the absolutes, and to survive them you have to know how to configure them psychologically. It’s not rocket science, but many, many people I have known – both living here or visiting here – couldn’t do it.

And maybe it’s getting harder for New Yorkers as well. Between the advent, ascension, and envelopment of humanity by the smart phone, by the influx of a new generation of expatriates with a decidedly less romantic vision of New York than mine, and through the endless and cascading shifts to the landscape, the eyes are looking wearier these days. I noticed it very starkly this morning. Throw in 9/11, the financial crisis from which many here never really recovered, or the endless terrain of obstacles thrown in your way, every damn day, that people elsewhere don’t have to deal with. The bright, sparking eyes are narrower now, less emphatic somehow. They may or may not know more than they did, that’s hard to say. What is indisputable is that they’re a bit older now, and in need of a little more sleep and reflection on what this place really represents.

Or maybe as time passes those eyes all become our own.

Why America is just plain dumb.

42% of college graduates never read another book after college (http://www.hotforwords.com/2011/04/11/42-of-people-who-graduate-from-college-never-read-another-book/)

Recent blog post discussing the stats of US readers. Other stats included:

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

A survey by the Jenkins Group, an independent publishing services firm, has shown that millions of Americans never read another book after leaving school.

33 percent of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

and this (http://parapublishing.com/sites/para/resources/statistics.cfm) from Parapublishing (older data):

2007. RECREATIONAL READING IS DOWN ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS. “We've got a public culture which is almost entirely commercial- and novelty-driven," says NEA chairman Dana Gioia.
•Only 38% of adults in 2006 said they had spent time reading a book for pleasure the previous day.
•65% of college freshmen in 2005 said they read little or nothing for pleasure.
•30% of 13-year-olds in 2004 said they read for fun "almost everyday," down from 35% in 1984.

Vague notions on a rainy morning in Joisey.

To paraphrase Chris Hedges, global capitalism's penchant for commodifying everything results in extraction and exploitation until exhaustion or collapse. It is insatiable and must grow or die. That is not a sustainable economic system. But is also more than that: it is an economic system that has mutated into a global culture. It has adopted the presumptions of neo-liberalism to the point where human existence has become incrementally less and less a priority. That is insanity, and doesn't resemble the world I grew up in at all. I think it's very interesting that the most important radical thinkers are at least in their 50s now. They have lived long enough to see the ugly transformation in this country, and were around to be impacted directly by the 1960s, which was the last gasp for real participatory democracy in this country. At least those things are true for me.

How to get spiritual meaning? I'm not sure that's the right question. The first step is to acknowledge that the most irreducible parts of existence -- its mystery, its transience, its moral basis, its intimacies -- have nothing to do with how existence is being framed by today's global corporate culture and their government brothers in arms. As such, it is an acceleration into the void. It is essentially a negation of what is most special and enduring about being human.

February, 2014: Post-Mortgage Reflections on Debt, America, and the Future

In my view, no debt is positive. It sucks your net worth, it gives you a subordinate position to predatory lenders, it endangers your future. That said, it's impossible to acquire property without debt. That, because of the tax write-off, is probably the only worthwhile debt to incur. But even as we speak, the real estate market is being gamed, particularly in the southwest. It's being gamed by banks that are renting foreclosed properties at greatly exaggerated values, thereby driving up home values artificially. Same thing is happening in Florida. In other words, we're getting a replay of what happened in 2008. The real economy, meanwhile, has never really recovered. To wit, view the poverty statistics in the United States here:


Without a middle class, real estate ultimately is a poor investment as well. Very, very few geographic locations in the US are solid investments, although I still feel this area (NYC) is a good bet, along with SF, Seattle, and Washington DC. The rest I don't see ever recovering. Anybody taking out a mortgage anyplace else is really playing Russian Roulette with their future, and the banks know exactly which chambers have the bullets.

And what about social mobility? You must first understand the relationship between poverty and wealth. Poor black kids in Bed-Stey are a necessary component of this system. And rather than attempt to integrate them into the larger economic system, as Obama's rhetoric would have you believe, what is really happening is total marginalization, to the point where their lives' options are none. That's where the privatized prison system comes in. It's the only avenue wherein these peoples' lives can generate a profit for somebody else. And that, in the end, is the name of the game.

Debt is something I will never have again. It's incomprehensible to me that people actually take out loans or run credit card debt for stuff they don't need, stuff that in all likelihood was produced by slave labor in China or a third-world country. That's the moral component of the transaction, and to put it on a credit card subsidizes the bank institutions that propagate this profoundly evil system. To not have debt means that you actually have alternatives. To not have debt means you are playing by your own rules. To not have debt means that you can self-appoint your future and lose dependencies on institutions that couldn't care less if you live or die. When those are the terms of the deal, the consequences to society at large, a completely debt-addled society, are catastrophic financially, spiritually, and morally.

The Supreme Court: An Evaluation Through History

Justice is the linchpin of a society. Without a system of laws that reflect it, a nation’s government will lose its credibility among its governed.

Plato used the Greek word Dikaisyne for justice, which translates to 'morality' or 'righteousness.' Justice is not the right of the stronger but the effective harmony of the whole. Since his time, a common ideal to reflect justice in codified laws has been the purview of a select body of lawmakers appointed by the state.

The body assigned with interpretation and final execution of federal laws in the United States is its Supreme Court. Article III of the United States Constitution states, "[t]he judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

The Supreme Court was subsequently established by the first bill introduced in the United States Senate, the Judiciary Act of 1789. The court convened for the first time in February 1790 in New York City, then serving as the nation’s capital. From 1791 to 1800, it assembled in Philadelphia, which served as the capital while Washington, D.C., was under construction. Starting in February 1801, the court began meeting in Washington, where it occupied various sites in the Capitol building for more than a century. Following the burning of the Capitol by the British in 1814, it met in a private home.

The Supreme Court today is commonly petitioned for 10,000 cases each year, of which they will review about 80.

During its existence, the Court has been frequently controversial. Some decisions have had long-lasting effects on how the ideals laid out in the Constitution are interpreted.

Frequently, decisions handed down from the Court have been perceived as politicized, as serving elite interests, or discriminatory toward race or gender. As such, elements of society have looked upon the Court as a means by which the existing hegemony is society is maintained.

Two 19th century decisions are illustrative of this.

In 1857, the ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford denied freedom to a former slave who was taken to a free-soil state. It essentially confirmed that Blacks had no rights of citizenship, and prohibited Congress from banning slavery outright. This ruling fueled the slavery issue, which culminated in the outbreak of the Civil War four years later.

In 1896, despite Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the abolishment of slavery throughout the republic at the conclusion of the Civil War, the ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson stated that “equal but separate accommodations” for blacks on railroad cars did not violate the “equal protection under the laws” provision of the 14th Amendment. This gave rise to discriminatory practices throughout the American south, Jim Crow laws that harshly segregated Blacks from Whites, and bogus voting eligibility requirements that effectively removed Black citizens from the voter rolls. These conditions endured until the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s.

These are the two most prominent examples of an application of bias that runs directly contrary to the principles outlined in the United States Constitution. The preamble to this most revered document makes broad-stroke claims about establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, and promoting the general welfare. Clearly, these decisions accomplished exactly the opposite. The racist elements of the United States won out convincingly in both cases, and even questioned the personhood of Black men and women born on United States soil.

Many years later, in the 1960s, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panther Party asserted by different means and tactics the primacy of institutionalized racism in the United States. The widespread economic inequalities between races (which persist today) led to more than 100 different riot episodes in 1967 alone. The 1967 Detroit riot left 44 dead; the Newark riot had 23 deaths. The implicit failure of the Supreme Court in these cases, as President Kennedy pronounced in a 1962 television address, was its inability to acknowledge racism as a moral issue, “as old as the scriptures, and as clear as the Constitution of the United States.”

The Court’s lack of moral conviction led directly and indirectly to the bloodiest conflict ever fought on American soil, and a climate of inequality and repressed opportunities for Black citizens. Certainly, I understand the difficulty and the nuances of legislating morality, but these decisions reflect a remarkable arrogance and fundamental disregard for the dignity of human life. No other western nation has held to institutionalized slavery as long, nor has any other advanced nation had racist presumptions been so baldly codified in modern times by its highest court.

Such decisions suggest only one thing: that the element in American society benefitting from the institution of slavery and the discord of segregation was being well served by the judiciary, and that the judiciary itself was complicit with these sentiments above its responsibility for adhering to the principles of the United States Constitution.

All this serves as evidence of what Henry Thoreau once remarked disparagingly, “law never made men a whit more just."

Two other Court decisions
, more than 100 years apart from each other, have had the cumulative affect of empowering the corporation with “personhood.” Ironically, the pretense used for such deft manipulation of principles was the 14th Amendment.

The 14th amendment was enacted in 1868, with the intent of protecting the newly defined citizenry for Black Americans.
Section I of the amendment reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Another interpretation of the amendment occurred less than 20 years later, in the 1886 decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The case involved disputed taxes the plantiff was seeking from the defendant. The decision itself was entirely secondary to the following information entered into record by the Court clerk. It states,
“One of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that “Corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Before argument Mr. Chief Justice Waite said: The Court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are of opinion that it does.”

This was then inaccurately recorded by the court reporter, and has been used as a precedent ever since: “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”

It is important to note that this information was not a part of the decision itself, but a portion of the headnotes reference material to the case. Twenty years later, headnote material had all of its legal merit removed by the Court. Nevertheless, the consequence of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad was bestowing “human rights” on an artificial entity, the corporation.

In January 2010, in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. This had the effect of lifting all restrictions on campaign spending by these entities, and upholding that their contributions were a form of “free speech.”

The consequence was allowing the artificial entity awarded personhood in 1886 with the ability to spend as much as he or she wants on a particular political candidate. (Since gender is ambiguous concerning artificial entities, the appropriate pronoun usage is left to the discretion of the reader.)

The collective significance of these two precedents is staggering. All the more so when considering that corporations became endowed with their “personhood” at a time when all women, all Native Americans, and even most African American men were still denied the right to vote.

The cases sited in this essay are essentially converses of the same question. In other words, slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.

The effect is of the latter is to empower further the already powerful elements of society. The deep-pocketed corporate entities that already possess inordinate sway of the affairs of government and the republic are now free to promote their agendas, through their selected candidates, with unlimited zeal. The natural outcomes of such a scenario are debasements of the idea of equal representation, of a genuine citizen voice in our democracy, and the tacit acknowledgement that money is free speech.

I use the cases I have described to illustrate some of the troubling tendencies within the Supreme Court to not act presciently when the consequences to the people of the United States are so potentially enormous. Much of the weight of upholding the truly virtuous aspects of the United States is entrusted to the Court, and their interpretation carries more long-term weight than any other branch of government.

The Supreme Court in the past, it must be recognized, has acted courageously as well. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) made school segregation illegal and opened the door for the civil rights movement. Roe v. Wade (1973) ruled that it was a woman’s right to privacy to terminate a pregnancy, thereby giving her domain over her physical body. Black justices and women justices have (and currently do) serve on the Court. My criticisms of it are respectfully offered as evidence that too often justice is not blind, that undertows in society like racial attitudes and the power of wealth can (and do) often blemish the proposition of justice for all.

I underestimate the difficulties and complexities in making rulings on issues that frequently affect the lives of all Americans. I am convinced our justices today are honorable in their intent, as were their predecessors. No justice, after all, has ever been impeached. However, it is the duty of a diligent citizen to object and stand up when perceived errors in judgment have occurred.
As this essay has illustrated, misjudgments about race and privilege have betrayed the best interests of our country. While there do indeed exist many principles for which the United States stands tall, these oversights are not incidental. They remain the core social and political components of problems left unresolved or ineffectively addressed.
This man is a constitutional lawyer. Think about it.

Ruminations on Miley

Miley is guiltless. She’s just a cog in the machine. Women have no choice but to play the cultural role in which they are ordained. It’s our myopic patriarchy that’s wrong here. Miley has all the talent to make it without twerking and otherwise acting like an peripatetic inflatable sex doll. Nothing to be done.

Miley Cyrus, like Brittney and Xtina and (way back) Madonna, before her, is becoming insanely rich and attaining mega-visibility by acting out teenage lust fantasies. And, since she’s 20 now, it’s expected from her handlers that she do just this. Her branding requires it. No longer confined to a Disney persona, she must and has reconfigured herself to become a media wet dream. Why? Because that’s what you do. It is self-validating behavior demanded by how women are perceived what their appropriate role in society is, and above all, is the most direct way to effusive paydays.

Gloria Steinem pretty much holds this view. "I wish we didn't have to be nude to be noticed, but given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is, in all of its states, forms, is the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States.”

I find Ms. Steinem’s response one I would expect from a matriarch of the system, and one that could have just as easily been uttered by Phyllis Shlafley or anyone else from the anti-feminist crowd. It’s the shrug and sigh response. And if that’s the extent of the analysis of barely-legal female sexuality in this country, and how it is mainlined ad nauseum through the tendrils of mass media, it’s not enough.

Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley, while using some tough language, isn’t something that should even be newsworthy. The relationship between popular music, iconic status, and the framing of little girl sexuality has become entrenched, predictable, and without content whatsoever. Content can be potentially dangerous if its strays off-message. Best to have no message at all and play the string out until the little honey hits 30. Everybody walks away richer from the experience. Meanwhile, keep twerking like you mean it, sister. I mean, you’re SO hot!
So what’s the career path here, after the proverbial bloom has faded from the Miley rose? She can sign autographs at boat shows, maybe, or parlay her titantic musical talent into a serious career, or become, like Madonna, an advocate for women empowerment through being venal, oily, sleazy, and obvious. Madonna deserves the wrath of the many here, since she was the one who patented this template. Argue about whether she or the industry made the persona, but it all amounts to the same. At the very least she was a willful subject. At most, she inverted authentic feminism for a toxic, manifestly boring variant of non-descript techno-pop, forgettable, sophomoric lyrics, and “risque” dance routines. If, somehow, like Madonna, you last long enough, you can grand dame-pontificate about how women’s status is invariably tied to their sexuality, and that it is natural and beautiful to share it with the world. You know, like, be empowered, and get filthy rich while you’re at it. But don’t count on the lasting part. The grand dame job is already taken.

Meanwhile, more Lolitas are out there for the plucking if Miley messes up like Lindsey Lohan. Lolitas raised on the idea of being visible and admired, of being famous and crazy rich, of having a life comprised of dreams. If they have to be “empowered” in order to achieve it, such is the price of fame. Just don’t think of Amy Winehouse or Frances Farmer while you’re playing the part. Such thoughts are very off-message.

The Zero-Sum Game

Hannibal Lecter: He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.

Clarice Starling: No. We just…

Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day.

-Dialogue, Silence of the Lambs.

This is an essay about money. And sex. How sex is presented and communicated. And how money and technology determines how sex is presented. It includes some speculation about the consequences of this interplay between sex, money, and technology. Finally, it attempts to decode this viciously complicated and inscrutable combination, and how it has altered what it means to be a human being living today.

What this is not is an indictment of women’s sexuality as a commodity. This is almost invariably where feminist and general liberal criticisms of pornography conclude, and it’s not an adequate analysis. What online porn is, what it represents, and what assumptions it creates in its audience are each cascading issues that are integral to the others, part of an ongoing dialogue of appetites. It is a primary touchstone for a new cultural anthropology that has become embedded in every corner of our society, which also means every physical space on the planet with an uncensored internet connection.

All of this started when I discovered a web site called Naked.com. It’s a sex webcam site with dozens of very pretty young girls stripping, playing with toys, having sex with their boyfriends, all live, all for tips from the online gallery gawking in.

Naked.com is not unusual in any sense; do a search on Google for free webcam sex and you’ll receive 62 million results. Porn as a category is far and away the most dominant online content as well. In the first quarter of 2010, according to a report issued by IT security firm Optenet, 37 percent of all content on the internet was pornography. Shopping (9 percent), travel (5.7), computing (4.2), and sports (4.2) comprised the next most popular content types.

What’s the reason for porn’s ubiquity? Porn is very cheap (or free) to produce. It’s an eroticized reality show more or less. Porn requires no thought on the part of its audience, which immediately expands its potential demographic. Porn requires no skill on the part of its subjects besides certain anatomical endowment and youth. And porn is above all a visual medium. Since the advent of high bandwidth internet, it has become impossible to avoid. There is no other form of “entertainment” that can match its saturation level.

I think of Adam Smith’s interpretation of the free market, and its “invisible hand.” Is this what he had in mind? Is pornography an upright citizen (so to speak) for contributing to our society’s wealth and GDP? Or did something get transposed in our self-adjusting market economy with unforeseen results?

Back to Naked.com. Outside of the obvious attributes of the so-called “models,” what is most telling to me is the décor of their surroundings, the format of the site, and the audience.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

Clicking between models’ portals, you see evidence of everything you would expect in the bedroom of a teenage girl. A vast majority of the modelling “sessions” take place on an unmade bed. The surroundings are utterly generic, giving no clue about its location or her interests. It is the vocational equivalent of an office cubicle, and why not? What’s going on here is business, and nothing more.

Most of the rooms have a sparseness that also suggests a low-income household. What furnishings there are – a potted plant, a dresser, stuffed animals, posters, generic artwork -- things one might buy at Wal-Mart. Rich girls quite obviously wouldn’t engage in this flavor of entrepreneurship. The class component of this scenario is understood. Her circumstances provide another layer of vulnerability to the model, along with the breach of her immediate intimacy.

The model’s portal provides links to her pictures, videos available for sale, an email link, items on her Amazon.com wish list, and the number of users who have marked her as a Favorite. This last feature is critical, one presumes, to whether she can make it in the world of cyber-fetish, and determines ultimately what she will do to pay next month’s rent.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

Models are displayed by default in the order of their Favorites rankings. The more you get, the closer to the top of the page you are. It’s all about pleasing your audience, and having a sufficient work ethic and moxie to do what the other girls will not do. This is her avenue to climbing the Favorites ladder if she hasn’t the physical tools alone to make her perpetually aroused admirers tip freely. She can always invite her boyfriend to the proceedings, or lasso enough of the online Johns for a group show where she’ll do things with latex toys, her friends, who knows what else. It’s the VIP room at Naked.com, and naturally it costs a little more.

Like any money-making proposition, there are the winners and the losers. Currently as I write this, Pretty Kit Kat is on the top of the tote board, with 14,610 Favorites. She’s a pretty, exuberant, audaciously endowed teen girl with braces. And she’s looks quite happy to be where she is.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

She’s a Latina, though, so all of her interactions with the groupies are in Spanish. It matters very little, though, since the conversations are exactly what you would expect them to be. The only type of articulation going on here is below the belt, which doesn’t translate to words onscreen.

Pretty Kit Kat clearly has a good thing going here. Good for her. It’s easy money if you’re a sexy young thing like she undeniably is. She may live in a rural part of Ecuador or Costa Rica, and is making way more money than she ever possibly could in those places. The internet is her liberator. She’s one of Naked.com’s success stories.

What about the others?

New models’ pictures are marked with banners introducing them that way. They are consistently, by site standards, more inhibited. They seem just a little uncertain of what to do, how far they want to go, and if they’re doing the right thing. One can only wonder how many new models come and go each day. Or what personal fates brought these young women to stake their claim in this milieu for at least a short time. And what type of messages does it send to them if they receive no Favorites? To offer to the world the most private and intimate constituents of your life, and to be thrown back in the pond. Not far below the surface for any of these girls is a subtext of potential humiliation. Not necessarily physical, but psychological.

Sexual engagement for money is the purest form of our new breed of capitalism. Its boundaries, thanks to the internet, are truly global. Its true value, much like the derivatives market, is by perception only. Its capacity to redefine human beings as objects of profit is consummate. Its market is assured vis a vie the human male’s open 24 hours sexual drive. For these reasons and others, it is an attractive business proposition. And no worries about equipment maintenance or growing markets, either. The equipment is plug and play, and with the pool of available penises on the increase daily, the long-term viability of the product is guaranteed.

Now let’s survey Naked.com’s appreciative audience.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

I wonder what these men find satisfying in expressing their carnal responses on screen. I really do. The models must think what sub-species they are, since they are required to enter their guttural little vignettes without the benefit of a spell checker. That’s suicidal for most of the fellas here, as the screenshot illustrates. What are these guys’ relationships with real women like? Are they in this perpetual state of desperate horniness, or is Naked.com their little online hacienda? How many of these guys are 12 years old? (There is no age verification on Naked.com whatsoever.) How many of these men are psychologically whacked? How many are actually addicted to porn?

One thing is for sure: each visitor to this site understands the Pavlovian money-for-pleasure proposition. In this way it’s no different than any strip joint or brothel or blow job in the alley way. What is distinctive is the all-access display of their longings. Naked.com is a forum where all communication is mitigated by male sexual appetites, with no pretense of anything else. The level and type of interaction between the model and her audience is characterized by total anonymity. It is an anti-community existing solely and completely for sexual mass consumption. As such, as its existence is based purely on a transaction, it is another form of the “business community.”

Without going into any sociological or psychological gyrations, it’s fair to say that Naked.com is no different than Facebook or Twitter or the myriad other social networking sites that presume a community is formed when people acknowledge each other online. The demographics are surely different, but there are underpinnings of passivity and alienation that permeates each of these. It’s the rollover point where people require a mitigating level of abstraction (the technical platform) to even communicate at all. Next time you ride the train or the bus, look around. Nobody talks anymore. People are texting their friends on their smart phones. Or go to a Starbucks and look at the interactions. They do not exist. Expressionless people stare at their iPad or laptop oblivious to others around them. It is the stuff of an Edward Hopper painting.

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
-John Maynard Keynes

I believe that the quality of people’s interactions -- as friends, as co-workers, as lovers, as rivals, as cohorts – is attributable to the respect they have for the other. From respect comes kindness, empathy, common objectives, intimacy, compassion, purpose above one’s self interests. These are also characteristics that define a true community.

The pornographic impulse, and Naked.com is simply a handy snapshot, reinvents the social relations between participants to make the intimate the anonymous, to capsize sexuality for the benefit of a third-party. It is the privatization of our most human qualities. It is the total abrogation of our most fragile and most defining characteristics to a system eager to swallow them whole and spit out a profit.

Ours is a time of counterfeit intimacy. Each image we consume, each desire we allow to be abstracted, each solitary appetite we sate with a transaction brings us further and further apart. Our civilization is predicated upon exactly the opposite occurring, but we proceed in a way that makes us more and more indifferent to a common understanding or to an outreach that doesn’t serve us directly.

The internet, as with pornography, is a peerless vehicle for housing the alienated, and for convincing them that’s the place to be. It’s not. The mindset of distance, in which all relations are presented through images and validated through a consumer gesture, effectively kills the common weal of society. A pornographic web site is just the most obvious manifestation of this. When a society itself becomes a commodity, and its raison d’être is to solely accommodate a transaction, it ceases to be a functioning society. It reveals itself only through anecdotal evidence, however. Whether the evidence is mass shootings, the correlation between violence and wealth, the rise of an internet surveillance infrastructure, the disappearance of an objective mass media, or the unconstitutional suppression of dissent, they are all symptoms of a unified condition. They are all screams from the dungeons. The screams are indeed getting louder, and our collective cognitive dissonance becomes less and less reconcilable.

Chris Hedges, perhaps the most important journalist alive, wrote that the transition from a print-based culture, based on reflection, to a visually-based culture, based on emotional response, has been hastened by the internet. I agree with him. What is greatly underestimated is the decay of our collective abilities to discern and to critically examine the world around us. If and when we do awake to our new structural reality, only then can we act.

What to do?

This certainly didn’t begin as any call to arms about the vexing state of our disintegration as a society. And perhaps this topic is way too ambitious to begin with. What I’m hopeful this does is to dovetail some seemingly disparate elements of our world within some larger framework, those that rely upon certain reactions and responses for them to imprint, to brand, to live another day in our turbulent economic maelstrom.

After all, it’s all about the money. Just ask Pretty Kit Kat.

Jonathan Richman at The Bell House
Brooklyn, February 20, 2013

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

The first thing you notice about Jonathan Richman is his totally unique, visceral sweetness. It's in his remarkable eyes, his gestures that are always seemingly gentle, his cocked eyebrows. Witnessing him for five minutes at a concert and you want to invite the guy over to your house, cook him dinner, and make him your best friend.

I saw him last night at the Bell House, an elegantly reconfigured warehouse space turned music venue in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. Bitterly cold night to come from Jersey to see this oddity of the rock and roll era, one who has been so tied directly to the punk lineage but who steadfastly contradicts its precepts and subject matter. Jonathan once slept on the Velvet Underground manager's couch it is true, but Jonathan never picked up any of the dirty vibe of the Velvet's LES zeitgeist. No Venus In Furs or Waiting for My Man here. The scenario closest to anything remotely risqué involves Jonathan dancing alone at a lesbian bar. And you can betcha the lesbians were cheering him on, too, because Jonathan dances like no other.

Is Jonathan Richman art? If loving your mother, celebrating New England, smiling the most gracious and inviting smile with no sense of disinterested and manipulative irony are components of art, then hell yeah. But I think Jonathan Richman is something larger than that. He presents a persona untainted by his years on the planet, all 61 of them. There is a guilelessness, optimism, compassion, and understanding underpinning everything he does that makes you wish very hard for those days when you had them as well. When life was about perpetual discovery and fitting your bright expectations to a world that mostly won't comply.

An everyday event becomes an epic in stylish celebration of the goodness of life. Bright, sunny days where people hold hands, scold the mother strolling her baby while yammering on her smart phone, wonder at the cityscape of NYC, take deep breaths and say "ain't life grand?". You know it's true, too, because Jonathan quite certainly believes it to be.

So where does a Jonathan Richman fit into a worldscape where we're having mass shootings every other day now? He's an anomaly from a better time. His music is so minimalist and sometimes cryptic that he is kindred to a deep whisper on a long-forgotten take on an obscure blues song left discarded and unappreciated. But it re-emerges decades later on some bizarre anthology from the era, and suddenly it catches on. Like Robert Johnson became everybody's hero long after his deal with the devil turned sour. Jonathan Richman is an anachronism of the high order, and of the highest quality. He exudes a benign kindness, and is gracious enough to share his happy placement within the world with the rest of us sodden souls.

I sit here today, a little hungover from Guinness, reliving a feeling that this man gave me, that life is a gift to enjoy and to share. Not in some empty, meaningless Hallmark greeting card way, either. In a truly felt and sincere way. Jonathan is genuine about such things, and he imparts it upon you with brush strokes of musical therapy and older brother goodness. If you leave a Jonathan Richman concert and don't feel love for the guy, you're past the point of no return and deserving of great pity.

I waited after the show around the exit behind the bar, just for the chance to meet him. And I did. He signed my Modern Lovers CD liner notes I brought with me, and we talked about his favorite version of Road Runner, Greil Marcus' analysis of that song, the Bay Area, whatever. Then he said "bye-bye" and left out the door to go to the next gig on his tour. And those of you going to that show, where ever it may be, are the lucky ones. You'll get to wake up the next day feeling like I do today. Which is kind of spiritually reconnected.

I love Jonathan Richman, and I thank him for just being around.

Destination Unknown.

I don't think I can live here anymore. Just worn out, psychologically. And the conclusions I've come to about money. What I've learned here is that I don't belong here. I never was a capitalist. While there are a number of people that live here have come to similar conclusions, their relative numbers are small, and shrinking all the time.

The things that brought me here are increasingly not here anymore. I'm lonely for a new life, for someone to spend it with. And my aspirations have changed. I've noticed this transformation taking place for the last couple of years. I am a different person that I was when I got here. What powered me then was the idea that I could self-generate, self-define, blossom in a sense I could not in a place like central PA. I now realize that this is nothing but narcissism. But I've confronted my narcissism and won't be victimized by it again. A change of scenery does not fundamentally redirect or redefine the points of crossing that occurred as prelude.

I recognize that what I've done here is what I've done all along. I live more simply than anybody I know, I still rescue things from the garbage, I care for my building and its surrounding more than anybody else that lives here. But what motivates people here is exclusively money, is the idea of equation for ROI, is self interest. I've never been about that.

In NYC, you are on the upside or the downside. You exist purely to be on the upside, and provide perpetual justification for being there. It is social Darwinism in a very real sense. I was naive to that before I lived here, much as I was naive to it before moving to SF. But the societal shifts that have occurred between now and then have been massive and unforgiving. The world today is structured in such a way that the same model is being applied to every place on the planet, economically, socially, interpersonally. This fact kind of snuck up on me. To be at the epicenter of this gravitational shift doesn't give me any feeling of prescience or validation. It just made the facts clearer to me because of my proximity to its nexus.

I'm a decent man is search of a destination. But I did have the foresight, foreknowledge, foreboding, foreskin, to realize that NYC wasn't the final stop :-)

Where to go, and what to do?

Well, engage.

To NOT engage with the Occupy movement is to entirely miss the shifts of history. The mega-confluence of events -- globalism, eco-meltdown, militarism, rapidly diminishing resources -- have never before occurred. Their cumulative effect, without acknowledgement and direct intervention, is complete and utter catastrophe. Invariably, the cornerstone to all of this is corporate capitalism, a system with a built in death wish. Now, do you really want to align with this nefarious beast, and to be marked (monetized) by it?

But the question is, and remains with all the folks I marched with to Union Sq. on Saturday, is to how to wake up those who have drunk the free-market kool aid, and whose existence is terminally dependent on it. Does it take a total collapse before everyone sees that this system is intractably evil and fundamentally immoral? I hope for the best but anticipate the worst. But I'll be occupying as long as is necessary, because I perceive it as a moral imperative.


I look back at all the energy I've put into figuring out where to go after this, and, upon reflection, if it's such a hard thing to determine, maybe I just don't acknowledge that I actually belong here for the duration. There are still more people like me here than anyplace else, even though that number is shrinking. The work will always be here for me. I live incredibly cheaply considering the location. And the place is full of surprises. Good and bad. It's like riding a wave here, and it takes fortitude that can be very deflating at times. Two things I have discovered is the simpler the better, and how to tell a liar from ten feet away. New York has become normal for me. And I'm gradually realizing that if I lost my stake in it, I would regret it dearly, probably sooner than later. But the only sane reaction to it is deep ambivalence. That's how I know I'm sane, because I love it and I hate it at once.

Who is that weird guy in the back right?????

That Guy Named Mitt.

His name is Mitt
In my life I've never met anybody with that moniker
Strange name, Mitt.

Mitt's a Mormon, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, leads the virtuous life
And has a smile like a fox.

Malcolm X said beware of foxes
They are the most dangerous beast in the forest
The wolf, he said, you knew about
The fox comes at his prey with a smile
And is mistaken as a friend.

On second glance, Mitt looks like a really oily car salesman
Somebody who extends their glad-hand to get to your pocketbook
Somebody who sees all things in terms of greed is good
Somebody who will do absolutely anything for obeying the laws of primal order
Somebody, oh, who might run a hedge fund.

Mitt is a happy guy.

Smiling Mitt is a parasitic capitalist.
As our country confronts its ruin
And its accelerating redistibution of wealth
Mitt calls our system the best in the world
Bain Capital been very, very good to Mitt.

Mitt doesn't worry about the poor in our country
And Mitt doesn't worry about the rich in our country
Ours is the best system in the world
The market will slide its invisible hand over our fates
And clarify our consumer status.

Mitt is Obama's wet dream
It allows him to look positively visionary in comparison
Yet Obama receives more money from Wall St than Mitt
And doesn't flinch at the irony.

Mitt and Obama are surely good friends, or will be when the campaign is done
They are tailored from the same gilded cloth.
They are men without conscience or moral compass
They are the One Percent
One nation under Goldman.

The world has become a scary place with the likes of Mitt and Obama in power
While we wait, and while we vote, and while we debate, and while we consume
Everything gets scarier
It happens in increments until it explodes.

With Mitt the explosion happens a little quicker.
Strange name, Mitt.


Years after President Barack Obama vowed to eliminate the danger of financial institutions becoming "too big to fail," the nation's largest banks are bigger than they were before the nation's credit markets seized up and required unprecedented bailouts by the government.

Five banks – JP Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. – held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the US economy, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve.

Rivalries in America

“Write what you know will always be excellent advice for those who ought not to write at all. Write what you think,
what you imagine, what you suspect!”
- Gore Vidal


It used to snow on Christmas Eve every year in Duluth when I was little.

The really cold weather didn't really hit until January, when it literally became too cold to snow. All of my memories of childhood are connected to the ice and the snow in northern Minnesota. How magical and insular that world was. And the distance from it now makes me feel lonesome. So much time has passed, and so many places I've been since then, but my heart and my composition were created in those formative days. I remember getting Hot Wheels and GI Joes for Christmas, and how impossibly large the world seemed. After you leave that world everything somehow shrinks and becomes more intrusive. The lights become dimmer with the memories. Maybe it's an acknowledgement of mortality through the senses. Maybe it's a rejection of the idea of possibility that once loomed huge and tangible. Or maybe it's just a dream right before you wake up. A still life portrait that reconfigures like those snow globes when you shake them. It's all right, ma, it's life and life only.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

Rush City, c. 1962
So long ago
Was it in a dream?
Was it just a dream?


Freedom: We Love it!freedom

Freedom to consume

Freedom to suspect and distrust

Freedom to prejudge

Freedom to be inert

Freedom to obfuscate

Freedom to self-medicate

Freedom to water board

Freedom to consume passionately

Freedom to conform

Freedom to agree with power

Freedom to Viagra

Freedom to foreclosure

Freedom to surgically enhance

Freedom to bomb

Freedom to invade

Freedom to enslave

Freedom to consume with a vengeance

Freedom to surveille

Freedom to privatize

Freedom to enhance-search

Freedom to detain

Freedom to pepper spray

Freedom to lie

Freedom to redact

Freedom to shop 'til you drop (consume more)

Freedom to WWF

Freedom to UFC

Freedom to FOX

Freedom to NSA

Freedom to DIA

Freedom to RFID

Freedom to Gingrich

Freedom to Oprah

Freedom to Kardashian

Freedom to

Freedom to climate-change

Freedom to defile democracy

Freedom to rig the game

Freedom to be negligible

Freedom to be alienated

Freedom to hate the poor

Freedom to ignore the self-evident

Freedom to Black Friday bargains (go consume alot more, please)

Freedom to self-censor

Freedom to live in indifference

Freedom to not participate

Freedom to
ritualize the trivial

Freedom to self-annihilate

Your freedoms are being contested.

I hate your freedoms.

And your inability to recognize what they really are.



What is your name?
My name is Teenee Chan.
What is the weather like?
Balmy, extraordinary.
Is your life vexing and complex, like mine?
Not at all. I am in a blissful state most days.
Do you fall asleep each night guiltless and satisfied?
Yes, of course I do. I am a person with only honest thoughts.
How does your memory serve you?
Selectively, thank you.
Does your place in the world make you a subject of contempt?
Never. I am loved by one and all.
Do you remember that last night?
Yes, I do.
It was ten years ago, now.
Yes, time flies.
You broke my heart in ways that leave it broken.
I'm sorry for that, but I did it to please my family.
Is that a weakness or a strength?
It is inevitably both. I cannot stray from my virtuous past.
It was cold walking from Grand Central Station that night, alone.
Yes, it was a cold night.
That last night.
Yes, that one.
I'm alone again for the holidays.
I'm with my family and friends, celebrating our good fortune.
I exist somewhere else from you now.
Yes, of course you do.
What is the weather like?
Cold and heartless.

What is your name?
My name is Jeff Larsen.
I am memory served and confounded.
I am a note in the margin and a
footnote on a diary page lost long ago.

I am still here.


Trick or Treat

I was having trouble falling asleep that night. The oysters, rum, and cottage cheese I had for brunch had something to do with it, I suspect. As I lay there tossing and cavorting, I heard what sounded to be a Farfisa keyboard starting to play. Circular, melodic, chromatic stuff. I was wondering if I had died and this was the organ part that prefaces my ascension. Far from it I soon found.

The fever dream took hold. There, floating above my head like a bulbous nugget of Valentine candy, was none other than The Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. Mr. Mojo Rising, quite literally this time. He had the leather pants, the beard, the Jim Beam bottle, the convex midriff. Yep, the real deal. What the hell, I thought.

“Hey, man,” he said. “Betcha you weren't expecting me to pay you a visit, huh?” I was stupefied, and figured clearly now that my passing signaled something inverse of an ascension. I was in Hades with the Lizard King, and he was going to give me a little introduction to the place. But I gathered my wits and looked around: I was still in my bed, the cat was sleeping soundly at the end of it. Nothing unusual except for the pint-sized visitor. And Lord, did he smell bad.

“Sorry about the odor, man,” he said, sensing my overt discomfort at whiffing what smelled like sauteed landfill and garlic toast. " I kicked in that bathtub in Paris forty years ago, so my mortal coil, so to speak, is a little dehydrated. This seems to help, though.” He took a huge gulp of Jim Beam from his midget bottle and proceeded to pass a truly unholy fart. “It’s all part of the slow capitulation, man.” I thought to myself that most capitulations in this life don’t’ presume such a unflattering stench, but I played along. It was, after all, The Lizard King, and I’d hear him out.

“You need to get laid, man,” he continued. “I sure miss it, but none of the women where I hang out now come near me ‘cause of the smell” Good judgement, I thought. “ But you, you’re smart, you’ve got money in the bank, you’re not half bad looking either. If I was a woman I’d be snuggling up next to you right now.” Thank God for small favors, I thought.

“Gotta go, man. I’m reading some of my poetry for a bunch of dead hippies down at the beach. They still get it. You know: the hitchhiker stood by the side of the road and leveled his thumb in the calm calculus of reason.” Profound, I thought. Almost like Charlie Sheen.

“Oh, and I almost forgot. Happy Halloween.” Then he disappeared, like a soap bubble popping, except his stench lingered for a good half hour longer.

Way to go, Lizard King. Halloween was two days ago. You were never punctual, big guy. And how did he know how much money I have, anyway?

Jimmy, you smell BAD!


The Frakass in the Ointment Drawer

The luminous decay of subtleties

The freedom proscribed by the elders before they perished

An analysis without content

A remonstrance without conviction.

The mindset of the wolverine

The cryptic signposts on wormwood

The symptoms of a larger calamity

Lay beneath the porch with rodent-tempered angst.

Are you the answer or the atrocity?

Is your betrayal felt beyond visceral twitch?

Do your whispers suggest healing or mirthful seduction?

Before you turn out the lights to sleep

Attend to noises the ointment drawer wrought

They configure the puzzle with new menacing purpose

Eternal and vexing, like an anesthetized Bill Cosby.

Learn the purpose

And heed the ointment.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy


#Occupy Wall Street

No FutureEver Get The Feeling,,,

There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part. You have to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who own it, to the people who run it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

- Mario Savio, Berkeley Free Speech Movement, 1964

Joseph Arthur OWSJoseph Arthur 2 OWS

Joan Baez OWSJoan Baez 2 OWS


Julian Assange

"The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be "free" because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade."

-Julian Assange

How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity.
- William S. Burroughs

No one knows who will live in this cage (Gehäuse) in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For the “last man” (letzten Menschen) of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialist without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of humanity (Menschentums) never before achieved”

- Max Weber, 1904

A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.

- Albert Camus

When nations grow old, the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree.

- William Blake

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and EcstasyFD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy


Midnight Encounter

The recycling bin was full, and an anxiety swelled from me not unlike the same sensations I had when I tried to surreptitiously exhume my former wife's corpse in New Guinea. After the psycho-analysis and jail time I thought I had learned my lesson. But depravity manifests itself like a Japanese shadow-play, and its nuances create different afterglows that you cannot anticipate.

I wasn't dressed for a confrontation, that's for sure. Just my boxer shorts and a t-shirt my mother had sent me from a recent visit to Colorado: If You Like My Mountains, You'll Love My Busch. The recycling bin was inexplicably full of packing peanuts, all identically shaped, upward glancing reminders of a tiny child's ivory penis. The thought made me vomit and weep simultaneously.

When the young toughs scurried from the corner I was helpless, and I knew this was the end. One pulled from top of his right spat a Samurai sword no less than three feet long. He growled, said something in Pig Latin, then proceeded to mince the packing peanuts into fine mushroom slices of remarkable symmetry.

I was sweating noticeably, and after the exercise was completed, the man, I might even say gentleman, offered me his handkerchief. I looked up at him, quizzically and somewhat fearfully, wiped my brow, and returned it to him.

He was breathing heavy. He got down on one knee, did some ritualistic swordplay, and pulled out a Scrabble board. He made a motion to me, we sat down, and picked out letters.

His friends proceeded to pilfer the recycling bin and took off down the street. My new friend and I played Scrabble for more than three hours. He won three out of four, the killer in the last match being his seven-letter "Bestial." I thought it appropriate.

The next morning I awoke with the Scrabble letter Q stapled to the lobe of my right ear. It hurt to be sure, but somehow I knew I got off easy. I rolled over and waited for more vengeance to be visited on my neighborhood.


Eureka, Part XXXIV
(for Antigonish Shelley)

Lonely daybreak
No sunshine just ineffable horizon swirl light
Promising early morning rain
Squelched thunder from behind me
It's a time of desperation

The desperation colludes with my lair
It hijacks my shibboleths and hostages my totems
I'm captive to its unknowable intents
I'm useless to protect myself
I'm to be consumed by the juggernaut
Until I have a new strategy

But it's not a strategy at all
It's a spiritual preservation
That swells from my solar plexus
and censors the ambivalence and the doubts
And affirms that the negation of bad
is nothing more than unclenching its fist

Till that final daybreak
And the last rain that comes
The prospect for resolution is there always
It floats with the angels
It sinks with the demons
It reinvents with the sorcerer

Hope is a cadaver with wings
With resurrection unpromised
but contemplated ceaselessly


All is lost. The friggets are cruising into the harbor at half-mast, and the cabin boy is communicating in semaphore that his inner eye is myopic. But everyone is big grins and back-slaps as they head to the Seafarer's Cotillion, where they'll be serving up free shrimp and cottage cheese. The irony of it all, the pure deception by those involved, makes more than one deck hand want to vomit all over their silver-buttoned pretense.

Meanwhile, a wayfaring carp is making its way through a black east horizon toward shore. The hulking bottom-feeder's intentions are unknown, but it is clearly perturbed, and in a hurry. He's eighteen feet long, with a pierced front left fin. And he smells like a bucket of month-old won-ton soup

Melville himself could not have imagined the unholy wrath of a furious stinkbomb fish.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy



It ain't gonna change
tonight, tomorrow, over the weekend
It's gonna wake you up
and haunt you in
your dreamless sleep
It's always there
and it's ruthless, cunning, unabsolved.
It's the life of shoulda coulda woulda
It ends when you finally
understand that
Your appetites
Your reflection
Your apparatus
Your symptoms
Your frailties
Your misfortune
Your gullibility
Your triumphs
Your conceit
Your rejections and
Your hopes
are who you are
and what you are is this:

It ain't the way you want it, at all.

But it changes overnight,

with a little luck
and a little nerve.

The rest is the meantime.

And the meantime is no
place to spend your life.



The floor boards creaked
The world was gashed, asunder
The television blinked in the corner
no sound just incandescent sprinkle-fog
Dickie Smothers was mouthing "If I Had A Hammer"
The smell of decay wafted through rooms past the kitchen
The smell of freshly laid tar hung over the driveway
Tommy Smothers was playing guitar with The Who
A siren swelled and receded, noise, sound, cushion, silence
An old guy with a taxadermied sword fish shuffled past the guards
To his cell he inhabited with his handmaiden and two Albino mice
His handmaiden turned on the television
Dickie Smothers was dead.
She quietly crossed her legs and stared holes in the cell floor
Waiting for the sword fish
Waiting for the old man
Who promised her a sequined gown
If she'd balance the sword fish
on her head
for one-half hour
before going to bed.

Tommy Smothers wept.



My single preference
In times of grief and implosion
is that I be left alone
to find a personal voice for
the pain that leaves me numb
and leaves me without answers.

I will resurrect and I will overcome
and I tell myself those words
again and again
Ennui collapses around me now, though
All is misshapen and inscrutable
in this cavern of the Last Man.
Nietzsche's topology of the heavens
is all haze and distance.

I live in that distance
and I wonder how to get back.
But I must do it alone.

Perhaps dreaming about being with
a naked woman

Or listening to The Clash will knock it
out of me

The naked woman thing I'm working on
The Clash I can do right now.

Sandanista it is.



It's where it is understood
That love is a transaction
That your inner life is a commodity
That every person in every ad
Has an agenda in which
Their carnality is the sole discourse.

It's where You are a litany of fractured physical qualities
slipknotted with a six-figure salary
and Type A personality aspirations
screaming that YOU WANT EVERYTHING
you WANT IT NOW, you WANT IT from behind
and every other way
and you WANT and deserve a similar person
in your life.

It's where an accommodation can be brokered.
A meeting at Starbuck's, a threesome in the Bronx
It's interpersonal merger and acquisition
It's the manic oppressive dialogue of a culture
eating itself alive.

Of ten thousand vacant voices that have forgotten how to converse.

(Actual photographs received in reply to a Craigslist ad)

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and EcstasyFD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy
FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and EcstasyFD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy
FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and EcstasyFD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

I was at the grocery store last night,

just buying sustenance items for this grave, poor existence, and toward the end of the Hispanic aisle with all the Goya stuff and the flan was the sardines. Sardines, I thought. What a savory treat, and a tin of those things are no more than a buck. Go nuts! Then I heard what sounded like scratching, from a tin way, way in the back of the display. Of course my interest was piqued, of course I took that tin from the display. I like surprises, and this one really had the makings of madcap written all over it.

I got home with my four bags of groceries (the sardine can, by my request, had its own). I set up a kind of fenced in area in the middle of my kitchen floor with jerry-rigged pieces of cardboard, and from within the middle of that enclave, began to slowly peel back the top of the sardines can.

I was thinking some big-ass Asian roach or a mouse or nothing at all. It could have been my imagination all along. My jaw dropped when the tin's top was removed. My cat yelped like I had never heard her before, and she made a bee-line for under the bed. And why not. There, in the can, was a tiny, two-inch person who claimed, after brief conversation, that she was Leni Riefenstahl.

Leni, of course, was the legendary filmmaker for the Third Reich, and had a fascinating documentary done about her a few years back. No question she certainly looked like who she claimed to be, and her German was impeccable. I quizzed her on which films she had done -- Triumph of the Will, Olympia, some of those she acted in during the silent era -- and she aced the test. What to do now?

Since work these days is so scarce and I've got tons of time on my hands, I'm offering selected women that view this to contact me, and come see my Leni. She's dynamic, she's enigmatic, she's delightful! And what an ice breaker; we'll have something to talk about for months.

I'm also looking for tiny farm animals to keep her company, and perhaps a suitably proportionate die-cast Mercedes Benz. She does tell me she misses those halcyon days when she rode in Goebbels' fine uptown set of wheels. Anything you'd like to contribute to this astonishing opportunity would be welcomed.

I'm also thinking that if you have a little tiny Francois Truffaut or maybe even Peter Bogdonovich laying around, Leni would love you for it...

Leni uber alles

"In societies where modern conditions
of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation."

- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967


Before Schmenges, there was Chmielewskis

"There is no conflict
between the individual and the social instincts, any more than there is between the heart and the lungs: the one the receptacle of a precious life essence, the other the repository of the element that keeps the essence pure and strong. The individual is the heart of society, conserving the essence of social life; society is the lungs which are distributing the element to keep the life essence – that is, the individual – pure and strong."

- Emma Goldman,
Anarchism: What It Really Stands For

The fail-safe mechanism has been elegantly reconfigured.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The orifice opened and swallowed him whole.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The mud lark danced on the nectar of lust.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The procession featured a hunchback, a mime, and a dark-hearted turncoat.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The bulbous chef’s selection of spices is best described as “uneven.”
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The company car was dispatched for the important gentlemen.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The Cornish game hen was slightly undercooked.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The happy couple burst into song at their local convenience store.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

Dan Quayle retired early to watch a documentary on kelp farming.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

Each of the sweepstakes winners now uses a secret handshake.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The diplomat curses in the morning when his mother calls him “madcap.”
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The musical comedy only played briefly, but left each of the local haberdashers whistling “Dixie.”
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

Ninety percent of inspiration is constipation.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The gay bright days of summer are now behind us, at least for a little while?
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

The saints sighed, pitched a tent, said a prayer, and began to quietly fornicate.
Welcome to the Pinata of Doom.

Philly Central 1944

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

I was warned about Hollywood, but I surely never anticipated being a human dragoon in the soiled left pocket of a swamp-crash fiend.

to be continued...

The curry dish was an ill-advised choice,
and almost instantly worsened my malady. My open-toed Birkenstocks now showcased the fact that my toenail fungus had become eerily gelatinous and was now caressing the comely right ankle of my date.

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

The Internal Life of an Administrative Assistant

I am a detail-oriented person.

I am a diligent problem solver.

I am a great team player.

I am quite a creative person.

I have many years experience in my vocation.

I am a people person.

I am willing to go the extra nine yards to achieve my goals.

People have remarked that I'm very can-do.

I like to eat lunch with co-workers.

My name tag spells my last name wrong.

I am not a religious person, but I am very spiritual.

I enjoy long walks on the beach, going to movies, reading, and conversing about current events.

I enjoy organizing surprise parties.

I take very few sick days annually.

I understand others' points of view, and will try to accommodate them whenever possible.

I enjoy going home after work, sipping a glass of wine, and watching television.

I can work with little or no supervision.

I'd like to help the world be a better place.

I attend professional seminars occasionally to keep my skill set up to date.

I keep current on Hollywood gossip, and subscribe to Us magazine and Good Housekeeping.

I like eating at fine restaurants sometimes, but not too often.

I save grocery coupons and use them when I can.

I only have sixteen months left on my car loan.

I've been thinking about coloring my hair; probably just highlights, though.

Somewhere along the line I lost my knowledge of right and wrong.

I can't say that anything I do in my life has profound meaning.

I seem to be devoured by an existential malaise, one that I can't put my finger on.

I don't think I've done a single significant thing in my life.

I wish I could confront the hypocrisies of the world, but I'm far too timid to even approach that issue.

Three times in the last month I have broken down in tears while watching my 52" plasma television set.

I fear that I am quite unattractive to the opposite sex.

I will go to bed early tonight, in order to be at my best for tomorrow's work day.

I used to say a prayer at bedtime, but not anymore.

The days are getting shorter now. I wonder why that is.
FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

WTF, not FDR

In the face of the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party, and the attendant redistribution of wealth and erosion of civil liberties, FD&E strongly encourages all readers to join The Green Party.

Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance of those who make war, of those who perpetuate corporate greed and are responsible for state crimes, anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others. Hope affirms that which we must affirm. And every act that imparts hope is a victory in itself.

-Chris Hedges, Truthdig
November 29,2010

FD&E: Greasing the rails of wisdom with granola. - Fraud, Decay, and Ecstasy

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