23 January 2017

Fourteen Points about You, Me, and Everybody Else

I, actually, don't look anything like this.

So, I've been meditating on the last few days for the past three months.
And I have a couple things to say about it:

If you wanted "CHANGE," Honey, you are about to get some REAL CHANGE, for real. 
I hope it's to your liking.

I never thought the day after an in-inauguration would move me more than the day itself. The day after became a new kind of the-day-itself, and I thank each and every one of you for making that happen.

The Law is something we subscribe to--and when it is often wrong--we resist it. The United Republican Democratic States of the continent of north America only exists because of resistance, dissent, and revolution. 

Never forget that while we agree to disagree, we disagree in order to agree. We build consensus out of dissent. But you have to know shit in order to disagree and then change your mind. 

Know shit. Be educated, nuanced, sophisticated, smart, and compassionate. 

Listen. Know more later than you know right now.

We are all immigrants to this land..

No human life took hold in the western hemisphere, until immigrants, who crossed the Bering Strait/Sea, long ago, in our prehistory, settled it.

After that, the settlers were all people from across either of the oceans that nestle us in "the West," some of them, even in the earliest days before the Republic for which the American flag stands, brought here forcibly to labor without pay and to make more people, their children, who would also be forced to labor without pay, and to foster grandchildren, great, great-great, and great-great-great, great-great-great-great grandchildren, to be ensnared until the present day, and after, in American law and the "Justice" system, to be imprisoned, paid lower wages, to be denied the franchise, and to, on the average, die at a younger age, unless they were made to join the lowest ranks of the armed forces as cannon fodder or, often unarmed, shot dead by the police.

We are all immigrants to this land. This land, which is your land, this land, which is my land, from California to the New York Island(s), from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land, which, in point of actual fact, was not made for you and me, but which is a land upon which we are all living, so, we certainly had better start figuring out how to get along better, because none of us is going anywhere. Except for the very old, who tend to vote Republican.

We are all immigrants to this land.

Respect people who came here because they had the temerity to believe in The American Dream. A Dream that still exists in those foolish enough to believe in it. Do not let them down! Respect immigrants. We are only a land only of immigrants.

Jews are actually people.
Muslims are actually people.
Women are actually people.
Women's rights are human rights.
And black lives actually do matter, too.

Why is this so hard to get through your skull? Black lives mattering is not about all lives not mattering, it's about the fact that, heretofore, it didn't seem to matter to much of anyone not black that lives lived by black people matter, too. Not just your bullshit. This isn't that hard. Stop resisting it. It's called normalization, motherfucker. It's called Brown vs Board of Education, motherfucker. It's called Loving vs Virginia, motherfucker.

Could we, please, put a stake into that insidious vampire, in my lifetime? Please? It just makes you look like an ignorant asshole. And you're probably not that ignorant or that much of an asshole to completely disregard reason.

The point isn't that black lives matter more than all other lives when they're black, it is that lives actually matter when they're not white.

Honestly, this is so American basic. It's something even a racist could understand. In America, all men are created equal, even when they are black, even when they are women. And yet black men are disproportionately killed by the police and women are disproportionately underpaid, even when they are white, and even in Hollywood. The evidence is epidemic; the evidence is moribund.

Black lives matter, too.

I guess there's only one way to find out.

Corporations are not people. People are people.

Any questions?

Money is not free speech. 

If you have more money that does NOT give you more speech.
And THAT is the American way, okay?

Any questions?

I'm sorry you grew up in coal country--or oil country. I'm sorry your fathers and mothers killed themselves to give you life, clothe you, feed you, and do everything they could to make your lives better than theirs. They were good people doing good things in this life. But the fossil fuels are fossils. 

We have to move on from fossil fuels. If your local, state, and national governments haven't done all they can--and I am certain most of them have done very little--to help your communities with jobs, most especially in the renewable energy sector, then blame THEM and vote them out of office. 

The canary in the coal mine isn't that big business found lower-wage workers to do the job you used to, the canary in the coal mine is that no one gives a fuck about funding a proper public education for you or your children, or figuring out a way to help you find a job.

You're not lazy. PS Black and brown people aren't lazy, either, Cracker. But we pay taxes to the government to make our lives better, not worse. I will happily pay all the tax dollars you let me to get your kids an education, get you healthcare, get you off drugs without incarcerating you, get you a job you like that will make you solvent enough to feed yourself and your kids, pay your rent, buy your home--if you want to--and live life for sunsets, dancing, laughter, friendship, love, music, reading, philosophy, pleasure, family, joy, education, civic duty, goodness, and NOT doing unto others as you have them NOT do unto you. 

We are our sisters' keeper. And our brothers', too.

Rich people do not know more than we do and do not, as a function of their wealth, make your life, my life, their lives, or anyone's life better. Wealth only takes away some of the harm that life deals out to you, personally. Wealth doesn't make you happy or smart.

If anything, wealth just makes you better at taking advantage of other people.

And is that who you really want to be?

The canary in the coal mine isn't a canary, it's the whole fucking environment telling you to stop burning fossil fuels. When the planet is dying from the fumes--instead of a tiny bird--I'm pretty sure it's time to pay attention.

Educate yourself--because the Republican-led government doesn't care about your mind or body, male or female, white or black or brown. Speak truth to power. Volunteer; not just for religious groups--the world actually includes things beyond religion--and in this country, we're supposed to have a separation of church and state, which is a good thing. And here's why: it may not be your church. Are you really willing to take that chance? Stop trying to get your government to enforce your religious details and get them to embody the compassion that Allah, Adonai, Jesus, God, and the Buddha have been telling you to embody for the past ten centuries.

Vote. Run for office, locally. For Christ's sake, believe in something that doesn't only include you.

I lived in the same city as Donald Trump for twenty-two years. If you voted for him, I feel sorry for you. But you probably didn't live in the same city with him for twenty-two years.

Because, if you had....

The perfect is always the enemy of the good. 

Strive to be good. Strive to be happy. I bet no one told you it was very important to strive to be happy. Strive not to be angry. Strive not to be anxious. Strive to be compassionate. Do some yoga. Strive to be happy.

That's it. So, anyway.
Please, have a great day.

20 January 2017

This is Prophetic

In the bedroom communities let us be taken by surprise.
Yes! Let the band play on and on,
This is Prophetic

Smiling and waving, Mrs. Nixon and her entourage leave the commune and proceed to the next stop on her tour: the Summer Palace where she is photographed strolling through the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, the Hall of Happiness in Longevity, the Hall of Dispelling the Clouds, and the Pavilion of the Fragrance of Buddha. She pauses in the gate of Longevity and Good Will to sing.

This is prophetic! I foresee a time will come when
luxury dissolves into the atmosphere like a perfume,
and everywhere the simple virtues root
and branch and leaf and flower.
On that bench there we'll relax
and taste the fruit of all our actions.
Why regret life which is so much like a dream?
Let the eternal plan resume.
In the bedroom communities let us be taken by surprise.
Yes! Let the band play on and on,
let the stand-up comedian finish his act,
let Gypsy Rose kick off her high-heeled party shoes;
let interested businessmen speculate further,
let routine dull the edge of mortality.
Let days grow imperceptibly longer,
let the sun set in cloud;
let lonely drivers on the road pull over for a bite to eat,
let the farmer switch on the light over the porch,
let passer by look in at the large family
around the table, let them pass.
Let the expression on the face
of the Statue of Liberty change just a little,
let her see what lies inland:
across the plain one man is marching...
the Unknown Soldier has risen from his tomb,
let him be recognized at home.
The Prodigal. Give him his share:
the eagle nailed to the barn door.
Let him be quick.
The sirens wail as bride
and groom kiss through the veil.
Bless this union with all its might,
let it remain inviolate.

John Adams (composer), Alice Goodman (librettist), "This is Prophetic," Nixon in China, 1987.

18 January 2017



Every day, I awake
To a litter from dreams
Of cans and shelves,
Appointments and bills,
Politics and non-politicians,
Debts monetary and emotional,
Scattered across the
Floor; too distracted
For sleep, too tired to
Get out of bed,
I wade instead
Into a small, private
Pool, the temperature
Of cooling urine or
Vomit, just for me,
Cold enough to
Make you shudder, but
With the warmth of a
Mild fever, which makes
You feel treacly, nauseous.
And that is how I
Start my every day.

L. Steve Schmersal, Angoisse, January 2017

17 January 2017

I Post Song Lyrics: Black & Blue

It seems fitting for the day after MLK, Jr., Day.
I saw it as an uncomprehending child at my father's behest on PBS in South Jersey;
I have tried to begin to comprehend it in my adulthood. Witness the spellbinding original cast, Nell Carter, Charlane Woodard, Armelia MacQueen, Andre Deshields, Ken Paige:

Black and Blue

Cold, empty bed,
Springs hard as lead,
Pains in my head,
Feel like old Ned.

What did I do
To be so black and blue?
No joys for me,
No company,

Even the mouse
Ran from my house,
All my life through,
I've been so black and blue.

I'm so forlorn.
Life's just a thorn.
My heart is torn.
Why was I born?

What did I do,
To be so black and blue?

I'm white inside,
But that don't help my case.

Don't you know it, brother.

'Cause I can't hide
What is on my face,


I'm so forlorn.
Life's just a thorn.
My heart is torn.
Why was I born?

What did I do,
To be so black and blue?

Mercy. Mercy, mercy.
Looka here, looka here, looka here.
Well, all right.
Hey, there. Hey.
Here it'is.

Just feelin' black
And blue.

I'm white
But that
my case.

Don't you know it, sister.

'Cause I
Can't hide
What is on my face,


I'm so

Life's just 
a thorn,

My heart
is torn,

Why was
I born?

What did 
I do,

To be so


(What Did I Do to be So) Black and Blue, Ain't Misbehavin', 1978; lyrics by Andy Razaf; music by Thomas "Fats" Waller and Harry Brooks, 1929

And now, for the video:

16 January 2017

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Everyone

I see the past three presidential elections--but let's include the midterms, too--as working out interesting and strange oppositions; as exemplifying sometimes murky notions of investment in somewhat murky abstractions. So--if you like, if you want to get really barbaric about it--you could say, if you wanted, that it came down to Change trumping Hope.

I don't know if I feel that the Obama administration ended up fulfilling its hope for Hope, partly because Obama let me down in his aggressive deportation program, his continuation of the W. Bush surveillance of the American people, his support of TPP, and other programs. However, and it is a BIG HOWEVER, while his administration oversaw the strengthening and stimulating of our economy, while it succeeded in bringing unemployment down, most of his actions--not just the positive ones, like the Affordable Healthcare Act, while not wholly successful, was hardly a failure--were stymied, sabotaged, brought up for repeal, and/or stopped by the Republican-controlled houses of Congress: everything from ambassadorial and cabinet nominations to, well, everything else, including his last Supreme Court nominee.

So, my question is this: if you wanted Change, why did you re-elect Republicans to control Congress and your state legislatures and governorships, when they have not only proven to be the source of our federal gridlock and brinkmanship, but said eight years ago that that is exactly what they were going to do?

Or was the "Change" you meant something traveling under a different name?

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone.

I hope you're allowed to--or have thought to--celebrate it.

12 January 2017

Trump is an algorithm.

Trump is an algorithm. He is not a politician, not a really a person, except to perhaps embody the faults, flaws, and dangerous inclinations of what it means to be human.

He will maximize every loophole to his advantage, because that's the only thing he knows how to do.

I lived in the same city as that creature for twenty-two years. It's not about you; it's only and always will be only about him. He will blunder into fascism without even knowing the word.

Pence is a known category. I can fight that category. 

Give me President Pence.

10 January 2017

"Then you didn't make an apple pie, Viola": Davis and Streep, Scanning

She is an observer and a thief. 
Her artistry reminds us of the impact of what it means to be an artist, which is to make us feel less alone.

If you didn't see Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes this year, or Viola Davis' introduction, the whole thing is interesting.

I actually enjoyed Davis' intro more—not for lack of worth with respect to what Streep had to say, which was very important—but for the respect of artistry: artist to artist, talking.

Streep nods as Davis talks, but she knows the camera is on her, so... is she acting, or agreeing? Or both? Or neither? I don't worry about these things too much, because I am certain all the answers are correct. Even "neither, " as that non-singular answer.

As a writer—as a person who writes things down—I am fascinated by the conversation of professional actors about their art, because I am always searching for others' insight into character. 

And the best of actors are circumspect—I'm talking to you Colleen Dewhurst—and even though they are always "lying," they are always telling the truth. They are always, the best of them, telling the truth, but someone else's truth. As Lacan said, in the context of the unconscious, "I always tell the truth, I just can't tell all of it"—one of the things he was saying was that even when we are lying—because we are hiding the truth under the lie—we are always telling the truth. As Streep said to James Lipton, she believes her job is "to make a soul" come into being—I didn't believe her then, but now I think she probably does try to do that. Listen to Davis' speech. The best of actors are circumspect, but when you catch them, they can teach you shit. A lot.

She stares. That's the first thing you notice about her. She tilts her head back with that sly, suspicious smile and she stares for a long time. And you think, "Do I have something in my teeth, or does she want to kick my ass?" Which is not going to happen. 
And then she'll ask questions.
"What did you do last night, Viola?" 
Oh, I cooked an apple pie. 
"Did you use Pippin apples?" 
No, I didn't use Pippin apples. What the hell are Pippin apples? I used Granny Smith apples!
"Ohh. Did you make your own crust?" 
No, I used store bought crust, that's what I did. 
"Then you didn't make an apple pie, Viola." 
Well, that's because I spent all my time making my collard greens. I make the best collard greens. I use smoked turkey, chicken broth, and my special barbecue sauce. Silence. I shut her down. 
"Well. They don't taste right, unless you use ham hocks. If you don't use ham hocks. it doesn't taste the same. So! How's the family?"
And as she continues to stare, you realize that she sees you. And that, like a high-powered scanning machine, she is recording you. She is an observer and a thief. She reveals what she has stolen, on that sacred place, which is the screen. She makes the most heroic characters vulnerable, the most known familiar, the most despised relatable. Dame Streep.
Her artistry reminds us of the impact of what it means to be an artist, which is to make us feel less alone. I can only imagine where you go, Meryl, when you disappear into a character. 
I imagine that you are in them, patiently waiting. Using yourself as a conduit. Encouraging them. Coaxing them. To release all their mess. Confess. Expose. To live. You are a Muse. Your impact encouraged me to stay in the line, Dame Streep. I see you. I see you.
And you know, all those rainy days we spent on the set of Doubt, every day my husband would call me at night and say, "Did you tell her how much she means to you?" and I would say, Nah, I can't say anything, Julius. I'm just nervous, All I do is stare at her, all the time. And he said "Well you need to say something, you been waiting all your life to work with this woman, say something." I said Julius, I'll do it tomorrow. "OK, well you better do it tomorrow because when I get there, I'm gonna say something." 
Never said anything. But I'mma say it, now. 
You make me proud to be an artist. You make me feel. That what I have in me: My body. My face. My age. Is enough. 
You encapsulate that great, Emile Zola quote that, if you ask me, as an artist, what I came into this world to do, I, as an artist, would say: "I came to live out loud."

And now for the video.

08 January 2017

On Love in the Twenty-First Century

In the twenty-first century, Love lacks kindness, compassion, or sympathy. Love is quick to judgment and blame. Love is stupid. Love is busy and impatient. Love will seek the cliche of you before it seeks understanding. Love feels too stingingly the critique of it. Love is too glib and willing to joke about its own mistakes. Love doesn't make mistakes. Love is very tired, right now. Love is self-seeking; Love dishonors others and is easily angered. Love is mean-spirited, though Love doesn't mean to be. Love is weak and blameless. Love records wrongs. Love renounces its protection, trust, and hope, yet says it perseveres. Love is sad about it and wants to help but doesn't know how. Love has another person on the line, right now. Love is long-winded and short of breath. Love is jealous and thrifty. Love is never having to say, "Please," "Excuse me," "Thank you," or "I'm sorry." Love is sick of you. Love is unhappy and too unhappy to deal with more unhappiness.

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
And where there's doubt, true faith in you.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy.

O Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all others that we receive,
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.

02 January 2017

Everything Old in New Again

This is an older post you guys don't seem to be finding: That Great Unexorcised Demon of the American Soul. Don't be afraid to click on the labels I append to most posts and not just rely on the Most Read lists on the right. Popularity doesn't necessarily indicate quality.

That said, thanks for reading me at all.

Have a great day.