Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let Them Eat Loafers





Friday is the day that will erase all doubts that I may be living in an alternative Universe, such as Phillip Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan got the Bomb first and won WWII.  Things aren’t that bad yet.  But for some of us, its hard to take.

I’m in my favorite bookstore coffee shop looking through the new issue of Harpers, with a picture of an Old Testament God like Trump screaming vengeance at a line of sort of Soviet kitsch Heroes of the Working Class writers bravely facing down his wrath, and something about 14 writers essays protesting Trump.

Looking at their credentials strangely fills me with hope.  Not hope that in this – or any – universe Trump would give a shit what these folks think about him or the proper pronunciation of Epictetus or any damn thing at all, but as a writer I feel a perverse thrill of hope at how pathetically thin their credentials are.  At least one of them is unpublished, and a couple are college students.  If these lightweights can get in the door in Harpers, home of Mark Twain and Emerson, maybe I can too. 

And its true the first couple of essays I wade through are filled with interesting insights, mostly on the subject of impotent rage, but they are also written with self consciously pyrotechnic grammar and word choice.  You gotta know something to read this stuff.  What made our President Elect (how the fuck did this happen?) such an outstanding communicator was the fact that he kept his vocabulary and syntax down at a fourth grade level ("Going to replace the environment with something terrific, folks.  We got very smart people working on this.  Beautiful, beautiful.") when everybody else was speaking on a seventh grade level or a college age level.  He framed his speeches to be not so much answers to difficult questions as a puff of cigarette smoke blown in your face.  These guys in the magazine, what are they trying to prove? 

These erudite intellectual wannabes are speaking to their own demographic, the one I yearn to join yet currently feel disgusted by, that of the liberal and cultural elite.  Can erotica (porn?) writers aspire to such hypoxic altitudes of thought?

It’s over for my bunch, the NPR listening, Garrison Keillor quoting crowd.  We’re preaching to hear ourselves talk real good.  Away with the quinoa crowd, the church potluck has spoken.

Honestly, I love potlucks too.  We were seeing this coming back in 1984 when I started a machine shop in Worcester with seven Japanese guys, my brave companions.  I ran an engine lathe at night and listened to Shakespeare on headphones from a primitive Sony walkman, while the two guys who really knew this stuff programmed and ran Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) mills and lathes that could run over the likes of me or even somebody good.  It was a sign that middle class men around New England standing at machines and factory lines were about to be doomed to obsolescence.  I wasn’t John Henry the Steel Driving Man versus the steam hammer and neither were they.  I wasn’t even Bambi versus Godzilla.  It wasn’t even a contest.  

In 20 years I would write and sell my first short novella “Mortal Engines” to Whisky Creek press, which was exhilarating although it sold almost nothing.  It was about sexbots, the John Henry’s and Jane Henry’s of the bed.  Infinitely skilled and indefatigable.  Best of all, uncritical.  Lately I’ve seen them come into their own on television in the show “Humans” and “Westworld” which I found fascinating as I binged my way like rat through liverwurst.  My brave little novella anticipated the driverless car and artificial intelligence a decade ahead of time, but not the Cloud or the downloadable app.  A sexbot fulfills the fantasy, slightly poisonous at the core, of the lover who will never refuse you, never have temper tantrums, never judge you or your performance, never get jealous or make scenes.  Now with the cloud, once the “Adult Options” are enabled, what wouldn’t be possible?  Want your lover to be a master of oral sex?  There’s an app for that.  A master of BDSM, perform in either dominant or submissive roles?  There’s an app for that.  Common barnyard animals?  There’ll be an app for too somehow.  Make you cum so goddamn hard – oh baby!  Unh!! - your heart stops and you need a cardiac paramedic immediately to save your life with a defibrillator and wipe that stupid smile off your face?  There’ll be an app for that too.  But it’ll double your insurance. 

Let’s see that job get farmed out to China.

Friday is coming.  We lost.  My crowd has been outmaneuvered and rendered impotent.  Flacid.  Flacid as in laying there like a dead dog on your woman’s lap.  Embarrassing.  Embarrassing as in “Gosh, this has never happened to me before.”  Painful, as in that rich, red haired lout next door is starting to look pretty good to her.  Viagra doesn’t fix this shit.

Aw hell.  I think I’ll put away Harpers for a while and read Weird Tales.


 

16 comments:

  1. It's pretty awful, Garce, but the world is not ending. And you know, compared to what happened to the girls from Cibok who got kidnapped by Boko Haram -- or the Syrians and Libyans and Somalis who crowd into tiny, leaky boats to cross the Mediterranean looking for a bit of safety and peace -- or the poverty-stricken slum dwellers being targeted by Duterte's drug war in the Philippines -- it's a fucking picnic.

    These things go in cycles. I left the U.S. in the early part of this century partly because G.W. Bush had been elected a second time, and I thought America was going to become a red-neck police state. Okay, you might argue that it did, but it was never as bad as we feared it would be.

    In addition, there are lots of smart and dedicated people opposing Mr. T. They're not going to just lie down. I'm looking forward to the woman's march on Saturday. (I'm not going, of course, but quite a few of my friends are.) Do you know what their slogan is? "The pussy grabs back."

    So don't despair. On the other hand, a binge read of Weird Tales couldn't hurt.

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    1. Any time is a good time to read Weird Tales. I know we'll survive, America has been through many rough things. There is a great division in this country and it seems to me to be less about liberal and conservative than it is about urban people and non-urban people. They seem to be living in two different Americas.

      Garce

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    2. You're certainly true about the different realities, though I don't know if the division is really urban/non-urban. More coasts versus the middle.

      We have a good friend, someone we've known for over 30 years, who was a strong Trump supporter. He's very intelligent, trained in science and engineering, yet he believes that global warming is a hoax. Over the past year and a half we've been sending each other articles. I try to read what he sends, because I believe it's important to recognize that other people see things differently than I do--and to seriously consider their perspectives. But honestly, his worldview has very little overlap with mine.

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  2. This will be the real test of our check and balances systems. At least Bush II had some sense of politics, fearsome as it was at the time. And the disaster DID happen. We waged war on a country that never laid a hand on us, beginning a cataclysm that won't easily be stopped. AND they managed to bring our economic system to its knees along the way.

    How the fuck do these Republicans get the rep for financial responsibility? Clinton had to pull us out of the shit back in the 90's, as did Obama after the last Republican administration.

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    1. I think what hurts me about the time is that it seems so much the victory of cynicism. The people who cynically demonized government and PResident Obama himself, and prevented government from operating effectively have been rewarded with monolithic power. It just can't be good. And what a strange karma they have reaped for themselves.

      Garce

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    2. The Republicans shaped the party they now have to deal with. Just like they now have to deal with Obamacare, which was virtually shaped by the Republicans who wouldn't even go for a public option. They whittled the bill down and took all the punch away, then tried to abolish it umpteen times. ...Sheeesh!

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  3. 'Financial responsibility" is a euphemism. What the Republican politicians want is freedom from regulation and taxation for the rich; what their voters want, against their own better interests, is to be sure none of their hard-earned tax money is going to help the undeserving poor, or anyone not just like them.

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    1. I dunno. I think what the voters wanted was Clinton, she won the popular vote by over three million. Trump was right, the election really was rigged, but the other way.

      But the other side, the other America have a legitimate problem. They've seen a way of life disintegrate around them. Jobs, manufacturing, a steady career a guy with a high school degree could do. The disintegration of the family. And the advent of artificial intelligence and automation won't make their dreams come back. Life isn't going to get any easier for them.

      Garce

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  4. These are strange times. Some political cartoonist proposed that Canada should extend down what is now the U.S. East Coast as well as the Left Coast, leaving the middle to Trump and his cronies. I would vote for that. One issue of The New Yorker devoted all its cartoons to ridiculing Trump, which doesn't change anything. I can guess what The Atlantic says about this new president, but that also doesn't change anything. You need a break from reading about reality.

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    1. We're all afraid Canada is going to build a wall on your border to keep the rest of us down here out.

      He's the president. He's what they gave us. We'll get by. Maybe he'll surprise us. If not maybe we'll learn something for the future.

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  5. Gods, it's not just Harper's that opposes Trump. I used to try to read that magazine back in grad school and couldn't stomach its painful pretentiousness. Definitely put that down!

    I feel like your post has internalized so many narratives that have been used to beat up people who didn't support Trump, and that are of dubious provenance. Liberal and cultural elites?? You mean, like, the majority of non-white people in this country? I didn't get the memo that we non-white people were the elites here… Urban versus rural? Economic insecurity? It's funny how Clinton won, across the board, with the lowest-earning demographics in the US.

    I don't think any of this makes sense without thinking about race, and the US's history of race. As far as anti-Trump writing, you can find plenty that's not pretentious, plenty that's urgent, plenty written by all sorts of people from all walks of life.

    Enjoy Weird Tales, sure, but then maybe forget Harper's and check out Teen Vogue or some other excellent writers who are resisting this (Teen Vogue has been writing really great, accessible stuff).

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    1. Whoa! Teen Vogue? What magazine is that? Is it for teens?

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    2. Yup, it's for teens, and therefore written in an accessible style that is the antithesis of what you describe encountering in Harper's. It's a style and culture magazine with excellent reporting. http://www.teenvogue.com

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  6. By the way, Garce. I read a bit of bitterness in your comments about Mortal Engines. I love that book, but you can't just write a book, publish it and expect it to sell. These days, even the people who would adore your stories won't know about them unless you market them.

    Also, you can't just write ONE book. I know you're focused on other avenues of creativity now, but I'm still waiting for Nixie's book to enter the world.

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  7. Me too. I know now I can at least read it cold. I wonder how she's doing. Her character was on stage last year, did I ever mention that?

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    1. No -- you worked her into one of your plays?

      Of course, she has been a frequent visitor here at the Grip.

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