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|Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008|
|Inflation/ Starvation/ Fun
Short of succumbing to the madness of anorexia, I doubt I am likely to experience actual starvation before I die. Nor, I'd bet, will most of those who visit this site. But I'd also bet that most of us have felt the pinch of inflation in our daily diet. I remember the rapid evolution of low-cost middle-class A & P into up-scale, twice-the-price Food Emporium with no practical difference except the prices and the phasing out of cooking staples, a process still barely begun in most supermarkets. The eventual goal is shelves stocked only with bachelor commodities--breadfast cereal, frozen entrees for dieters, and bellywash in small bottles. Cooking gas will be rationed in winter as people try to heat their urban apartments with their ovens. Etc.
I'm curious as to where we are on that scale now. How has your own diet been affected? I had sticker shock this week when I found that a "low-cost" lunch has climbed from $5 to $10/15 in just the last couple years. The Tv advertises a $5 slice of pizza as a bargain. I don't see how teens can get by unless they are dealing drugs or balling for dollars.
But that's just me. Maybe there have been no changes in your part of Omaha at all. Just curious.
|Tuesday, July 1st, 2008|
|Letters to Dead Writers
Another were-there-but-world-enough theme anthology. It was to have been a whole collection by yours truly, and the first letter would have been sent to Mrs. Gaskell, who inmho should be included with the great Victorian novelists, along with the woman she wrote the biography of, Charlotte Bronte. Recently the BBC has given Mrs. G. some of the attention she merits. So much so that she doesn't really need me beating the drum for her, tho my letter would have been written in response to her great novel about the urban underclass, Mary Barton. What she brought to bear was a humorless (but perceptive) Moral Earnestness and a patient trompe l'oeil realism about the daily life of the miserable-most poor. By comparison Dickens comes across as lazy and/or sneeringly cruel.
I've tried writing such letters to real-life good writers but they are too busy trying to grab the brass ring or otherwise advance up the ladder, or else simply think me pushy or wicked or dumb and don't write back or just say thank you, goodbye. Maybe it would be different now in the era of blogs and email, but back then my epistolary charms had no effect on the likes of Louise Erdrich et al. As indeed, they shouldn't have. There are too many possible venal reasons why we don't write to our favorite celebreties. But to those safely dead and in their vaults--why not? The idea would be to address them as though they were real people, not statues swathed in marble togas and bronze crinolines, and as though they'd been keeping up with the things they had usually been interested in.
If anyone wants to give it a try, you could post a specimen letter here, but this should not be the usual Anything Goes comment. Mere japery on the order of "Shit happens" as one's whole letter to Dale Carnegie would rate a quick dele from God's red pencil. But I do think, and so does God, that it might be a nice book. Indeed, He often writes such letter Himself and sends them poste restante to the big post office on high.
|God's Big Giveaway!
And what's the best gift you could get from One Who is Himself a Big Idea? What else but a Big Idea of your own? So here are two of them to take up and run with--as I did with one of them once.
To wit: an Anthology of Nobel Prize Acceptance Speeches. By great writers who knew better than to ever expect such an Honor to fall on them and crush them to happy bits. Yet hasn't it been, for all the times its been misdirected to some Slobovian nobody,the Supreme Reward for any writer? Don't even the greatest seem to curdle with envy when it goes to someone else? What avails the acclaim of all one's Slobovian peers and competitors if that final feather is missing from one's cap? Finally, isn't a Nobel Acceptance Speech the one genre of writing that everyone would like a go at? Well, this anthology would be an opportunity for all the also-rans to have their day in court.
I broached the idea to some poets and novelists of my acquaintance, many of whom thought it was in the worst possible taste (and might queer their chances at the real thing?); others agreed it was a great idea, and when I got a contract. . . But the most interesting and over-the-top response was from the poet James Schuyler, since deceased.
I didn't know know he was a Mad Poet, for he kept that part of his oeuvre tucked away, out of sight. Sometimes, it seems, Schuyler was Christ, and he certainly thought a Nobel his due and an honor bound his way. My invitation, therefore, was like tacking up "King of the Jews" on the cross to which he would soon be nailed. He went bananas, and my poor anth went nowhere.
But it's still a good idea, and most writers with a sense of humor might agree. It would give them a chance to graciously acknowledge the public's applause for still unwritten masterpieces and to explain, with whatever degree of irony or sincere self-regard, what they were trying to say in all those honored tomes. Not just everyone can apply. There should be some faint likelihood of its not being entirely a pipe dream--or where is the fun or the edification? And a good advance is probably essential or the better sort of mendicant will simply reply with polite sneer. But in it's ideal form wouldn't you to read such a book enough to actually buy it?
I would like a mention on the Acknowlegements page if you do wrangle it into print.
As to Big Idea # 2, I'll get to that later.
|Friday, June 27th, 2008|
|Remember Varsha Sabhnani?
She was the Demon Lady on Long Island who tortured two Indonesian maids for years. She was finally convicted and sentenced to eleven years--and is of course appealing, tho the financial part of her sentence is still pending. Back wages for her two tortured slaves might come to $1m. You can Google the name for more details. The new datum I thought interesting was that shortly after she'd begun her reign of terror, with just a single maid to torture, she began to diet--cutting back from 325 pounds to her current wraithelike 155. Is this somehow part of psychopathology of anorexia? Her two older-teenage daughters, who helped her with the torturing, are also ultra skinny. The family that starves together carves together?
|Thursday, June 26th, 2008|
|Back from the Dead!
Word reaches me from Tachyon that Your God is back in business and you can easily access his Divine Advice at
And you can send in your own questions, personal, theological, literary, or fashion to
Here at this site you will only contact the merely mortal Tom
|Wednesday, June 25th, 2008|
|Dunkin' Donuts Ad Campaign
Featuring King Dunkin' who has this vast Banquet Hall, where there are stacks and boxes of the product newly arrayed in each ad. He will welcome different characters from the Scottish play in each ad--"Why, Lady Macduff! How nice of you to drop by. Do try one of our Choconut Creme Bombes." One unlucky thane never gets a donut. "Macbeth, is that you? Get outta here!?" Other thanes in the banquet hall bonk Macbeth on his much-dented crown, but Banquo (who loves the croissant sandwhiches) gets to sit right next to the king, and they talk about what they intend to do that day in the afterlife. Fred Thompson could play King Dunkin' and Helen Mirrin could be Lady Maduff. Pauly Walnuts as Macbeth? A female rock group as the witches? A wonderful number as they catalog the ingredients of the Halloween Monster Cupcakes.
|Tuesday, June 24th, 2008|
|Is Thomas Disch the Right God for You?
Once a mortal, soon to be in Heaven, I may be
your best chance to distinguish yourself
as someone specially Blessed and bound for Glory
without going to a lot of trouble or expense.
The Scripture is out there now
[The Word of God, Tachyon Press, $14.95],
proclaiming my Divinity and promising Salvation.
So why not declare yourself a believer Now
and reap all the associated Tax Advantages?
Start with a little Tom My God shrine beside the BBQ
and before you can say Glory Be the whole back yard
and all its gardening tools are tax-deductible!
If your tax returns are challenged, show this poem
to the judge and ask him how many believers
constitute a Faith. More than a dozen?
That's what Christ started with. The Word of God
has got at least that many blurbs on its jacket.
And more keep coming in!
Then there's this: Believing on Me is a good way
to trump someone else's ace in an argument.
Suppose you come up against a McCain supporter
at a School Board meeting, who wants you to vote for
his guy while at the same time getting the Board
to buy a line of Science textbooks that show
how Darwin was no more than a know-it-all atheist
and no kind of scientist at all. You can insist
the School Board buy My book instead (there will be
a ten per cent rebate for orders of fifty or more).
Or suppose you just want to masturbate
and you're a teenager whose Mormon
(or Catholic or born-again Baptist) parents
absolutely forbid you to spill your seed
after the fashion of Onan. As one of my followers,
you are free to spill any amount of seed
(just do it in your own bedroom, alone;
otherwise somebody could be arrested).
N.B.: adoring me is not a crime,
it's your God-given right! So have yourself
the same kind of fun other believers do
by making a public nuisance of yourself
and pissing off all the officious old farts
you know. Insist that your First Amendment rights
be respected. And save Saturday night for Me!
So Be It!
|Monday, June 23rd, 2008|
|Say It Isn't So!
One of my favorite hobbyhorses, which I like to ride a lot, is Denial and its special psychology. I've often waxed nostalgic for the time I had two Mormon missionaries as next door neighbors, and they both loved to argue about Darwin and Lyell (sp?) with special reference to the Grand Canyon. They had a book of photographs explaining how erosion works faster than scientists usually suppose and could account for the Canyon's size in the time allotted in the Old Testament. They enjoyed having to defend a whopper of that size in a Paul Bunyan way. Does Alminadejab or however he spells it in Iran enjoy his Holocaust denial in the same way? And those in Europe who defend Hitler's innocence? Or is it more of a who-you-looking-at, in-your-face defiance? Do they feel stronger for having a Will that can conquer all mere evidence?
I am interested in humbler examples of Denial. Not simple lying, there's plenty of that everywhere, but an insistence that something did happen that provably didn't, or vice versa. I suppose convicted murderers who maintain their innocence, or even better their moms and sweethearts who swear there must be a mistake because their Bobby just couldn't do a thing like that. They appear almost every night on TV, and it's like an instruction manual for other mothers in the same predicament: here's how you must behave, ladies. Of course, fathers can be in denial as well, but more often with a snarl than a simper.
There must be more good examples. Turkey vis-a-vis the Armenian genocide for instance. What am I forgetting?
Oh yes, Brigham Young's attack on the wagon train. Personal examples are especially welcome.
|Saturday, June 21st, 2008|
to D-Con, with thanks
He went down the chute just now,
a paper towel for his shroud
and a big Premium cracker box
for a coffin. He had taken care
to come out from behind the oven
and die in plain sight. But
(a good feminist may ask) why
do I suppose he was a boy-mouse?
Might not the corpse as likely have been
a girl's? Well, I checked his genetalia
and he had the cutest little pecker
that ever incited a mouse to acts of love.
|Why I Must Die: a Film Script
We had had many pre-death services
already with scraps of chewy food
and 5-liter boxes of vin merde
and rations of that scarcest commodity
free speech, precious now almost
as gas, as tears They drill holes
in the storage tanks to get to it
It gushes out like living sperm
a great white awakening Think of the moment
in The Matrix when one realizes we
are the sleeping prisoners
of giant spiders from outer space
whose ships fill our skies like angelic guards
patrolling the border between the horror
of Texas and the horror of Babylon
for not all that much has changed since Then
fire still burns water still drowns
except now it's not just the Euphrates
it's all the rivers that are rising
and the seas Will the soil still be arable
once Carthage is deleted? Will we be able
to eat the tomatoes? But hush!
I see a snitch Follow me into the sewer
We'll be safe underground
|Friday, June 20th, 2008|
|The Tablets of Common Knowledge 2
People regularly disappear.
Some simply return to the burrows
they've lived in and die among friends.
Some take holidays: you may have received
their postcards and seashells. But many more
are murdered. The numbers are astonishing.
Corpses disintegrate in woodland graves
or, submerged, are home
to the seaworm and the ray.
We are entering an era
when men will die like flies,
swept off by floods, shoved
into pits by bulldozers, or starving
en masse as they cling
to the prison bars. Oh, the world
is a terrible, unkind place. But wasn't that
always the case? Let's sing something
together. Maybe that will help.
|The Tablets of Common Knowledge 1
Two of them appeared in a perp-walk
on Channel One tonight, looking tough and stoic--
but still young enough to serve as someone's
bitch once they've been bled by their lawyers
and whoever may be able to spare them, a while,
the horrors of an enforced sodomy. That.
as we know, is what prison is there for
and that is why there is an interval
between the sentencing and the first rape.
Kill yourselves while you can, guys.
It's what I would do.
|Wednesday, June 18th, 2008|
|And for that Matter
No Island is an Island either
but each with its Beaches and its Groves
is a Ship that went aground amid the Reefs
that surround it and now a part of the whole
Global Community whose miserable proles
spend their long work-days toiling
at knitting machines cleverer than they are.
It's not as though if they were that bit
more clever they might escape to an Island
somewhere the Sea would not soon
engulf them again. We are all sinking
together, the Ships, the Crews, the Islands.
Solidarity forever. That's the News.
|Tuesday, June 17th, 2008|
|Tears the Bullet Wept
We know that bullets sing.
Bret Harte transcribed their song.
But give them this: they weep as well,
And theirs are the most precious souvenirs
That venders hawk on the streets of hell.
What is so tragic as the lethal blast
Of thunderbolt or .38
That turns what had been present
Into past? There he stood
And here he lies at last.
Will you not shed a single tear
For any such? Is that too much to ask?
Here is a tear. Weigh it,
Please, Sir, on your scale--
And I will tell you the whole tale.
But only when your job is done.
Kill all the rest first. I will wait.
All woodlands are haunted
for that is where we usually kill
our victims. Animals are just the same
as us. They leave the carcasses
of half-eaten prey beside popular
waterholes as your mother may
leave choice leftovers in the fridge.
I have the skull of a feral cat
I found in the cleft of an oak--
picked clean. Woodland ghosts
become feral themselves and prance
about like water bugs, grimacing
wildly. When you see one,
grimace back, and if you're feeling
some keen despair, as one often does,
take off your clothes and dance
it is their aim
to dance with you until you're dead
from just the rapture of the dance
as Hilarion dies in Giselle.
any forest on Midsummer's Eve
and hide your clothes inside
some rotted log as an invitation
to the fairies' murderers.
Close your eyes
and they will come to you,
pretending to be mosquitoes.
Follow them to where they've left
their earlier victims and lie upon that heap.
Is there any zephyr sweet as these?
Eat the mushrooms round about.
Prick a vein and sip the blood.
Soon you will have passed beyond
the realm of breath, a companion of
the curious insects and the hollow trees.
|Monday, June 16th, 2008|
|Ding-Dong! the witch is dead!
Which old witch? Algis Budrys! Ding-Dong indeed! He was 77. What a long wait it's been. I was certain I would beat him to the exit, but no I get to dance on his grave. He wrote a (would-be) killer review of my first novel The Genocides, which proves (1) that I am a nihilist, and (2) that I was the sedulous ape of J.G. Ballard, who may be blamed for most of my failings. For the next five or six years he bad-mouthed me at every opportunity and only laid off when he found himself lapping me the Clarion workshop in Michigan at yearly intervals. At Clarion he seemed to me as obnoxious as he did in print, always being armed with old LP "comedy" records so that at the party that marked his departure/my arrival we would all have the opportunity to sit down and listen to His records. He had the instincts of a tsar and in his twilight years he did his best to turn SF into a fiefdom of Scientology with himself as Patriarch. Ding-dong, the man is dead, and as Brutus said the Good lives after, and we can just inter the crappy, larger remnant. He was a mean, envious, fat old diabetic, but there are those who might say the same of me. They can do so here, if they like.
But again I say: Ding Dong!
|Sunday, June 15th, 2008|
|Bin Laden in Iowa
It's said that Bush has decreed that Bin Laden must be killed before he (Bush) leaves office. In the interests of economy and tying together various threads of a messy story, I will reveal that bin Laden is in Iowa! How did he get there? That's his secret. But what Bush must do now is just bomb the shit out of Iowa while no one, bin Laden included, is expecting it. Go after the bridges first, as we have in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That will cut off the possibility of escape. Then begin with Iowa City, a hotbed of creative writing, deconstruction, and Islamic menace. Just one or two nukes should put the whole campus out of commission--including bin Laden. But what if bin Laden turns out to be elsewhere in Iowa? War planners must take all possibilities into consideration. Does Bush's unmarried and still virginal daughter have a Tarot deck? Ask her. This must be done before Bush leaves office. If need be, design bin Laden lookalikes and hang them from minarets everywhere. Then bomb the minarets. Something has to be done and it has to be done before floodwaters have crested!
|Tuesday, June 10th, 2008|
|Home Town Crimes: a Contest
I was wondering, with all the visitors here living in so many far-off cities if they know what the oldest building is in the city they live in, and then wondered from there (thinking how often that oldest building was infamous for some crime tied to the city's foundation: Tower of London, Atlanta, its burning, Dresden, ditto) what is the Primal Crime of the city you live in or come from, and has it been immortalized on stage of film? The Rape of Lucrece, for instance, or, once again, the burning of Atlanta or Dresden, or the St. Bartholemew Massacre (with fine versions by both Marlow and D.W. Griffith. Every city has its own Most Famous Infamy and it always has some built-in Box Office. Think of Chicago! Fosse's Chicago has displaced the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Sweeney Todd rivals Henry VIII. So who was Emperor of Evil in your home town, and can the scenes of his/her crimes still be visited?
|Thursday, June 5th, 2008|
|A pagan suckled in a creed outworn"
Yes, but first a word of thanks to everyone who helped stock the jukebox at Club Crepuscule. So many sad songs! On pleure! (That is supposed to be French for, "one weeps.")
Meanwhile, on another tangent, I am, as so often, pissed off with The New Yorker. First, for the semi-plagiarism by Jeffrey Toobin (and apparently the entire editorial staff) of an article that appeared in Weekly Standard. You can read about it in Drudge Report.
But also for their current double-issue featuring vignette/memoirs on the theme of Faith and Doubt. Many offend by their condescending tone toward Believers, who come across as almost as darling as obedient pets. The one that most got my goat concerned the head of a madrassah in Africa who found the fact and idea of airplanes confounding until he'd invented an explanation that airport mechanics achieved the wonders of aviation by reading from the Koran each time a plane took off, and touching the wheels of the plane. This was meant to seem endearingly naive and a good example of Faith.
It brought to mind Wordsmith's line "O God, I'd rather be a pagan suckled in a creed outworn..." I couldn't complete the quote so I looked up key words in my Oxford Dict. of Quotations and the entire sonnet "The World is Too Much With Us" was ommitted, though almost every line is a Famous Quotation. Could it be that any reference these days to pagans in creeds outworn is simply too politically incorrect to be repeated? How proud Wordsworth might be. He's gone to Little Black Sambo heaven!
|Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008|
|The Saddest Song in the World: a Contest without a Prize
In replying to Crowleycrow in a comment to The Proud Beggar (see below), I was led to wonder which song of the Jukebox of Melancholy is the saddest of them all. Which one do you have to hear every time you go into Club Crepuscule. And who sings it? Garland? Piaf? Is there a male equivalent for heartbreak with intent? There is a movie that just came out with a false history of the song Gloomy Sunday. Haven't seen it but I probably will. A wonderful song, but the saddest ever? There is that song about the trucker talking to the dying box over his CB. It destroys me every time.