To the Pointless: 2/26/2018

That song is rock solid I tell you what.

Here I am again, talking to air; and it feels…well, I don’t know yet. I’ll have to let my thoughts meander to the random corners and voids that have collected dust to let you know.

Run-on sentences, I got em.

I guess I should question the wisdom of posting what amounts to James Joyce’s process of recording the minds of his characters in a public space, when it could be such a private experience. But I also like singing in front of others, so perhaps a question of wisdom is the wrong thing to put forth.

I really appreciate Leigh Butler’s blogging; and not just because I steal her writing style a little more than liberally. If it was possible to accuse one of plagiarizing tone, I would most certainly be guilty.

But I think she’s a great blogger. I heart her Wheel of Time Re-read, and then super Meta re-re-read (oh dear) quite a lot, not least of which because it’s amusing and chaotic and not a little unlike my favorite stream of consciousness writer, except with significantly more intentionally cute manic-pixie-dreamgirlisms than is appropriate by some people’s standards.

I imagine her voice to be some kind of i’ve-just-drunk-way-too-much-coffee-let-me-enthusiastically-tell-you-about-it-in-far-too-much-detail-with-far-too-much-cute high pitched (it is not); and I like that it is self-consciously shameless. Paradoxes and self-awareness, I’m trying not to steal too liberally.

But most of all, I appreciate her ability expound on the topic about which she is writing as if she were recording a video.

She writes with the mellifluous quality of speech. Which, if you don’t know, is very difficult to mimic in writing. And before you tell yourself “nuh-uh” — I always imagine a tiny little guy going “Hey Eric, you’re wrong cause I said so” – let me explain.

Real speech is hella difficult to emulate because it’s so goddamn hazy and repetitive and obnoxious. I know every film student from Full Sail to UCLA thinks “I want my dialogue to sound like real humans talking” but no, fuck that, that’s fucking stupid.

Because when you talk in real human speech, you sound infinitely stupider. There are uhms, there are ah’s, there are incomplete thoughts. It repeats itself unnecessarily. It’s uhm, it’s kinda, well it’s kind of redundant, and this redundant it’s also a bit stuttery, and you see, sometimes, well, I don’t know, it has filler words, and improper grammar; and it kinda just goes on, I don’t know, and there are uhm, there are, hmmm, there are a lot of pauses and it can get kind of muddled and yeah, I mean, you kow, you listen to human speech all the time, you can uh, you can -what was it? – you can sort get where I’m going with this what do you call it? Form and function?

That shit up there is OBNOXIOUS. Almost as obnoxious as spelling in anything in all caps, or spelling things in ALL CAPS AND UNDERLINING IT. And even more annoying than that is when you nail fuck a point into someone’s brain with aggressively self-referential material.

But if I’m shitting so hard on real-life speech, why do I like Leigh Butler’s impersonation of it?

Because she got the flow.

It isn’t real speech. It is very consciously unreal. But it has the feel of being lowbrow eloquent. I don’t consider lowbrow a dirty word, either.

Leigh butler manages to sound like your friend at the bar, who is enthused about their latest interesting discovery. She sounds as though she is telling you her opinion in the most honest, slightly loopy, and slightly a lot way. It has the quality of being unaffected, and very cognizant of it. It’s a curlicue of diagramming, and it’s relieving to read.

And it’s how my own voice sounds in my head. Despite the fact that, regularly, I’m monotone, and somewhat lifeless.

There is a richness to the imaginary timbre and pitch of her word ship; on the masthead is some reference to TV Tropes that feels intimately familiar, and also enlightening. This gift for self-referential behavior also allows for – circumspect and circumsomethingsomething – genuine recognition of faults, or errors in thinking, without ever being genuinely upset over the act of being wrong, or potentially incorrect.

Have I ever mentioned how much Academia tends to set me off in a white-frothing rage?

Academia takes an opposing approach: it wants to be right. It has to be right. It has to corner you aggressively with its overweening logic, and smash you into submission with facts sans context. You must accept the premise as true, after evidence is provided or be forever a stupid dickhead.

And academics would be the first to rebut this argument with a well reasoned – and unintentionally malicious – deconstruction of all the things I am intentionally overlooking in such a grossly generalized perception of the academic system.

But de rigeur of academia is the problem. It allows for no error. Not really. It’s the difference between theory and practice.

Leigh Butler – and the generation of bloggers who steal liberally from her style of writing *cough* – don’t have to be right to make a salient point. They just have to make the point nakedly, and with a sense of honesty, and perhaps minimal editing.

There is no moral requirement for me to explore my hatred of academia, or acknowledge that it is almost certainly an incorrect assertion; against which myriad evidence can be proposed in opposition.

But I’ve dealt with too many academics who act like the above for me to grant as much credence to it. As it turns out, anecdote isn’t plural for data, but it is a lot more compelling, for sure.

But when I have the opportunity to sound like a self-effacing, self-referential, highly insecure, slightly a lot person, with nothing to say, and I make a point, it’s a diamond. When an academic writes a word polemic against whatever they’re currently angry about, their brightest assertion is dust.

So, listen to the War on Drugs

4:44 – Jay-Z

Image result for 4:44 album

“There’s a fine line between heaven and here” – Bubbles

Lao-Tzu once said “Celebrate your Failures, lament your successes”; Jay-Z has learned that, to his benefit, on 4:44, an album that manages to be fractious, fractured, and the compelling kind of incomplete.

Coming on the heels of Lemonade, 4:44 sits in the middle of two swirling eddies pulling in opposite directions. On the one, a canny business man, father, artist, and lover who broke Public Enemy’s first rule and fell for their own hype; on the other, a former gangsta, an untrustworthy malcontent, a lascivious hateful man who doesn’t know who deserves what, and, most glaringly, a black man.

This album is as defined by its swirling palate of chaos, as by its jagged definition of what it means to be black: a perpetual pull, the mule accompanying 40 acres pushing its heels as it’s master forces it forward. From the opening air raid sirens of “Kill Jay Z”, where Jay kills his ego onward, there is an ever present tension. An irreconcilable abnegation of self.

The samples, often distorted, broken, atonal, rough around the edges support this sense of internal chaos. “The Story of OJ” – one of my favorite tracks – is sprinkled with pitch-shifted vocal fragments while a glitch-fixed piano falls scatters tense high-key fragments. A recognition of being a smart man, a rich man, everything the american dream epitomizes; and yet, he can’t escape the status as a house, field, rich or poor n****r.

How frustrating that’s gotta be: to do everything you can, and still be somehow less. Jay-z’s earthy straightforward flow is at its most barren and effect: no frills, with concrete vector imagery: every detail thrown into a centrifuge, crashing into each other, paints a pollock that may be worth a million or two, if he plays it right.

While generously allotted throughout the album, Shawn Carter’s essential struggle is brought to its essence in that Story. Simultaneously laughing at OJ’s declaration of “I’m not black, I’m OJ”, he reflects the shattered mirror of his own financial failures and successes. He muses obsessively on his vast fortune, his business acumen, his musical talents, all with an easy lilt. But that refrain punctures. He can’t escape it, no matter how successful he gets he’ll always be black.

Even his self-aggrandizement only serves to make him a target of his own verbal slaughter. Every lyric about his ability to seemingly create millions out of thin air runs into constant barrage of nips and jibes of his failures, whether giving too much credit to Kanye, Cheating on Beyoncé – going Eric Benét (almost)- or shooting his own brother. No stone is left unturned.

I can’t claim to understand that kind of immense frustration. To feel and be seen as perpetually behind, to be less, no matter how high you fly. The whole album rides on that tension. Whether it’s discussions of is upbringing; his family; or his admission of guilt. Nothing comes easy on this record.

I don’t consider this album an apology, either. It’s too ambivalent for that. It feels more like a struggle. No effort is made to draw a neat little box around the feelings or self-perceptions Carter goes through, whether it be the struggle of reconciling a hard past with a different kind of hard, or his relationship with the Queen.

It’s always good to have an emotional thru-line, and, in the case of this record, his relationship with Queen bey is certainly a jagged kind of good. It reeks of uncertainty, tentativeness, and out and out frustration.He sounds most vulnerable on the centerpiece of the record “4:44” when he discusses emotional coldness, the fear of alienation; learning how to be soft. He sounds terrified of a lack of intimacy more than a knife in the back. It’s a refreshing kind of terror.

Even when she makes an appearance as the choir on “Amen”, there is a constant feeling of guilt and uncertainty, layered in a sheath of recognition; a decisive acknowledgement of wrongdoing. It’s a refreshingly complicated line to straddle.

Further, Master-Z’s production is on point. Un-bassy, with a lot of the samples occupying the mid’s  and trebles, there is a real sense of turmoil gleaned from the spare, often unnerving production with its ticklish uncomfortable flourishes. I often feel like Z was listening to 22, a million liberally when coming up with the sampling style.

In fact, I feel like this record, although more coherent (and compelling, fight me), than Bon iver’s cut, is very much a similar thesis statement: my shit is falling apart, and I’m watching it happen from a million glittering angles. It feels like pieces of a broken mirror arrayed against each other to create a mirror house, with the Ego of Jay-Z as some devilish doppelganger to  as its pepper’s ghost hologram, not quite real, but uncomfortably so, at the same time.

It’s a statement I gravitate toward regularly: inconclusive chaos. That entropy that accompanies the end of the universe. This album sounds like the Buddha’s walking to the Bodhi tree, but not his sitting under it. The soul samples on what is undoubtedly the centerpiece “4:44” have a dramatic heft because of the directness and uncertainty.

That said, the back half of the album isn’t nearly as consistently excellent as the first half; and by the end it has certainly lost its steam. But it’s a record that wisely chooses for brevity, and it is a rich experience, after its reasonably short run time of 36 minutes.

The essence of Taoism, Buddhism  and eastern dualistic religions is the tension of this album: one end of the spectrum looks much like the other. Success is its own kind of failure, and vice versa.

And when its handled this honestly: ugly and naked and uncertain and ripped in a million pieces, it certainly hits the right spot with me.

Until I stop running away.

Flash Fiction: The Fly

Image result for fly

The blinding reality of my situation is perpetual. A thousand diffuse moments scattered like flashbulb crystals in a dizzying array. Every sound is the moment of heat death at the end of the universe. No light; all light. Vibrations at the end of my blackened limbs.

I am hungry

The perpetual hum of my motors pulls me from moment to moment. No stopping; never stop. Stop is death. The loudness indicates food. The food’s transdimensional across the vectors that indicate sense. A thousand hands come to crush me; each one a broken escher rain drop about to slam. I am quick.

Cilia all around and my body will not linger. I cannot tell this object from any other object. I only know that it feels like me. It is coarse and horizonless and the colors are glaring and green and white and yellow and blue. I cannot see my own eyes, bulbous.

I announce my mating call through the timeless expanse. The loud motor of my stomach produces an earth shaking rattle. I fly always up. My wings never move. rest is death. I am the constant enemy. And my stream never moves towards or away anyone thing.

A smell.

It is deep and punctures my proboscis. It fills me with the scent I imagine peace feels like. The mosaic indicates life. My life. My food. I will mate. I will eat. I will die. There is no loneliness. My mind is the distance between a synapse.

The world is constant and I am always moving. And I land again. My mosaic is single, my heart my mind and thoughts uncoil as I taste the grains of salt on the sandwich left out. The thousand hands of death come again .

Light fractures and my wing torn. I fly staggering. A loud thwap and my encroaching demise. Why was I born into chaos?

I fly to my death, well short of my allotted month. I rest on lacquer smooth red wood, and let the sands of time fall over me, as I welcome the peace of stillness and rest.

The rest comes easy, after that.