Friday, April 7, 2017

Here We Go Again: Syria Edition

On Thursday night, Trump approved the bombing of targets inside Syria “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.”  This chemical attack was an unspeakable atrocity, resulting in at least 72 civilian deaths.  Who can argue with the US military's response? 

But wait!  Hold the phone!  Was there actual evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack?  Or are we just supposed to blindly swallow the claims of the same organization of imperialists who invaded Iraq in 2003 based on fabricated intelligence?  

After the devastating sarin nerve gas attack in August of 2013 near Damascus, then-president Obama immediately placed blame on Bashar al-Assad.  But, as Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh observed, the facts on the ground should have produced skepticism.  In fact, it seemed more likely that the attack was carried out by a rebel group such as al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate.

So, what does the news media have to say?  As was the case with Iraq, the New York Times is playing the crucial role of a free press in a democratic society; namely, operating as a subservient mouthpiece for government propaganda.

I am not saying Assad couldn’t have done it.  I’m also not defending Assad; he’s an indefensible mass-murderer.  I'm just saying we shouldn't take government pronouncements as gospel, especially considering their impressive record of lying to the American public (not to mention Trump himself lied at least 560 times just during his presidential campaign).  

It is certainly possible that Assad is responsible for this gruesome crime.  But when was the last time the US war machine intervened in a foreign conflict for actual humanitarian purposes?  And when was the last time a US military intervention improved the situation?  Again, let’s remember the slogan for the occupation of Iraq: “I spent trillions of dollars and killed hundreds of thousands of people, and all I got was this lousy ISIS.” 

Although the attention span of the average American can only be measured in nano-memes, historical context is sometimes valuable.  Just humor me, folks.  Saddam Hussien killed at least 3,200 people in a chemical weapon attack against Iran in 1988, yet remained a US ally until he invaded Kuwait without permission from the American Empire.  The US was aware of this plan in advance, yet helped a brother out anyway.  In fact, Iraq had been using chemical weapons since 1980.  Yeah, Saddam Hussein was totally our bro.  Don't you remember that famous photo-op with Rummy?

Donald Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam Hussein in December, 1983

Since the 1950s, the US has spent billions of dollars and incalculable additional resources installing and supporting dozens of brutal dictatorships, terrorist organizations, and death squads across the globe.  One of our first success stories was Iran.  In 1953, the CIA coordinated with British intelligence to overthrow Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister.  You see, Mosaddegh, supported by a majority of Iranians, had this crazy idea that their society should benefit from the oil that was located under their feet.  So they nationalized the oil industry, kicking out the blood-sucking British corporation now known as BP.  Naughty, naughty.  After the coup, Iran returned to its old-school monarchy days with the reinstatement of the Shah, who presided over 25 years of ruthless despotism. 

This is one of many cases that illustrates the US government's deep and long-standing hostility toward the prospects of actual democracy around the world.  When the Iranian people were finally sick of this Western-imposed dictatorship and decided to have a revolution in 1979, we said "not cool," and hollered at our boy Saddam.

What else?  Hell, we’ve unconditionally supported Saudi Arabia since the 1930s!  This is a theocratic monarchy recognized as having one of the worst human rights records in the world, and known as the hub for proliferating the Wahhabi ideology behind extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.  And they’re currently bombing Yemen back to the Stone Age with billions of dollars worth of US weapons, creating a humanitarian crisis rivaling that of Syria. 

"Yeah, but... Oil."

Are we really expected to believe that the most massive military empire in human history gives a flying fuck about 72 civilians being killed in a chemical weapons attack?  An empire that, by the way, has killed an estimated 1.3 million people (mostly civilians) just since the “War on Terror” was declared.  Give me a break.  It may be too early to pin-point the exact geo-strategic motivations for US intervention in Syria, but if nothing else, this aggression will generate enormous profits for the junkies in the war industry, help maintain US global dominance, and turn our population, once again, into a herd of flag-sucking nationalists.

Instead, let’s think critically, rationally, and learn from our collective mistakes. Let's approach foreign policy cautiously, repudiating the knee-jerk reactions of white saviors and world police.  After all, nothing promotes fascism like a good old-fashioned war.  In short, let’s avoid giving Trump more power than he already has.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Response to the Video Entitled, "Born to Hate Jews"

After noticing a rather inflammatory video in my facebook feed, I decided to construct a response.
Throughout his monologue, Kasim Hafeez makes many statements that are either naive, ignorant, or just plain inaccurate. It is also perplexing that such material would be so casually thrown around in the social media realm after the recent wave of attacks against American Muslims.
Hafeez mentions his seemingly utopian visit to Israel, where he “didn’t see apartheid.” This could be because he didn’t bother traveling to the West Bank, where he would have witnessed segregated roads, segregated buses, Arab-only military checkpoints, discriminatory distribution of water and other resources, forced evictions, and demolition of Palestinian homes. Here is a very brief introduction to Israeli apartheid:

Here is a more detailed explanation. Here is another.
After reviewing the reports provided above, it becomes clear that apartheid exists in the West Bank, but even within Israel itself, not all citizens are equal.
Contrary to Hafeez’s statement, Israel did create the refugee crisis, according to the first-hand account of a former Israeli prime minister:

There are myriad additional sources documenting the Nakba. Denying this tragic event is a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of indigenous people who were either massacred or displaced indefinitely.  In short, this is a different perspective on the Israel/ Palestine conflict: 

Regarding the source of the original video
Just like “Trump University”, “Prager University” is not an actual university. It is a Zionist propaganda operation founded by Dennis Prager, a conservative pundit who has used an oversimplified worldview based on centuries-old Eurocentric and white supremacist notions to paint an entire group of people as savages. Even the Anti-Defamation League, which usually has a pro-Israel bias, has sharply condemned Prager for his outlandish bigotry.
Aside from the pro-Israel sentiments, another major theme of the video seems to be anti-Semitism, which has been a horrific scourge on human civilization for many centuries. One of the most prominent anti-Semites in history, Martin Luther, who greatly inspired the ideology of the Third Reich, advocated burning Jewish synagogues and schools, destroying Jewish homes, driving Jews out of their cities, and seemed to advocate murder when he said, “We are at fault in not slaying them.” He used words like “whore”, “devil”, and “swine” to describe members of the Jewish community in Germany circa 1546. Luther justified his views with the simple retort, “If they could kill us all, they would gladly do it.”
Dennis Prager made a strikingly similar statement when he said in 1985 that most Arabs would destroy Israel if given the opportunity (and has made many similar statements over the years).
Luther and Prager, separated by many centuries, employed hateful rhetoric to demonized an entire population of people. Although their respective targets were different, both were instances of religious extremists promoting tribalism and fear. It is also true that various Wahhabi clerics and fanatics of all stripes are guilty of the same. Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry are plagues in our society and around the world, and are cut from the same xenophobic cloth. When pressed to “choose sides”, it seems we can choose the side of human dignity by refusing to paint groups with a broad brush, and by choosing love and openness over hate and fear.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Journal Entry 7/25/15

My life is like a strange acid trip, filled with the prospects of romance and missed opportunities and dogs scratching themselves vigorously.  I am constantly reminded of poetry, nostalgic worlds of my past - mainly lovers and idealized adventures.  A freedom that always existed, yet may have been a bittersweet illusion.  The music that filled the air, and continues to.  The general euphoria and subsequent hangover of a life that is always within reach.  My journey is an endless bus ride, warped and beautiful faces existing simultaneously, a trip with stops but no destination.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Novel Excerpt #2 (from part III)

My dearest Alexander, my only grandchild who hasn't been corrupted by modern liberalism, or by elitist academic pursuit, or by political correctness, or by cultural relativism - my only remaining relative with a shred of hope and a chance for true success.  You are now becoming a man, shedding the chrysalis of childhood, of ignorance.  I hope this letter will inspire you to reconsider the world you find yourself in, and to make profitable decisions in the near future.  I intend to tell you the truth, as best I can, about what matters, and about the world as I have come to know it, and about the wisdom I have gained through my experiences.  You, Alexander, hold the key to your own salvation.  I aim to make this key more visible, more accessible.  Freedom and power are just at your eager finger tips, just within your reach.  I was once a boy, like you, as strange as that may seem, but I have very few remaining memories from that era.  In hindsight I have realized it was of little importance.  I was a young and naive idealist, yet I espoused fate rather than free will.  But the world is indifferent toward the destiny of mortals such as you and I.  It is through a divine source, which enshrines the judgement and guidance we so desperately crave, that we may harness our gift of free will, and utilize it to our ultimate advantage.  You see, my beloved Alexander, I have lived a long and purposeful life, but this saga could have been shrewdly derailed at any moment, especially during my late adolescent years, the crucial period you are now faced with. 

Novel Excerpt #1 (from part III)

While vacationing in Vienna, just prior to the First World War, I was in close contact with an up-and-coming spy by the name of Mr. Allen Dulles.  The young man had a promising future, and I intended to steer him in the right direction.  Presenting myself as a wise and admirable mentor, I took this feeble lad - this warm body with gestating potential - under my wing, later utilizing him as a loyal pawn at the Office of Strategic Services.  There was a certain unforgettable day, during the early stages of Project Paperclip, after I had arranged a meeting between a then middle-aged Dulles and former SS general Karl Wolff.  These stalwart gentlemen were in high spirits when they finally joined forces to discuss a cessation of hostilities in Italy.  Enthusiastically, I served the two of them countless portions of fine Scotch whiskey, allowing them to laugh heartily, kick up their feet, and bond like brothers in front of a fierce, glowing fireplace.  I recall retreating to the shadows for what seemed like hours, lurking there in a dark, forgotten corner of the room, observing the interaction from afar.  Suddenly, the men smiled maniacally and conducted a proud and brazen handshake, bellowing in agreement while maintaining a piercing eye contact.  A wave of euphoria swept over me - I made this happen! I thought.  And at that moment I realized the crisp American uniform adorning my naive protege became obsolete, losing all previously perceived significance.  I leaned in closer, towering over Dulles while gazing into those hypnotic flames, imagining myself perched on his shoulder, plunging my talons into him before devouring his flesh.  The power I wielded over him was like that of a predator over his prey.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Charlie's Apartment

 On July 5th, in the Year of Our Lord two-thousand and fourteen, the following was written in the diary of one Charlie Chambers:

I got a text message from a friend this morning.  It was Chloe.  She misses me.  Probably in a platonic way.  I said I miss her too, but I don’t really.  If she’d been sleeping with me, maybe I’d miss that.  The text just said, “I miss you Charlie!  Hope you’re having a nice day!”  I hate it when people call me Charlie.  It reminds me of Charlie Brown, or Charlie's Angels or maybe a Charlie-horse.  People called me Charlie when I was a kid, and I guess I had no choice.  Now people ask me if they can call me Charlie.  I say I prefer Charles.  I like to think I'm someone more distinguished, like Charles Dickens, or Charles Darwin, or Charles Manson.  Turns out my parents named me after Charlie Chaplin.  Well, actually it was my mother's idea.  I didn't think to ask her until I was fourteen, about a year before the accident.  Of course, his first name was really Charles.  My mother, Margaret, was always obsessed with cinema, theater, poetry, literature, art – really any form of creative expression.  Chaplin was one of her favorites. 

Chloe is technically just a friend.  But her sweet eyes are like the sun, maybe a solar eclipse, or an atomic bomb blast swallowing up a million unsuspecting indigenous peasants.  She walks the earth like them – inquisitive, but more na├»ve and optimistic.  The point is that it’s tough to look directly into her eyes without getting an intensely warm yet uncomfortable feeling.  I’ve always wanted to make love to her.  Really, always.  Even when she had a boyfriend.  Monogamy is such an absurd cultural construct.  If you’re into stereotypes, Chloe is a neo-hippie alternative girl who is always reading poetry and talking about her horoscope and spirits and dream interpretations and chakras and all sorts of abstract, bastardized aspects of Eastern culture.

I met someone new the other day - Nicolette.  We got coffee – I paid for hers – and took a nice walk down by the river.  We went out on the dock, and I thought about what it would be like to drown, or to drown someone else.  Just to hold them under until they stopped struggling.  I wondered how many spontaneous murders have taken place, and how many have never been discovered.  We ended up having conversations about existentialism and monotheism and sports.  I really hate talking about religion, but she brought it up.  I wondered how long it would be before I slept with her.  Maybe a week or so.  

Nicolette is almost too smart for me, but I am probably more witty than her.  I’m also more unconventional.  My complete apathy toward sports is a decent example of that.  But also my atheism, which I regret using as part of my identity.  Let me clarify that: I regret the fact that our society rewards credulity, superstition, and fear.  My parents never mentioned any deities or barbaric fairy tales while I was growing up, and I don’t think such ideas would have occurred to me naturally.  My father was a marine, then a police officer.  My mother raised me, and then became a librarian.  They were patriotic Americans, and they didn’t need some ideological crutch to comfort them.  I intend to carry on their legacy.

On this aforementioned day, Charlie was alone, casually milling around his apartment with no specific plans.  He was cleaning things that didn’t need to be cleaned and organizing things that were already in order.  He was paging through books he had already read.  Many of Charlie’s friends said he was obsessive-compulsive, but he often insisted that he just liked to be organized – to know where everything in his apartment was located.  It was true, after all, that Charlie took great care to maximize the cleanliness and efficiency of his living space.  His dishes were done in a timely manner, and a full trash bag never remained on the premises for more than twenty-four hours.  The floors were swept and mopped at least twice each week.  His closet was arranged according to the color of the article, and his books were arranged by genre.  His pocket items (wallet, cigarettes, lighter, lip balm, eye drops, cell phone) were neatly placed on the windowsill in his bedroom.  Charlie sometimes wrote himself notes in order to remember his priorities, but he came up with another method for certain reminders.  Since everything was usually in such immaculate order, he always noticed if something was out of place.  He realized that if he purposely misplaced an item, it could represent a component of some unspoken “to do” list.  For instance, when he ran out of a certain spice or condiment he turned the receptacle upside-down.  A few weeks earlier, when his supply of coffee had been nearly depleted, Charlie opted to move his coffee maker a few inches forward from the wall.  The next day, he immediately noticed this atrocity, and promptly went to the store to purchase another bag of coffee.  On the topic of caffeine, Charlie had had his fair share of stimulants that day.  During his usual breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee, Charlie washed down an amphetamine tablet with a pint of orange juice.  Around 1:00 p.m., he cut up a small line of cocaine with his credit card and snorted it with a rolled twenty-dollar bill.

Charlie noticed The Tibetan Book of the Dead sitting on his dresser.  He picked it up and began perusing.  Before long, Charlie began thinking about all the people he had known over the years who had died.  He counted thirteen.  But then his mind began to wander, and he entertained the possibility that he may have interacted with others who are also now dead.  Maybe dozens more.  Out of all the people he’s greeted in passing, briefly made eye contact with while waiting in line at the bank or the supermarket, how many more are now decaying mounds of flesh and bone trapped in the cold ground?

The fact that Charlie’s thoughts were so vehemently drifting toward the macabre was no coincidence; this day marked the six-year anniversary of an incident that would live in infamy.  Charlie himself had little or no recollection of what had transpired that day, only the mundane details of the events leading up to the accident.  Charlie was fifteen years old and had recently obtained a temporary driver’s license after completing his driver’s education course.  It was a Saturday evening - July 5th to be exact - and the Chambers family was headed to the movie theater, in a way attempting to continue the exciting yet serene spectacle of flashing lights from the previous evening.  But this satin white Subaru Outback, this specific vessel of transit, was stopped short of its destination.    

Uncle Jack, a greasy and corny man whom Charlie never really cared for, was towering over him as he awoke to a painful new reality in a sterile hospital bed.  Surprisingly, Charlie only suffered a mild concussion, a fractured collarbone, three fractured ribs, a sprained left wrist, and substantial bruising.  After attempting to comfort his nephew, Jack relayed the details of the crash, often rolling his glassy eyes upward, striving to recall what the officer had said.  According to Jack, the family was traveling down a rather curvy stretch of County Road “A” a few miles south of town, when Charlie swerved sharply, attempting to avoid a collision with an intoxicated driver who had crossed over the dividing line and into their lane.  His father was in the passenger seat, and his mother was sitting directly behind his father.  Their car collided into the approaching vehicle with the passenger side facing forward, causing the parents to be killed instantly.  After all these years, Charlie still feels guilty about how it happened and he wonders if, within that split-second, he made a conscious decision to spin the wheel to the left.  Did he purposely sacrifice the lives of his beloved parents to save his own?  This is what has been on Charlie’s mind.  This is why he has become increasingly nihilistic, distraught, cynical, and jaded.  He doesn’t know why he did what he did.  He wants to believe he would have traded his own life to save his parents (or other loved ones, for that matter), but he is uncertain, and that uncertainty only adds to his sense of meaninglessness and insignificance.  An outside observer might conclude that Charlie has gradually attempted to fill the void left by the loss of his parents with drug binges, promiscuous sex, creative expression, and other forms of indulgence.  Now that he is twenty-one years old, he more often than not adds alcohol to the mix.  One might disapprove of this cathartic path, including the manner in which this young man has been squandering both his potential as well as the funds he received from his parents’ life insurance policy.  His actions may seem sleazy, especially when taking into account the fact that Charlie had promised many of his family members and friends that he would use the money for his college education.

Charlie’s only concrete memory regarding that fateful drive was the song “Strange Magic” by the Electric Light Orchestra playing on the radio.  The song was still playing in Charlie’s head when he awoke, but it was faded, illusory, as though it were being pumped through a seashell.  One might presume that the song took on negative connotations in Charlie’s mind following the accident.  Quite the contrary; Charlie had always enjoyed the song, and now it simply reminded him of his parents – the meals they shared while watching campy films from the 1980s, the inside jokes they cracked at holiday celebrations, the walks they took in Springtime – it did not remind him in the least of the accident.  After all, Charlie had no actual memories of the accident itself.  He found the song rather comforting.

Charlie cooked himself dinner, but shortly after dusk he had a surreal and unexplainable experience, which inspired him to converse with a certain acquaintance.

Chloe approached confidently, her black leather boots reflecting the moonlight as she strutted down the vacant sidewalk toward Charlie’s apartment.  Charlie stood outside, acting like he didn’t notice her yet.

“Oh! Hey, thanks for meeting me…” Charlie said, fumbling through his pocket to clumsily pull out a pack of cigarettes and a sky blue lighter.

            “Of course,” said a twenty-six year old woman, slender, with pale skin and hair as black as the night that surrounded her.  “What’s on your mind, cowboy?”

            “You’ve always been a good listener, and I really just wanted to tell you about something.  It happened like an hour ago.  Well…” He took a quick drag of his Lucky Strike and exhaled a burst of smoke.  “I’m pretty sure it happened.  I’m struggling to believe it…I mean, I have been a little fucked up today.  But I don’t think it was a hallucination.”  Charlie was fidgeting, sweating, and talking rather quickly.

            “Hey calm down, Charles – it’s gonna be okay,” Chloe said, in a composed and soothing tone, almost like she had previously rehearsed for that very moment.  “What happened?”

            Charlie paused, his pupils shooting around every which way, as if he were following some elusive insect.  “Have…have you ever heard the song, ‘Strange Magic’?”

            Chloe nodded.

            “I haven’t told anyone this before, but one of the last things I remember before the accident was that song playing on the radio.”

            Chloe’s demeanor changed.  She appeared genuinely concerned and sympathetic.  He didn’t talk about the accident much, but she was certainly aware of this tragic aspect of his past.  Charlie was staring directly into Chloe’s eyes.  He had become lost.  A moment later, he hastily looked downward and ashed his cigarette.

            “Anyway, I was just hangin’ out at my apartment, cookin’ some food, and I thought I heard that song playing.  I walked into the living room and it got a little louder.  Then I realized it was coming from the TV.  But here’s the thing – the TV wasn’t on!”  

            Chloe’s sea-green eyes widened with interest.  Her beautiful ivory face drew nearer as her graceful neck craned slightly.  Charlie continued explaining the occurrence, and brought up a few additional strange things he had noticed around his apartment recently.  He told Chloe a candle was once burning when he didn’t recall lighting it.  He mentioned a few items that were out of place, and he didn’t recall misplacing them.  He said he had justified these other mysterious moments to himself by assuming the drugs had significantly altered his perception of reality.

            “So… You actually believe me, or what?” Charlie tossed a mangled cigarette butt into the street.


            “Do you think someone’s just fuckin’ with me?  I don’t even know how th-”

            “No,” Chloe proudly interrupted.  “It’s them - it’s your parents!  I think they’re trying to contact you from the other side…”

            Charlie was baffled, yet skeptical.  “What other side?”  Charlie asked.  “Where do you think they are?”

            “Heaven and Hell are real, my dear.  Your parents miss you terribly!  They want you to join them…in Heaven!”

            “But how can that be?” asked Charlie.  “My parents were atheists!

            A warm and disarming smile swept across the young woman’s face. “Ah, but the criteria for our place in the afterlife is not determined by humankind – not even by the holy texts, which were written by Man…”

            Charlie didn’t believe a word she was saying.  He was humoring her – just trying to be affable.  Maybe to flirt a little.  Still, he knew he couldn’t explain the peculiar occurrences.  They talked for another twenty minutes, and at some point Chloe said something that really stuck with Charlie:

“You seem open-minded, and I assume you describe yourself that way… This is a chance to truly embrace open-mindedness…”

And so, Charlie tentatively decided it was time to abandon the reason, logic, and secular perspective he was raised with, and embrace superstition.  It was part of his newfound narcissistic quest for “open-mindedness”.  In fact, there seemed to be evidence that such a reaction was now reasonable.  It was time to explore the realm of the soul.  One might say it’s not what his parents would have wanted – it may have seemed counter-intuitive to the ideology they espoused during life.  But one’s priorities sometimes change after death.

Charlie returned to his apartment, and though he was initially thinking about what Chloe had said, he was now involuntarily imagining her without clothing.  The mop bucket was still on the kitchen floor and Charlie decided to dump it down the drain.  As he opened the bathroom door, he paused to look at himself in the mirror.  Then, what seemed like a brisk, yet faint gust of wind suddenly engulfed Charlie’s body, sending a chill down his spine.  He abruptly spun around, eyes widened and mouth agape.

            “Chaaarles,” the voice whispered.

            Charlie was alone in his apartment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hannah Dolezal: Fiction/ Roast (speech transcript)

The more seasoned attendees of Dolezal Family graduation parties might know that one of the traditional themes of my speeches is a “roast”, during which I proceed to shrewdly lay waste to the past behaviors of my siblings through several pages of uncompromising text.  However, during this event, I have opted out of the roast segment of my speech.  Hannah is quite sensitive, and I wouldn’t want to make her go crying to her mommy.  Now, the more astute among you may have realized that the previous statement was actually a mild roast in disguise, so let’s proceed to the next section…
     Hannah Elizabeth Dolezal was born on May 13th, 1996, with a haunting smile and several obnoxious microscopic holes in her heart.  During ages zero through four, Hannah served as her brother Ben's loyal companion and rag-doll.  Playing in the side yard usually ended with Hannah screaming bloody murder and Ben acting calm and vaguely confused, muttering to himself in an unknown language.  Video evidence of these events has recently surfaced, and the footage is shocking.

     Yes, those early years were dark and traumatic, but a monumental and life-changing event was just around the bend…

     On his deathbed, Albert Einstein prophesied, "One day, there will be a young girl who will possess such incalculable intelligence and creativity, those around her will be baffled and frightened.  You will identify this marvelous youngster by her first name, which will be a palindrome, and by her last name, which will be confusing and difficult to pronounce. She will suffer from a rare medical defect known as Swiss Cheese Heart. This is the girl who shall be the recipient of my secret invention, the Nuclear Fission Heart.  She will carry on my torch and become one of the most brilliant minds of the 21st century."

     On October 23, 2001, when Hannah was five, a competent team of mad surgeons at the Milwaukee Children's Hospital attempted to install the aforementioned nuclear heart into Hannah.  I remember being on the edge of my seat in the hospital with my family, hoping and praying that the operation would be successful.  Several soul-crushing hours later, Hannah miraculously emerged…as a powerful cyborg that made Dick Cheney look like a cowering rhesus monkey.

     Since the surgery, Hannah has been a lot tougher.  From that point on, she was able to keep up with Ben during all of their activities.  The arbitrary crying fits that plagued her formative years were a thing of the past.  She had conquered death, and it was time to live.

     As Hannah grew up, I first noticed her talents and intelligence through her good sense of humor, which was dark, witty, sarcastic, satirical, obscene, hyperbolic, self-deprecating, and laced with relevant cultural critiques.  And this was when she was seven years old.

     Around that time, I left for college, and Hannah continued blossoming into a lovely young woman.  I often introduced her to new and old music when I visited.  By the time I returned, Hannah was 12, and smart as a whip, just as Einstein had predicted.  She was reading and writing constantly, thriving off of her endless supply of curiosity…as well as nuclear power.

     We went on many adventures during the subsequent years, and had many good times that usually included eating delicious vegetarian food, listening to music, discussing philosophical, sociological and cultural issues, and drinking coffee.  Once, when Hannah was 15, I was somehow conned into letting her drive me to the coffee shop.  Little did I know, it was one of the first times she had ever operated an automobile.  As one might expect, she parked behind another car and proceeded to slam her foot down onto the gas pedal instead of the break.  Luckily, the car was already in park.  Sometimes, while driving to the coffee shop, a song comes on, and Hannah says, "Hey, this reminds me of your life!"  She then proceeds to chronicle stories from our past that occurred when we first used to listen to that specific music on a regular basis.  In fact, many of the times we've shared have been accentuated by a vast arsenal of music, which has become the soundtrack to our lives. 

     Now…some of you might think the fictitious section of this speech, or the “Tale of the Nuclear Heart”, was a bit strange.  Let me explain the metaphor: To me, Hannah is a superhero.  She has special gifts, she is often mysterious – lurking in the shadows of her room – and she routinely rescues us…from boredom.
     Soon, Hannah will be crossing the border of Wisconsin, into the treacherous land of Minnesota, enthusiastic and naive, like a deer crossing the highway, in search of greener pastures. 
      I’ll miss you, sister, and I wish you the best of luck.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"A" is for Audrey

Audrey was despondent.  Better days had come and gone, and this formerly blissful waitress had developed a bleak outlook.  Cinnamon and ginger filled the air - scents that were known to please most patrons, but not her - not anymore.  During her break, Audrey pondered all the dreams she had as a child, all the goals and fantasies she had not yet accomplished.  Eventually the sentiment became ominous, as though the weight of reality was crushing her, pummeling her sore feet into the tiled floor.  Feeling a bit light-headed, Audrey reached for a dark pint glass filled with carbonated water and corn syrup.  Grasping the receptacle were long, elegant fingers, parched from bleach water, with chipped burgundy nails.  Her hand shook lightly as she tilted the black liquid against her glistening red lips.  It was two in the afternoon and the lunch rush seemed to be dying down. 
    "Just one more hour," she thought, attempting to envision the end of another stressful and oppressive shift. 
    "Keep on keeping on, and it'll be over before you know it." 
    Luscious blonde curls bounced freely just above her petite shoulders as she walked briskly toward a table of new patrons.
    Morning came early, and Audrey did not feel adequately rested.  Noisy traffic and chirping birds suddenly infiltrated her bedroom window, along with the piercing high-pitched laughter of children outside.  On her way to work, Audrey stopped at the diner for some breakfast and coffee.  Perusing the dining room quickly, Audrey chose a booth next to the window facing 5th Avenue, and sat down without removing her sunglasses or her zebra-print jacket.  Questions about her past randomly loomed in her mind, many of them regarding squandered potential and fading dreams.  Right when Audrey was about to open the menu, she was startled by a sudden blur of motion in her periphery.   Someone flew down the the isle in an obvious hurry, swiftly dropping a small brown package on Audrey's table.  The man was exiting through the back door by the time Audrey came to her senses and swung her head around to look.  Unaware of what had transpired, Audrey instinctively lifted a folded corner of brown paper to reveal a neat stack of one-hundred dollar bills, about three inches thick.  Vivid images of exotic beaches, pristine waterfalls, and infinite freedom immediately filled her mind, replacing the dismal contemplations of the previous moment.  With an indescribable warmth welling up inside of her soul - some perfect mixture of excitement, adrenaline, happiness, and confusion - Audrey immediately buried the package in her purse and headed for the front door.  Xanax and spare change rattled against the newfound parcel within Audrey's purse, as she dashed toward a parked taxi.
    "You said it was on first street," a young woman barked into her cell phone as she clumsily barged into the diner.  Zebra stripes adorned the women's jacket, and her curly blonde hair, much like Audrey's, bounced freely just above her shoulders as she sat down at a booth next to the window facing 5th Avenue.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Journal Entry 12/12/13

I keep feeling like small tasks are urgent.  I need to read a book immediately.  Or I need to clean my apartment before I can do anything constructive.  I need to find a better job, or figure out what big step I'm going to take next in life.  I just turned 30.  Time is running out.  Or is it?  Maybe I'm a late bloomer, and my fame and fulfillment are just around the bend.  One thing I've been wanting to do lately is write more often.  You know, just to get my thoughts out - to clear my mind.  And one of the things I've wanted to write about, briefly, is my first memory.  Well, it's not one specific memory, but my initial realization of a tangible reality.  I remember where I lived when I was two years old.  I didn't necessarily know it was Kaukauna, WI, but I knew about the friendly old man at the end of the block who entertained me with his parrot quite often.  I knew the calming sensation of hanging out with my parents in our attic (though I somehow have no recollection of the lower floor(s)).  I knew the girl across the street, Erica, and I remember the swing set behind her house, as well as the layout of the kitchen which one could enter from the back yard.  There.  Now that I've written down my first memories, they will forever be preserved.  And during the years and decades since these preliminary memories, I have documented many more in writing.  Maybe not enough, but a substantial amount.  When I occasionally go back to peruse my journals, I am sometimes captivated and enthralled by the excavation of forgotten memories - memories I may never have revisited.  Events buried by time and age and distraction.  Do yourself a favor; next time you have a compelling experience, write an account of it.  Or dictate it to an audio recording device (which I have also found helpful at times).  Include as many details as possible.  How did you feel?  Who was with you?  What did they say?  What was the weather like?  Describe the room, the mountain, the water, the sand.  Explain the context, the relationships, the idiosyncrasies.  Be a biographer, a historian, an omniscient fly on the wall.  Maybe a decade from now, you'll stumble across this personal artifact.  Maybe two decades.  The enjoyment gained from reading it will easily be worth the trouble it took to write it.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Benjamin Dolezal: Fiction/ Roast

Hello.  I’m Ben's older brother Matt.  As an introduction and disclaimer, I’d like you all to be aware that I have written and performed monologues for my two other younger brothers during their respective high school graduation parties, and those speeches were based on the theme "Fiction/ Roast".  Anyone who knows me well knows how much I value tradition.  Therefore, I have attempted to construct this narrative in a format and style as true to the originals as possible, as though this were the third installment in a trilogy.

            In good conscience, I feel I must be perfectly honest on one subject:  Unlike his two older brothers Adam and Luke, Benjamin did not work for the CIA.  He did, however, hold a brief desk job at the FBI, until he was put on probation and later fired for taking J. Edgar Hoover's name in vain.  But that’s neither here nor there. 

            Let’s just start at the beginning.  The year was 1994.  On January 1st, president Clinton passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, eventually resulting in a net loss of more than 600,000 American jobs.  In April, one Kurt Cobain, front-man of the popular rock band Nirvana, was found dead with an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound.  In June, Microsoft announced it would no longer sell or support the MS-DOS operating system apart from Microsoft Windows.  Indeed, the year seemed rather dark and bleak, until, on August 11th, a precious ray of sunshine was bestowed upon the unsuspecting city of Appleton, Wisconsin.  Its name was Benjamin Michael Dolezal.

            This vaguely humanoid entity quickly evolved into an enthusiastic ball of soft flesh, whose endearingly flamboyant lisp put his sexual orientation in jeopardy for years to come.  Since the amalgam of his anatomy constituted a loosely spherical form, Ben was quite the tough and durable little runt, and wasn't afraid to get rowdy with his older siblings.  Declassified video evidence has depicted Benjamin and I engaging in various forms of tomfoolery, most of which were incidents of me either throwing pillows at Ben or Ben at pillows.  During such games, this eager little rascal would squeal with glee, like a naive pig awaiting slaughter.  Ben's tolerance for pain still amazes me, and to this day I only recall him crying on two occasions, neither of which resulted from physical injury (unless you count his broken heart of 2008).

            In addition to invincibility, another quality Ben developed during his formative years was a capacity for eccentric storytelling.  This skill was largely inspired by the "half an hour movies" he would avidly watch as a young lad.  At age 3, Ben gave a lecture on the socio-political implications and gender-role issues of the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz".  The talk became one of the most cited sources in graduate dissertations nationwide.  Ben later became a brilliant purveyor of prose, and is now a dedicated connoisseur of history.

            Today, Ben’s myriad interests include art, woodworking, reading, writing, history, video games, music, and god only knows what else.  He even taught me how to play guitar, which really paid off when our hit single “Emiliano Zapata” climbed to the top of the Mexican pop charts.

            Of course, young men around the world have come to envy the Renaissance Man Benjamin has become, but there is a lesser-known detrimental side to such vast personal enlightenment – namely, Ben occasionally lacks awareness of his surroundings.  Due to an overload of obligations, passions, hobbies, and daydreams, Ben is seldom aware of the current year, much less the month or day of the week in which he resides at any given moment.  It also goes without saying that he, in many cases, is clueless regarding what to eat, when to eat, how to prepare something to eat, and most of all, when to stop eating.

But these irrelevant facts have no place in the world of a genius.  For the world of Benjamin is filled with vivid colors racing together in enigmatic equilibrium.  It is alive with howling hoodlums, hairy hobbits, and hallowed hallways of history.  It is pulsing with catchy drum-beats, radiant organ riffs, and nostalgic folk tunes.  Benjamin’s world is a world beyond ours because it is an irresistible product of his uniquely innovative mind and his courageous spirit.

       As Benjamin is released into the wild for the first time, I’d just like to say, on behalf of everyone here, we wish you the best of luck, Ben, and we are honored to be part of your world.  Thank you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jonathan Clove & the Great Percolator

One summer day several years ago, while waiting at the bus stop, I spotted an eccentric figure approaching.  He held in his hand a small silver percolator, which he carelessly swung about while whistling an old Louis Armstrong tune.  I immediately recognized this man as an author, a poet, a recipient of numerous awards for masterful literature, who, through no shortage of misfortune, became a raving and disheveled hobo.  As tragedies bombarded him year after year, his incremental surrender to mental illness rendered him an outcast in his own city.  I greeted him, and mentioned that I was fond of his work.  He was noticeably impressed that I had identified him so easily, and I went on to inform him that I consider myself a writer as well.  He asked if he could hear a few of my poems, and I recited three that I had memorized.  The man remained enthusiastic, but his demeanor became calm and pleasant.  He told me I reminded him a bit of a young W.B. Yeats, and that I had great potential, and the spirit of a true visionary.  There was a brief pause, so I asked him about the coffee maker he so casually carried.  His eyes widened, and he began to chronicle this wondrous object.  The pot was allegedly an original ‪Alfonso Bialetti‬ from 1933, made in ‪Piedmont‬, Italy.  I had no way of verifying this, but his passion for this glistening item subdued my skepticism. He claimed that brewing coffee with this percolator gave him profound creativity, and lit his mind ablaze when writer's block had stifled him.  He said it brought him the words he sought - like a whirlwind of eloquent diction transported though a supernatural vessel.  The man likened this prized possession to Aladdin's magic oil lamp.  Calling it his good luck charm (as I regretfully did) would have been an understatement.  His hand jittered lightly and steadily as he held the percolator out in from of him.
    "Here," he said boldly. "It is your turn to take the torch, good sir."
    That was the last time I saw Dr. Jonathan Clove.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Late November

For words four words one couldn't find
So divine, the time to hide
The tiny tenacious machine
Spun through her mind

A double-helix to divide
Satin stained, it rained inside
Starless silence after the thunder
But with the power of lightning we loved her

Another did and does and so it goes
One heart stopped, and in a widower slows
Sight and sound and scent embellished
In hell that seemed a dream he relished

She built the sky, twice as bright
And in her name we shall take flight
An immaculate soul, forged in the furnace of the sun
With blessings for all, and lost memories yet to come

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Unclean Rider

Local light-skinned law enforcement
Made a quite obscene endorsement
Legislation, my dear old soul
Attempts to prevent my desire to roll

Yet I pursue The Night in my automobile
Rolling, like film on a reel
Mighty wind through locks I feel
A thunder storm in every wheel

Townsfolk gaze with greed, despair
Conquered by a steed so fair
And mouths agape at musk so rare
But I, for one, could scarcely care

Those who doubt or dare ask why
Have seldom heard an engine cry
Or pressed against a clutch so fine
Or felt a chill along their spine

For days, for weeks, for months on end
Obsession fixed on but one trend
My income now a shining heap
At last, rewards are mine to reap!

My mistress great, my maid, my wife
Agree I lead a wondrous life
Pursuing The Night from dusk 'til dawn
Indeed, I have it going on

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Attention Deficit Diaries (Pt. II - Merciless Lee and the Factory)

What was once the swift and graceful motion of a feathered utensil elegantly grazing the surface of hemp scrolls is now a rattling box of keys with no resemblance to a musical instrument, in appearance or in range of auditory pronouncements.  It is a sinister cackling, but it gets the job done.  Can I follow some rules and disregard others without being called a hypocrite?  Can I be spontaneous, yet  civilized?  Can my memes of expression reside somewhere between quantum physics and theocratic fascism?  Fucking Lee.  Always looking over my shoulder.  Everyone has a Lee in their life.  He's not your boss, but he keeps you in line.  He's not your boss's boss either.  He is an independent, enigmatic entity that asks you strange questions, micromanages, and frequently adjusts his glasses.  He prowls the freshly waxed, tiled halls of this stainless-steel jungle, florescent bulbs bearing down and illuminating his nitrite-pink forehead.  Compulsive profanities lurk just behind his eyes, as furry forearms sway to and fro, like those of a more rudimentary primate, an old-fashioned ape.  Lee seems vaguely inhuman, and has likely been contracted by a sub-sub-contractor.  He is a merciless mercenary.  One-hundred and twenty-three degrees Celsius.  You nervously twist your blonde, brunette, and red facial hair.  Only one piece of gum left.  You have to wait until the machine cools down to forty, so you have a few minutes to consider how many people might die today, how many will be born, how many will have profound realizations, how many will give their lives for something they believe in, and how many of them will have been wrong.  Dead wrong.  And you still have time to forget about Lee.  But I am not satisfied.  Am I being held captive by arbitrary grammatical laws?  Am I trapped in some literary Abu Ghraib?  Is this a rare and unprecedented case of Stockholm Syndrome?  Maybe if I rhyme some of the time I'll be fine...

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Vestiges of a Lucid Dream

An alleged serial killer was swiftly swinging through ironic person-sized holes in strange mechanical structures that rotated throughout a dystopian sci-fi elevator shaft in an intricate and indistinguishable pattern.  He may have been escaping from a futuristic maximum security prison, or just practicing.  This faceless antagonist had calculated the timing so precisely that he could execute this feat with ease, while others would have surely died trying.  His astounding agility and intelligence were clearly apparent.  Another scene involved the killer planning his attacks - surveying various empty houses and other buildings.  Suddenly, first person perspective was implemented, which meant I had become the killer.  Soon enough, I had the profound realization that I was innocent - that I was actually in my bed, dreaming in REM sleep.  This came as quite a relief, as I hid behind a TV, wondering if I would be able to get a few shots off without anyone seeing me.  The images in my dream began flickering, fizzling, and turning to static.  It was like the end of an ancient reel of 8 mm film, crackling as the quality ominously disintegrated.  It was the impatient pops and clicks of a needle clinging to the outer edge of a vinyl record.  I became aware that the REM stage was nearly finished, thus completing another sleep cycle.  In the distance I could hear a fan and an aquarium.  I then made the seemingly autonomous decision to depart from this nostalgic realm of fantasy and return to a warm reality, like being born again.  After all, my dreams were crumbling.  What would you have done?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Broken Body Blues

I've never been in a car accident, but this is how I imagine a victim might feel afterward.  Excessive knots ran throughout my entire back like miniature landmines, and the skin on my face had been insistently scorched by an uncompromising solar orb.  Even my scalp was unfairly and inexplicably burned, despite an ostensibly protective layer of hair.  My wrists and ankles were sore and useless, and my left shoulder was pulsing with inflammation.  So was my right forearm.  My hips and inner thighs felt as though I had narrowly escaped being drawn and quartered.  These conditions functioned as a straight-jacket, restricting my range of motion significantly.  I twisted and contorted myself, attempting another spinal adjustment, again to no avail.

Such a state of anatomical devastation had left me with additional afflictions, such as mild nausea, a complete lack of energy, and a diminished capacity to concentrate on anything beyond pain, discomfort, and frustration.  My demeanor and outlook were as cynical and pessimistic as ever.   I was frail, humble, and unmotivated.

"Whoa! You're as red as hell!" a coworker blurted out.  Evidently he was unaware that I possess both mirrors and nerves.  He was unaware that I was aware.  Either that, or he fancied himself a merchant of rhetorical statements and senseless observations.   I wanted to tell him his hair was as black as coal.

"Yeah, I got sunburned..."
I didn't want to be clever, or funny, or affable.  I didn't even want to be polite - I just wanted to be a ghost.  I was disoriented and half asleep.  My passion and creativity had been marginalized, in favor of a cold, apathetic gaze.  Luckily, a simple text message revived my spirits.  Damn.  Tennis is a brutal sport.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Attention Deficit Diaries (Pt. I)

Sleeper's Block is when you have nothing to sleep about, or maybe nothing to dream about.  It is the opposite of Writer's Block, because you have plenty to write about.  I was at Walmart the other day, and the tragic, yet secretly entertaining spectacle engulfed my senses immediately.  This place is the armpit of Western Civilization.  On my way to the health bar and vitamin isle, I saw a weary middle-aged train wreck of a man, hobbling along, strung out on the American Dream.  His dirty t-shirt cradled a bulging pot-belly, but nothing propped up the grayish bags under his tired eyes - they were just another victim of gravity.  God.  I couldn't let him go on like this.  I wanted to grab him by the collar and shake him like an over-sized infant.  I wanted to yell, "Wake up!  You don't have to live like this!  Throw your TV away!  Be creative!  Be spontaneous!  Eat a fresh-cooked meal!  Get some exercise!"  But who was I to judge?  Maybe he was just another victim of society.  Maybe he had given up, after realizing that the world had given up on him.  Maybe I'm wrong - maybe he had been living it up, drinking in all of life's pleasures.  Maybe this intensely passionate and hedonistic lifestyle had taken a substantial, yet worthwhile toll on his physical appearance.  Or maybe he was just having a bad day.

I saw a zoo-worthy family of moaning primates - barely homo sapien.  The frantic mother was pregnant with her eighth or ninth, and her cart was overflowing with cholesterol, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, and hopelessness.  I wanted to stand up on the cash register and shout, "The last thing you need is another diabetic rug rat clinging to your quarter-ton calf!  The condoms are right next to the heartburn medication - You and your alpha male counterpart should have patronized that section four births ago!

But the game is rigged, and it isn't her fault.  She is another victim of society.  These are calculated symptoms of systematic dehumanization.  There are plenty of resources to go around, but sustainable living is not a human right.  Neither is dignity.  We are the bewildered herd, the bovine humans, pumped full of pills, patriotism, and predatory paralysis.  We are rats in a maze, but in order to get the cheese, we need to grow wings.  A shadowy ruling class keeps that glowing chunk of divine cheddar dangling above us, promising, swearing that if we're good rats, we can have a taste.  We can sink our shaking teeth into what they have - what we've seen in captivating bursts between commercials.  But we can't.  We won't.  As Voltaire once said, "The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor."

At this point I would intuitively go on a rant involving socialist propaganda and the plight of the proletariat, but that's a topic for another article.  I will try to stay on track.  This article was supposed to be about writer's block, or maybe insomnia.  But all I can really think about is summer.  School is out, and so are the fine young ladies.  They seem to come out of the woodwork, sporting incredible bodies and naive, yet seductive smiles.  They allow me to momentarily rediscover my heterosexuality, before nearly running a red light.  But even now, twenty-seven years deep, these enchanting creatures are still a complete enigma.  What do they want?  Does Mel Gibson know?  He certainly knew what Christians wanted - a high-budget snuff film.  But ladies are each so idiosyncratic.  As a group, their desires are much more difficult to pinpoint.   You can't just say, "Hey, wanna split a bottle of wine and watch the return of the messiah with me?"   

Sleeper's Block is when you can't fall asleep because you have too much to write about.  One of my main predicaments is my eclecticism. I am interested in too many things - too many styles of music, too many movies, too many current events, too many perspectives, etc.  I am too unconventional for the yuppies, and too indie for the punks, and too mainstream for the art fags.  I seem to have one foot in each counterculture, but lack affiliation.  I am spread too thin.  I enjoy riding my bike, but I don't wear one of those tiny racing caps and I don't know how to build a "fixie" out of PBR cans, so I am understandably shunned by the hipster community.  And the bourgeoisie is disconcerted by my wine apathy.  I don't even have specific goals in my pursuit of the fairer sex.  Do I want a one-night stand, or a long lasting, intimate relationship, or a friend with benefits, or something else?  I have no idea.  I'll take one of each please - the sampler.  Do I want to get married?  Your guess is as good as mine.  But the heterosexual ladies out there seem to have their priorities all figured out.  When met with any of the aforementioned courtship proposals, a woman might respond, "I'm not that kind of girl", after consulting her mental checklist.  There is no equivalent for me.  I can think of almost no proposal a beautiful woman could make that would cause me to reply in such a manner.  For instance, if a striking young damsel had some sort of sadistic role playing fetish and she wanted me to reenact the vomit-inducing amputation scene from the film 127 Hours, I would respond by simply asking where she keeps her butter knives.

But after the pleasure, confusion, disappointment, psychopathic flashbacks, and myriad other sensations instilled by romantic pursuit, I always have my amigos.  These are the dudes I rely on to maintain a minimal level of sanity.  Only with a vague reluctance and a non-sexist, ironic sense of humor would I dare employ the ancient adage "bros before hos", but if it applies to anything, it applies to whatever point I am trying to make now.  Having a beer and a laugh with a group of buddies is the best therapy I have thus far encountered.  This therapy often includes unapologetic food and drink binges, noteworthy misadventures, and sinister jokes, macabre enough to make Jack the Ripper cringe.  I plan to spend a significant portion of my summer participating in such behavior.

So go ahead - crack open a can of your favorite lager and gaze up at the cosmic ceiling of Planet Earth.  Alas, summer is in full effect, and we can all just relax.  Well, maybe not folks in Syria, or Yemen, or Chinese sweatshops, or most of the world, for that matter, but to all of us here in the good ol' US of A*, I would like to make a toast to the most beautiful and carefree time of the year.  Cheers! 

*excluding the millions affected by economic, physical, psychological, or total devastation