Tag Archives: America

Train Spotting

3 hours till sunrise / an impasse / a vision

1-hundred odd cars just moving rolling
going going now now now
Cranked up sturdy whirling wheels (some 7 8 9 hundred least)
piggybacking piles of Sacred Stuff—
the whole profound plastic mass of gadgets / precious gadgets

Manic-screaming engines shouting Howls of Truth
(miles upon miles upon counties upon states)
Green lites glowing /guiding—
just moving rolling
trekking this beautiful Christ-kissed land

America—
Kingdom of Metal & Muck Material
America—
crystal cage-facade erected by power-horny men
who pissed / who crapped / who died hard work

America—
Darwinian-jawed beast of Lust & Money
Breed & Brag
America—land of the Need
home of the Want

Home of the free-will train of hope
just moving rolling / chasing nite
w/ rising smoke coughed from unknown holes
(exhaust of busy bawdy men)—
it hangs (industrial-incense clouds) in 3am neon April skies

Passing phantom platform-carts just moving rolling—
tremendous truck-trailers stacked in mounds to Heaven
Glorious flatbeds filled w/ shiny lead things
Fancy foreign cars in big bad crates & boxes boxes boxes

Nails & tape / staples / plugs (the multitudes!)
oil tanks / gas & purple poisons ooze
Rusty livestock bins a mess
(something moaning)
Claustrophobic cattle dragged cross endless landscapes

to be salted
to be chewed
to be flushed out by men of Big Balls
women of healthy breasts
children w/ psycho fits of Ritalin-woe

This magic freight just moving rolling—
the total perfection of mass-market-movement
the go-go-go-now-now-now
Towed cars throwing iron / grease—
orange/blue halo-sparks now struck
& tumbling down hills of brush & weed / scattered waste & gunk

The booming blast of insane horns approaching distant intersection-gates
the clank / the bang / the wail & shake
The raging force / the rickety rick- rack-rack of wheels wheels wheels
hitting lumps / riding grooves (nuts & bolts rumble-growl)

on straight-line track laid by sweaty workmen’s hands
big burly wet-mouthed workmen’s hands (sticky sticky American hands)
years past / before me / before you / your parents breathed an inch of life
Just moving rolling—
hissing brakes (a useless tap / a screech / a grind)

Just you—god you—just try to stop this billion-ton brigade
just moving rolling
w/ prophetic hobo hitching ride back end—
hazed in paper-bag-booze escape
exempt from day after day of wicked grind

I see him schizo simple smile—
he waves / he signals me in Soul / calling out w/ dirty-angel noise of
Nowhere
Peace
& Freedom

I see him always in my mad mush mind burned out / so gone—
just moving rolling / free of time / so free of time
so un-America
so Proud / so Real
so unlike me—a rat-race drone unfeeling

obedient / hollow / structured / bland
Waiting for a train to pass
that I may drive my go-go-go-now-now-now
path to Mediocrity & Woe…
dreaming of the Holy Hobo-Life I’d die to Lead

c b snoad
published in MiddleWestern Voice (spring 2002)
winner of the 2002 Carl H. Carlson Poetry Contest at Elmhurst College
edit 1-31-17

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The Art Of The Heel

“Something in all men profoundly rejoices at seeing a car burn.” –Baudrillard

Trump is a car fire

He’s the death drive Freud warned us about. Our innate desire to self-destruct for the pure spectacle of it. Sometimes he’s the car, a vehicle for change in reverse. Sometimes he’s the fire itself, a burning in the body politic.

Trump is Moloch

Moloch is the Biblical name of a Canaanite god that demands a costly sacrifice. Ginsberg writes in his masterpiece “Howl”:

“Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!”

In voting for Trump we sacrifice our children, the future, the promise of American ideals—in the name of security and (white) power.

Trump is part of the accursed share

From Wikipedia:

“According to Bataille’s theory of consumption, the accursed share is that excessive and non-recuperable part of any economy which must either be spent luxuriously and knowingly without gain in the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, in spectacles and sumptuous monuments, or it is obliviously destined to an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring, in the contemporary age most often in war, or in former ages as destructive and ruinous acts of giving or sacrifice, but always in a manner that threatens the prevailing system.”

Trump’s platform stinks. It’s the waste of democracy. A spewing from the mouth we’re desperate to expel. His campaign represents “an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring” of hate we excrete in small amounts to keep the system flowing.

Trump is the sorcerer’s apprentice

Goethe’s poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was published in 1797. As the story goes, an old sorcerer leaves his apprentice with chores. The apprentice, not fully licensed, bonded and insured, enchants a broom to do the work for him, but soon he can’t stop its frenetic sweeping. He splits the broom in two with an axe, but each piece then splits in two, on and on. The old magician returns and breaks the spell, reminding his pupil that powerful spirits should only be called by the master himself.

Mickey Mouse assumed the role of apprentice in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia. Trump is neither Mickey nor sorcerer, but the magic itself. He will make people disappear, preferably back to Mexico.

Trump can’t fire Mickey, now a celebrity apprentice, because Mickey’s hands are twice the size of his.

Trump is a human being

The most frightening proposition of all: Trump is just himself. He’s you and I. Out of many, one.

Donald Trump is the fate we’re surprised to meet halfway down the path of our escape route. The brutal truth of our collective demise we couldn’t imagine during the primaries, but after November 8 we will come to realize was waiting for us all along.

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Mandatory Fun

“Free Time,” a 1977 essay by cultural critic Theodor Adorno, examines the relationship between work time and leisure time. We think we’re free when it comes to our free time, Adorno asserts, but leisure is simply an extension of the workday. Even at play, we labor to enjoy ourselves.

The compulsion to consume: we make money in order to spend it on crap we don’t need when we’re not on the clock. Entire industries are dedicated to filling up our leisure time, to satisfy our need for (temporary) freedom. The totality of this process escapes us. Adorno: “Hence the ease with which free time is integrated; people are unaware of how utterly unfree they are, even where they feel most at liberty, because the rule of such unfreedom has been abstracted from them” (191).

Threatened by the specter of boredom, people crave distractions. Adorno holds nothing back in his condemnation of our obsession with the cheap thrills popular culture provides:

People have been refused freedom, and its value belittled, for such a long time that now people no longer like it. They need shallow entertainment, by means of which cultural conservatism patronizes and humiliates them, in order to summon up the strength for work, which is required of them under the arrangement of society which cultural conservatism defends. (193)

The culture industry placates us, snuffs out the faintest flicker of rebellion in the heart of man. Capitalism finds support in a cultural conservatism that reinforces the compulsion to work and spend, work and spend. A “shocking” movie or provocative painting makes no significant political difference after we’ve consumed it. The status quo remains. Tomorrow’s shift awaits.

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Might As Well Trump

Two hypotheses regarding Donald Trump’s surge in the polls.

The first: Trump’s plain-speaking approach serves as a political corrective, a rallying cry against tired postmodern identity politics. His campaign is a referendum against evil Progressives and their audacious demands that all persons deserve dignity and a chance to succeed.

The second: Trump’s rise signals the next stage in the natural progression of a morally bankrupt political system that bears no relation to the people it claims to represent.

Ann Coulter but with less testosterone, Trump “gets” nothing and he’ll get nothing done. He’s the political voice of disaffected Americans who sacrifice their economic interests for the promise of making America great again—code for kicking out Mexicans and drug-testing welfare recipients.

Obama became a celebrity president. Trump wants to be celebrity-in-chief—executive producer of a new brand of must-see TV.

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Do No Harm

[W]hy not take the view that the fundamental rule is that of evil, and that any happy event throws itself into question? Is it not true optimism to consider the world a fundamentally negative event, with many happy exceptions? By contrast, does not true pessimism consist in viewing the world as fundamentally good, leaving the slightest accident, to make us despair of that vision? (Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories III, 1997, p. 138)

After last week’s mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, it’s hard to discount Baudrillard’s emphasis on the presence of evil throughout the world. Baudrillard might sound like a wounded Romantic, but there’s no denying we spend a great deal of our lives either in the midst of tragedy or recovering from it.

The pain and suffering caused by the gunman, twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof, reminds me of another French philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre, a firm believer in the free will of the individual, wrote that when a person makes a choice he chooses for himself, but he also chooses for mankind. My choices affect other people and their choices. This is Sartre’s ethics, his caution against acting always in one’s self-interest.

Roof acted alone, but we are complicit as a nation, with our tolerance for hatred and history of institutional racism. Still, the nine lives he took are his burden now. Evil speaks to some more than others, but it touches us all. It’s a crime that Roof ignored a very important lesson: “If you can’t help others, at least do no harm.”

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Dash Bored

Last week Amazon announced a new way to structure our lives around buying shit from Amazon: the Dash button. To avoid a detergent crisis place the Dash with the Tide logo on your washer. When you’re nearing your last load simply press the Dash to order more soap. Of course, you’ll still need to verify the purchase on a smartphone, tablet or (if you’re old-fashioned like me) a laptop.

This is great news for people with busy lives and no time to waste. Sorry, Mr. Keats, but efficiency—not truth—is beauty.

But more free time increases our chances for boredom. To combat consumer angst I hereby announce the Stash button, your on-the-spot vice shop.

Jonesing for chocolate? Stash has teamed with Nabisco, Keebler and Hershey’s to help send you into a diabetic coma at the flick of the wrist.

Down to your last Oxy? Out of Zoloft? Stash knows a guy who knows a guy. With a little help from your friends at Pfizer you’ll be riding the wave in no time.

Traditional porn too soft? Stash has you covered. One click and we’ll deposit thousands of kink links into your spank bank, available for immediate withdrawal.

We’re working with the FDA, FBI and DEA to help smart shoppers secure the best deals on American staples like alcohol, tobacco and firearms. Lawyers and lobbyists (many of whom are lawyers) are pounding the pavement to help you get off.

In this age of over-stimulation there’s no limit to our capacity for numbness. Paper towels are nice, but when life gets messy I’m anxious for a bounty only Stash provides.

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Breaking News

An event, especially a painful experience, feels most intense to the person or people directly involved in it. Hearing about something that happened to someone else can be troubling, but pales in comparison to the discomfort the sufferer endures.

Say I break my leg. As news of my accident spreads to people in my immediate circle, the impact of the event carries weight, but its magnitude decreases as the story passes through the grapevine and filters out away from me. I matter to a small group of family and friends, but beyond them my suffering means little, save for the doctors and nurses who treat my injury.

But what happens when Harrison Ford breaks his leg, as he did earlier this month on the set of the new Star Wars film? The media pick up the story, turning coverage of the event into an event in itself. First it’s reported he broke his ankle; it matters not that a few days later we learn it’s his leg. As word spreads, the truth of Ford’s experience undergoes profound shifts. Our attention quickly turns to questions like: How does this affect filming? Will this delay the film’s release? What scene was he shooting? What more might I learn about this blockbuster-in-waiting?

I break news of my mishap on Twitter and Facebook or look for sympathy on my blog. I post a video of me falling, the snapping of the bone ready at the click of “play.” The personal is public. A lot less people care about my misfortunes than Ford’s fans do about his, but strangers whom I’ll never meet find out that I’m in pain thanks to the gospel of gossip: social media.

As information accelerates—as we share and overshare detail after detail—the lived experience of individual events gets discounted, forgotten, displaced. My truth, as it passes from person to person—and Ford’s truth, as it cycles from news outlet to news outlet—gathers false details and suffers from serious omissions, such that appearances trump the Real. But nobody cares about the truth; we simply need to know everything all the time without considering sources or fussing over facts.

It’s like saying “orange” over and over in a short span to the point of exhaustion. The tongue turns “orange” inside out, perverting its sound, stretching it into nonsense. The media repeat (reproduce) stories many times over, draining them of substance, erasing all traces of human suffering. Lost in the business of its global display, tragedy becomes spectacle. Remember: we’re only considering a famous actor’s broken leg; what might we say about America’s recent reentry into Iraq or the VA scandal that resulted in the deaths of veterans waiting for medical care?

Every accident becomes spectacle. Pain becomes mundane. When everything’s covered, when no moment escapes the watchful eye of real-time “expert analysis,” the spectacle itself is breaking news.

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