The Courier’s Keep, new poem – 26 October 2016

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In memory of lost friends, for Suzanne

Still she walks beneath the Lake,
taking the path she could not take,
she took it nonetheless;
With silver skin and coral crown
adorned with pearls and sea-leaves gown,
Is keeper of the broken bow;
Specter of grief, the waves, she weeps,
Drowning herself that she might keep,
the souls of those who wish to sink.

Each sailor lost knows that dread path,
along the riverbank and grass,
To greet –
the Wailing widow of the Deep;
And they pray upon the Path
That their souls and hearts, she’ll keep;
the living left from grief and death –
And spared the Demon’s Teeth.

She is the courier between,
the Glass Cathedral and the Dream;
Deliverer of each message, and each bottle,
ever found upon a beach,
she took the path we cannot take,
but must take nonetheless;
Between the Morning and the Rest,
Along the path that we must take,
Through the long grass to the Lake,
where she the guide may in Long Spring
Walk on,
to take the weak and wearied Home.

Tupac’s ‘Changes’, a literary review

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For the American rapper and poet Tupac Shakur, who performed under the stage name 2pac until his death in September of 1996, Changes was, upon release, considered to be a step backward from a groundbreaking and impressive career. Though I won’t shame the critic by naming him, the critic believed that the gospel stylings in the chorus and the piano was pandering to white audiences. This may not be necessarily true on 2psc’s part; but not keeping his music exclusive to a particular culture is in the spirit of equality and therefore something to be applauded.

I don’t think this is what brought the white audience in; I think this is the musical equivalent of Ray Charles recording Georgia. It strayed away from his usual fair and, when that happens in an artist’s career, there is always the accusation of pandering, selling out, or backsliding; I think by branching out into different styles of music 2pac was able to bring in a larger audience. This is what solidified 2pac as more than just a bad boy or a thug, and turned him into a social commentator and poet.

He still had the image of the bad boy of gangster rap when Changes was released; it showed not only an unprecedented cultural and political perspective in hip-hop, but in the long run humanized a caricature, making his message harder to dismiss. Now his most well-known and beloved song, it was once named as one of his 10 worst by Rolling Stone.

If there’s any correlation between another person’s attempt at artistry which, upon release, was considered backsliding, it was The Shining by Stanley Kubrick; a man who brought us some of the most famous and revered scenes and movies in the history of cinema throughout his career, including the proverbial ‘good’ science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most visionary films ever made, despite audiences understanding it as much as the apes at the beginning of the film understood the obviously unnatural monolith. They didn’t understand it, but it changed something in them, awakened a new capacity. Keep this in mind.

To look at The Shining with modern eyes, we see one of the most iconic horror films ever made, an enduring, unnerving classic full of immortal moments; a masterpiece one could say, and one of the finest pieces of film to ever to be screened. There are many people, having watched it in the past few years, who had, by innumerable pop-culture references, seen almost every scene in the film in one medium or another; that’s how ubiquitous it is in modern culture, standing as a cultural milestone in film history. Bear with me; the relationship between The Shining and Changes will be made clear.

Stanley Kubrick is responsible for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, Paths of Glory, Eyes Wide Shut, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, and Full Metal Jacket— all of which received enormous critical success and frequently turn up on Top 10 and Top 100 lists. Then there was The Shining, for which Stanley Kubrick, a man responsible for masterpiece after masterpiece after masterpiece, received a worst director nomination for the Razzies. Worst director.

Lies are often referred to as scandals, but it’s not off the mark to consider some truths to be just as scandalous, if not more so, than your run of the mill scandal. Especially in The Shining; we are here confronted with terrors much worse than the fictions of the werewolf or the vampire, the mummy or the ghosts: there are things in this world more terrible than vampires and werewolves, mummies and warlocks and Plans 1-9 From Outer Space, and they are more terrible because they are real, and even more terrible because they’re common.

These are houses haunted by the living, living amid child abuse, alcoholism, and domestic violence. This is the relationship between 2pac’s Changes, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The horror in these poetic works is the horror of the real world. Discounting whatever Kubrick was going for with the ending, the abusive father and husband, an alcoholic and egotist, terrorizes his family in very real, very human ways. And 2pac’s Changes evokes the same sense of real life horror. The horror is not in its novelty, its singularity; the horror is in its frequency, its pervasiveness—not only in American slums but around the world.

They are both horror stories, hauntings, and Changes is a world of teenage ghosts who died for shoes or change; shot in the streets for their watch or misplaced rage stemming from hopelessness and a crushing sense of futility, their spirits giving resonance to the evocative but ironically flat and passive refrain, ‘hey, that’s the way it is,’ – a quietus, acknowledged as an accepted absurdity in wistfulness, and these young men and women imbue the delicacies of the piano sampling, the echo effects being reminiscent of the lost; echoes as they are, emanations Tupac channels in his lyrics. The horrors in this song aren’t just a family trapped in a haunted house; it’s a nation trapped in haunted house full of the ghosts of racism, poverty, distrust and vendetta.

In a concrete prison, each war a maze of alleyways to nowhere, a Minotaur at the end of every corner, a world transformed into a permanent purgatory and Tupac expresses this purgatory and the nonchalance, or suspected nonchalance of the ineffectual response in government. This is what upset the stomach of the 5 star restaurant crowd, putting them off their lobster and linguini; a land of the free in which an entire culture is without the afforded liberty to give expression to their rage and their confusion and their anger. In a way that Shakespeare gave the English a sense of who they were, what their struggles were to be in life, Tupac Shakur was this to millions of people in ghettos and poverty stricken neighborhoods.

With some of the best lyrical structures of his career, and a chorus channeling the ghosts to whom Tupac is giving voice, add up to a socially conscious song that, in the abstract, encapsulated a confused point in a culture’s arrested evolution caught between inarticulate screaming and a measured, silent response to a government unconcerned with poverty stricken neighborhoods.

2pac the rapper is a character within the song, and Tupac the person is as well, as a cynic, an optimist, and social critic, as well as what would get him dubbed a preacher and a visionary. There is also another narrative voice, the common man, the streetwalker, trapped by debt and lack of economic opportunity. Drug trafficking in these communities is rigorously opposed by cops. This is by design.

The likelihood of going to college is low; a high school diploma guarantees nothing. They are left in a permanent economic depression, a limbo somewhere between poverty and lower class.

Selling crack is perhaps the biggest cliché about ghetto culture and is used as a way to malign someone’s character. It is not a reflection of the moral decay of an individual; it’s a reflection of the decay at the root of a system that creates beggars—starvation in between buffets.

Drugs are gasoline for cars that cannot run on gas, or cars that can but just can’t will themselves to do so; it is fuel for working cars that think they’re broken. Changes is a rich literary work and will take some effort to unpack and do a proper critical study; but, as this is kind of what this book is for, that’s what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

Cont.

 

Perspectives emerge through contextual correlation. It begins with Tupac the person reflecting from the perspective of the streetwalker narrator, a narrator whose perspective is from a life of drugs and crime and violence, an exaggerated parody of what Tupac’s critics believed him to be; this voice comes in after the first two lines. This is a thematic response to contrary perspectives within the stanza. Tupac reflects before it’s made implicit; as it is a written piece, it isn’t necessary to be linear to make a cohesive whole.

The first line sees Tupac the person–the person behind songs like this, not 2pac the rapper behind songs like Hail Mary– waking up; this has been related to enlightenment, to a heightened awareness, and it is an ancient dramatic device which evokes the revelatory and poignant by appealing to the best within us all.

The first lines come chronologically, within the song, after the first lines are spoken, as the first two lines are a reflection of the third and fourth lines. The streetwalker narrator’s interplay with Tupac the person plays a big part in the first verse; the contrast between someone living the life and someone reflecting on that life.

It is possible, if not probable, that the contrast is between what a person is–disenchanted with being a streetwalker– reflecting on the way they were preemptively to provide context for such remarks, as they’re often augmented by the Tupac voice before they’re made or immediately–sometimes midline–after they’re spoken. Tupac the thug shows up too, in later lines, but Tupac the person begins in reflection:

I see no changes;

Wake up in the morning and I ask myself 

Is life worth living, should I blast myself?

If the change is not between different narrative aspects, it is interesting to consider: the narrator’s first thoughts upon awakening are of suicide.

I’m tired of feeling poor, and even worse, I’m black       My stomach hurts so I’m looking for a purse to snatch.

By immediately linking crime to poverty the discourse is forced to look at the roots of crime, to poverty. The character is being imbued with a crisis of conscience because of what he feels is necessary just to eat. The suggestion that criminals are not by default born to be criminals again asks the listener to consider what can justify the actions behind this kind of crime and the character behind the actions of what used to be easily dismissible criminals without motive beyond self-gratification.

It may be this realization that led to the initial crisis:: the likelihood of positive change taking place in his lifetime can seem to be a naïve dream.  In the face of hopelessness, many people feel that suicide is the only answer, which leads to the following, highly charged interplay between Tupac the person and the streetwalker narrator.

Cops give a damn about a negro,

         Pull the trigger, kill a nigger,    He’s a hero. 

As irreverent as this sentiment seems, it is a harsh, but sharp analysis of life as seen through the eyes only a poet or philosopher can put to use; to take in knowledge for storage is education; education and creativity is the synthesis through which true intelligence is expressed. Genius is the degree of poignancy and depth the expression possesses.

The poet is always present; as you can see how he interjects more rhythm with the false stop between what would be two end-sentence word rhymes with the ‘pull the trigger, kill the nigger’ line. It’s crude, but it’s an elegant technique to interject a degree of thematic resonance into what could’ve just moved the song along.  The best writers always find a way to make words within end-rhyme structured sentences connect each other in more ways than rhyme; and in this rhyme he ties trigger and with nigger, in rhyme and, at the same time, negro and hero along with all that implies.

Sensitive as he is, making such a comment ‘pull the trigger, kill a nigger, he’s a hero’ with such distance and frequency has left him undoubtedly callous and jaded. This is another facet of the artist, prismatic in contrasting internal conflict. While the streetwalker voice may be desperate, the cynic is what he is because of a life mired in not only a miserable cycle, but a tiring, taxing, emotionally draining cycle, making old men of teenagers. The next verse is a direct exchange between narrative voices:

Give crack to the kids

(Who the hell cares?)

         One less hungry mouth on the welfare.

And he continues in the same, ironic voice, this time in the third person:

 First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers

Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other.

The commonality of black on black crime in the 90’s got to the point where it wasn’t turning any heads.

         ‘It’s time to fight back,’ that’s what Huey said.

         Two shots in the dark, now Huey’s dead.

This moment is transformative; in the presence of death, Tupac becomes a sharp social critic and voice of a generation of disenfranchised, disaffected youths whilst simultaneously broadening awareness and pushing for change in other communities that might not have cared had he not tackled these issues, had he continued to play it safe. When the optimist within him comes to the forefront in the presence of tragedy, he is a grand consoler; and he realizes that although there is some hope for the hopeless, he still hasn’t shed his doubt completely and wont, but in making this song, it is the embodiment of the famous Rosa Parks aphorism:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

The narrative voices are still conflicting. The interlocutor, the operating consciousness, is expressing solidarity, consolation; perhaps by recognizing these elements within himself, he finally achieves a sort of peace and in making peace with himself sees how peace is possible for all men and women:

 I got love for my brother,

 but we can never go nowhere 

unless we share with each other. 

We gotta start making changes, 

learn to see each other as a brother

instead of two  different strangers.

Although he sees the need for changes, he unconsciously ties the rhyme of changes with strangers. Earlier in the song, he tied negro and hero, trigger and nigger; now he’s tying changes and strangers—after saying earlier he wished he could go back to the way things were when he was a kid–after changing. He understands that the type of change he is suggesting is tantamount to a cultural death, the death of a shared hardship having created, and broken, so many bonds; and the loss of that identity is not something to be mourned because he sees it as poverty, drugs, crime, and death.

Although shedding a cultural identity is long and hard, people are addicted, psychologically, and are dedicated to remain ‘true’ to who they are, even if who they are is destructive to themselves and others in some way or another. As the Tupac narrative voice realizes, he has a cultivated image, which allows him to prevaricate between critic, satirist, and the stereotypical thug introduced in the first verse; his personality and identity is something to which he is dedicated. Even as he rebukes this caricature, the revolutionary he invokes is killed; and this is what it takes—horror of the highest order—to truly bring people together as a truly human family whose patriotism is to the world shared by us all. It’s a harsh truth that while murder can bring out the worst in people—in revenge killings, wars—it can also permeate higher social strata and breathe life into advocacy that is capable of making lasting change.

         And that’s how it’s supposed to be,     how can the devil take a brother

         when he’s close to me?

Even this optimism changes when he realizes that change isn’t a cure-all; it won’t bring back any friends or family, to be able to rewind the tape of history and leave the pain on the cutting room floor, with only childhood left enchanted, PG, not a horror movie. He says as much with the following:

I’d love to go back to when we played as kids, 

but things have changed,

and that’s the way it is.

Even though his anaphoric usage of ‘I see no changes,’ is not only a master class in rhetoric, it is each time, by the end of the verse, revised as Tupac realizes that all things change; it’s how we know that time is happening. The idea, however, is that now, although change is inevitable, he has a particular idea of what changes could take place to improve the lives of millions of people.

The bridge between verses has a touch of irony in it which always fascinated me The idea that change, even if it’s for a greater good, which the positivist narrator seems to be endorsing, the change that narrative voice longs for creates strangers. Habits are hard to break, even when they’re unhealthy; smoking, drinking, writing. Although these things are known to be bad for our health, it’s hard to give it up.

That’s just the way it is,

This line is important in establishing a sense of permanence to the situation advocated by the positivist narrator. The second line flatly contradicts it by stating that everything changes;

Things will never be the same.

That’s ‘the way it is’ establishes the idea of a hopeless society on the verge of self-destruction, and ‘things will never be the same’ contrasts combative attitudes towards what change is within the writer, between the different narrative voices, and what is in the realm of possibility.

I see no changes,

all I see is racist faces,     ]

misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under. 

I believe this misplaced hate is a reference to the pervasiveness, or perceived pervasiveness of black on black crime in the inner cities; this ‘misplaced hate’ is an embarrassment to Tupac, because he believes this kind of behavior reinforces the negative opinions of black culture, and is especially embarrassing to the races he feels that black people are ‘under’ in his view of America’s caste system. The previous narrative points of view are abandoned; excepting the invented dialogue later in the verse, which is a dialogue between what Tupac knows people have to do, and his own idealism towards what the streetwalker character has to do to survive.

The reason behind Tupac’s legacy as the greatest rapper in the history of hip-hop is because of this level of thoughtfulness and poetic sensibility, as well as his gift for rhythm and performance. It was something that hip-hop until then had lacked, or at least was rare. Public enemy was a political force, for sure, and empowering. But with delicate rhyme structures and intermixed commentary, the setup for the last verse is Tupac’s rediscovery of who he is and what he has to do.

I wonder what it takes to make this one better place…

This philosophical epithet is punctuated by two perfect rhymes, takes and make, and one family rhyme, place. It could be said that Tupac could have gotten his message across in ways other than rap, but since he was so good with words it made him available to a larger audience, an audience that replays their music over and over in a way that isn’t possible with books or traditional speeches and is much more accessible. He also recognizes that the good within is motivated by the American promise of opportunity and that is not something which should be color coded.

Take the evil out the people,

Although I can understand the interpretation that there is a defensiveness and maybe even hostility towards white culture—or at least a subset within it—people wasn’t just used here because it rhymed well; all are created equal—a statement which has no asterisk.

…They’ll be acting right,

‘Cause both black and white are smoking crack tonight.

The reason this song could be made is because of how good Tupac could rap and write; he had a wonderful voice to give expression to his thought. In the next bar, his multisyllabic and intricate rhyme structures demonstrate his versatility. It’s easy to forget the weight behind the statement because of how well it flows and how well it works as just music.

And the only time we chill is when we kill each other     It takes skill to be real time to heal each other. 

It’s easy for the message to be overlooked when it’s packaged in this manner. Tupac obliges in the last verse with typical rap fodder, perhaps as a reward for our patience. He recognizes more and more how truly equal we really are throughout. He doesn’t refuse to acknowledge what he sees as universal, what is present in everybody, and it’s unclear in my reading of the song how he would suggest this be changed, or even if he thought it could be. Throughout the song, he acknowledges behavior he’s not proud of, shown drug trafficking and usage. But true equality in deed does not equal equality in prosecution and this hasn’t ever really been a secret.

It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact

The penitentiary’s packed and it’s filled with blacks.

In all works of art, literature and poetry, there is a level of ambiguity; sometimes it is intentional, sometimes the artist didn’t really know what the fuck he was talking about, and sometimes it is another instance of the connection-correlation-conclusion method of proof, at least in academic theory.

There are conflicting characters in this work, and it comes down to the simple observation that these conflicting characters are not just conflicting views held by the author, but a microcosm for a culture at war with itself, an internal struggle that manifests in violence and hate.

As for change: the song is full with different ideas on what this is, what it should be, what it’d make better, what it’d make worse; the good parts and the bad. In the first verse, one conflicting narrative voice considers change as the nature of the way things are. Near the end of the second verse, there is a reflective denouncement of this idea coming from another aspect of the same person.

But sometimes things will never change Try to show another way  but they stayin in the dope game

         But tell me what’s a mother to do

        Being real don’t appeal to the brother in you.

         You gotta operate the easy way.         “I made a G today.” 

         But you made it in a sleazy way

         Sellin’ crack to the kids

          I gotta get paid.”

         Well hey, that’s the way it is.

When someone of great persuasion and authority says something real but unfortunate, it will always be politically incorrect. The concept of political correctness comes from a type of censorship regarding the way we address certain aspects of culture and aspects of other people’s culture. Unfortunately, this doesn’t win you any popularity contests. Tupac was a controversial writer up until the time of his death–at the age of 25!–and the media never looked at his death as anything other than typical black on black violence, something which, earlier in the song, Tupac considered an embarrassment to his culture.

In the monologue between the second and final verse, he offers a plea not unlike Charlie Chaplin’s when he finally spoke at the end of The Great Dictator:

Charlie Chapman:

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone — if possible – Jew, Gentile, black man — white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate or despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

The monologue Tupac gives is in the same spirit as Chaplin’s.

We gotta make a change…
It’s time for us as a people to start making some   changes.
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
and let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working
so it’s on us to do  what we gotta do, to survive.

It’s hard to pin down where Tupac is leaning idealistically in this song. He had the capacity to look at it from every realistic point of view, and it’s not clear if he’s even happy with having made the song, in his identification with Huey; he certainly saw poverty as penultimate to crime, and desperation to drug use and sell, but it’s not clear whether or not he believes positive change is even possible. In one line, he despairs of change; in another, he longs for the innocence and purity of a youth not yet disillusioned by experience and cynicism.

Answering the Proust Questionnaire, 2016

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Because I’m lazy and don’t respect buzzfeed, but respect being idle even more-so.

On Tue, 25 Oct 16 05:39:08 UTC Brandon Nobles (31) answered the Proust Questionnaire (click on a question to read other answers):

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The inability to see the end of present troubles, to lose someone, to be miserable as to think one deserving of it
Where would you like to live?
Somewhere quiet, by water, or Venice
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Satisfaction with what you have and contented to wait for what you want
To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
To think highly of myself when I do the bare minimum to earn it, or to feel the need to earn and attain validation or approval
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Antigone, hero of Sophocles play (the one without the mother fucker Oedipus), Alyosha Karamazov (Brothers Karamazov)
Who are your favorite characters in history?
A mixture of Epicurus, Catherine the Great, Vermeer, Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Caesar Augustus, Sun Tsu, Spinoza, Hypatia, Niels Bohr, Richard Feynmann, 
Who are your favorite heroines in real life?

JK Rowling, Valentina Lisitsa, 

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Explicitly: Albertine (In Search of Lost Time), Madame Bovary (Flaubert’s novel of the same name), Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark/No One, Daenerys Stormbornof House Targeryen, First of her name, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Queen of the Rhoynar and the Andals and the First Men, and Protector of the Realm. (etc)
Your favorite painter?
Vermeer or Rembrandt. I shall not choose.
Your favorite musician?
Beethoven
The quality you most admire in a man?
kindness, honesty, intelligence
The quality you most admire in a woman?
kindness, honesty, intelligence
Your favorite virtue?
Patience, for it is the one that is unattainable by more hard work
Your favorite occupation?
Reading of great destruction and war, writing about peace, attempting to live peacefully by lessons learned from war.
Who would you have liked to be?
A pacifist Emperor, to have all the strength on Earth, to have never used it
Your most marked characteristic?
effort, attempting to pass off months of light-work as the concentration of smaller time frames to give the impression of more effort, itself an effort, over-explaining apparent shit.
What do you most value in your friends?
trust when I don’t deserve it; love when I don’t want it; understanding when I am unintelligible
What is your principle defect?
Accepting the fact that one has defects on one hand an omnipotent creator on the other hand who acknowledges no blame in this imperfection
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Never to have known my mother, father, brothers, or sisters.
What would you like to be?
Myself, as I would want those I love to see me
What is your favorite color?
if to select by the suggestion of a color’s character, red, otherwise a color is defined as pleasing by its harmony or disharmony with others, in concert alone do they achieve their great effects
What is your favorite flower?
All, any
What is your favorite bird?
the white cockatoo, or blue macaw. A blue macaw once called me a fuck. True story. I admired her courage. 
Who are your favorite prose writers?
Robert Graves, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Issac Asimov, George R. R. Martin, Arthur C. Clarke, JK Rowling, Helen Rappaport, Simon Schama
Who are your favorite poets?
Oscar Wilde, Omar Khayyam (as translated by Edward Fitzgerald in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam), Ed Al Poe, W.B. Yeats, Chateaubriand, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath 
Who are your heroes in real life?
My mother, my brothers, hundreds of writers, artists, comedians, people that are just great that I know, professors, teachers, educators, actors, playwrights, satirists, friends, people who loan me money on faith without interest. 
Who are your favorite heroines of history?
Elizabeth I (of England), Elizabeth I (of Russia), Catherine the Great, Big Head Yang, legendary Chinese pirate who controlled the rivers of Nanjing during the 19th century
What are your favorite names?
Julian Bashir, Robert, or Edgar, or Roger, Khalil, Khan Noonien Soong, Brent, Mycroft, Irene, Josephine, Vincent, Marcus, Bethanya, Katerina. 
What is it you most dislike?
Being defective, having things that deserve distaste
What historical figures do you most despise?
Adol Fitler, Yosef Steel, Pol Pot; Hong Xiuquan (Jesus’ little brother, it’s this whole thing…) Konstantine I (AKA, Herald of the Dark Ages and the founding member of the band that would later play reunion tours in Spain, Judea, Egypt, and the many cover bands that have risen, most notably in modern times Osama Bin-Laden with varying degrees of cult-success following their military gains.
Speaking of: Ayatollah Khomeini, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Bolshevik assassin, Andrew Jackson, Christopher Columbus, Herman Cortes, Torquemada, and a veritable buffet of unworthy Tartars, the assassin of Chancellor Galron ON A DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN THE WAKE OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KLINGON MOON. MURDERERS! Luckily Spock was able to bring truth to this before the assassination of the Federation President; people ignorant of actual history; Historians who disfigure the truth to beautify themselves or the criminals who support them, see: This list is actually too long for me, but you can check the author of Henry Kissinger’s biography)
What event in military history do you most admire?
Hannibal’s victory at Cannae, the Liberation of Vichy France, Napoleon at Austerlitz, the forces of Caesar Augustus defeating Marc Antony at Actium
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
the ability to bear with ease what I struggle to deal with now
How would you like to die?
A better man than I am
What is your present state of mind?
Work everyday without excuse, do not sleep without earning respite, and no excuse is necessary: progress in everything at all cost, physical, emotional,  and psychological.
What is your motto?
“Don’t make the statue until the battle’s won.” 

In anticipating an upcoming publication, I was asked to provide a biography, but being too shameful for an honest one and too lazy for a forgery, I decided to fill out a questionnaire, so I that I would, at least, earn my reputation, poor or otherwise, or just be another quickly quickly forgotten internet writer whom, as you may remember, probably said stuff, of that you can be certain, my friends. I chose one I knew by reputation of the author whose name has become attached to a question given to the young writer Marcel Proust.

On Gun Violence, 12 October 2016

It is a popular fear, and no one’s quite sure where it started, and many people reading this will recognize it — the idea that President Obama plans to take your guns. It’s not only popular among those with tinfoil accessories (though it seems that, by the time a tinfoil hat is necessary, the reason for wearing it has already failed – not only might you be insane your fashion sense is fucked), but among people who see the idea of a traditional life going away for them, have made this a symbol issue of ruralism, the idea that Obama nefariously waits to take all the guns — that’s right, even that Red Rider .22 you got for your birthday and you jammed it because you thought you could beat a stop sign with the butt of a rifle. But I paid for the stop sign, you say, and 20 days community service was absolute bullshit.

The point is, despite all this talk about Red Riders and rifle butts and Obama tapping his index fingers atop his throne of bones, no guns have been taken. Except guns taken from people who have previously shot someone, and are then going to the stripey hole. Which is good, right? Someone commits a crime, you take away the instrument of that crime. That’s justice 101: someone kills another person, that person must have their guns taken away. No one gets arrested by the police for murder and gets to keep their piece when they’re booked and indicted. Let’s apply this.

If someone commits a robbery at the age of 12, and it’s more than a slim jim when you thought your mom for sure wouldn’t buy it because she had already got you a big mac, how about putting them at the back of the gun line? It doesn’t have to be a restriction: an application, and a review, and a line. If someone has incidents of violence, drug use, recklessness, burning of kittens, killing ants with convex lenses like the worst Sherlock Holmes ever, etc, you make them wait until they realize — well, one of two things: you’ve found out about the ants and they’re probably wanted for murder, or they will have to get a gun from someone else and FAST. Criminal actions past robbery, such as homicide, and even suicide, are done as spur of the moment cries for the sweet release of nothingness.

In a documentary covering the suicides at Golden Gate Bridge in California it was found that many people who were resigned to killing themselves in the moment, when saved never tried to kill themselves again, and even found a renewed appreciation for their lives. Now, is it easier to harm another person or yourself? Put at this way: if you had to choose between holding your hand in a fire or holding the hand of another in a fire, how long would you let that fucker burn?

Now, since we have no such documentary showing what happens when someone, near to committing murder, is suddenly stopped peaceably without popular notice or going to jail for attempted murder, and how their lives are affected when and if the instinct to straight up murder a fool returns. Now, we live in a word in which people have to straight up murder fools, because we look at it in this light – that people murder things, not other people, real and as capable of feeling and passion as they are – and they don’t do this with any other tragedy.

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More water!

The reason the solution to gun violence is gun violence has nothing to do, necessarily, with guns themselves; but they are representative of a traditional, rural way of life, when to live off the land was a sign of coming of age, and self-sufficiency was looked at with the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ted Kaczynski, and those survivalists who still haven’t received word in their bunkers that the Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen.

But if you look at the argument long enough, the obviousness of it being less of an active desire to murder, or be party to thousands of deaths a year, as it as an active desire to feel like you’re a part of the fight. The fight isn’t on the street, with the guns, but in the arena of ideals over what it means to be American, and whether the progress of the 21st century is possible, or even compatible, with what blue states and liberal jerk-offs like me would call ‘red states’ — but these people are just as people as other people, not necessarily mindless racists who condone murder. The difference between dismissing someone out of hand and arbitrary murder is the same thing, in a way, as either way a sort of life is being taken. One is a way of life, the other is a way to live. And to attempt to remove the essence of a life through force will always be met by hesitating, and it is the understandable disquiet of feeling a disconnect between the culture of your formative years and where it appears to be heading.

These are not caricatures or imbeciles and are as American as Americans can be, yet we must agree that no one body or person should be able to define what that means to the exclusion of undesirables, public or political, for dehumanization once started is hard to stop. Thinking of people as homogeneous, ill-defined groups makes it easy to ignore the individual human cost, something history demands us to consider.

Now, if Obama had enacted plans to take half the guns in supply stores from around the country, and there are, for the sake of argument, 10,000 homicides committed with guns purchased at licensed dealers. Had Obama taken half of the guns from the supply train, or made the owners and managers liable for selling weaponry to potentially dangerous people — to campaign against the checking of backgrounds when selling a weapon but think it’s fine to check a life history to employ someone at McDonald’s without seeing that this is drastically fucked illustrates this problem. But is it really about the Constitution, or the 2nd Amendment?

Well, it’s about a spirit, a spirit that many people in Red States feel is coming to an end, and it has nothing to do with the constitution, but the constitution of Americans, the constitution of American character, and perhaps that tradition is dying out. That only calls for more attempts at bridging this gap, instead of finding an asshole on your side to fight the asshole on somebody else’s side. You don’t defeat an asshole by becoming them; you become another monster along the path to progress that must be slain.

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Another case solved, Watson. To the cocaine!

Lastly, with the Patriot Act being signed into law, it effectively granted emergency powers in the dealing with terrorism which allowed for constitutional rights to be suspended: held without being charged with a crime, subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, denied a right to a lawyer, a phone call cause that’s just something from the movies, or a trial, as people now sit in Gitmo without being charged with a crime. This is convenient though a violation of the constitution and the moment it becomes arbitrary, when you can justify the suspension of constitutional rights for the sake of necessity, the fight to keep the convenience of what you personally support is when you must admit that it is selective and based on the level of comfort you have in regards to fear; terrorists pose a threat to our way of life, to the extent that major political parties and their supporters are all for diminishing the 1st Amendment that grants the freedom of speech and of religion as a response engendered by fear, again, of the Others, who will try to take your gun, one of the remaining vestiges of American manifest destiny and self-determination.

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The Others take you(r guns)

It’s not just a phallic symbol, or a substitute for masculinity, but a vestige of a former life not yet taken by liberals or through progressives; and these people, and they are people as much as people can be people, feel their way of life is being challenged, that it’s dying. And, for the most part, it is.  What has long been the pillar of rural communities, the church, has seen a drastic shift in social attitudes toward the church, with issues that very much matter to these people – whether they should be allowed to choose for others is not something I will cede – which are essentially moral issues, issues disguised as moral issues but used by calculating panderers, those who find comfort in the Monster, as long as it’s their monster, and lets them keep the comforts of their traditional fears, allowing us to stay safe knowing we sacrificedour skin to save our bones.

So, what do we do George, what do we do?

I mentioned earlier the idea of screenings as a measure of delaying a gun purchase in the hopes that it might allow potential murderers to rethink their plan while they go through the bureaucracy of having their police record checked, possible behavioral problems, and when the check comes through, the arms provider would be responsible for making a decision: to allow for said person to possess a firearm. Now, in this system, those who sell guns to people who end up committing murder, the person who provided them would then be in the awkward position of habing to submit their report of the bill of sale, the issues involved in the character evaluation, and then try to justify why they’d risk selling a pistol to someone who once burnt down an orphanage.

Now, if you can take 1 out of 10 potential gun deaths out of the equation, and 10 out of one hundred, extrapolated to 100,000 gun deaths, simply by denying one out of ten due to past behavioral concerns could save 10,000 lives. By holding salesmen responsible for the weapons they sold, it will make them more diligent in attempting to see those who are purchasing guns have the soundness of mind to be entrusted with something capable of easily, EASILY, taking many, many lives. This is why the argument that ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’ fails for so many people; for one, without the gun, the people wouldn’t be killed, and a gun allows for long distance, easy murder, the mass killings of many people with little to no true skill.

Now, if we lived in feudal Japan and were protected by a local warrior, with a sword, to fight passing warlords, with a sword, these people would be some of the most highly skilled warriors of all time and would need great skill to kill two people with their skill and weapon. While a kid, lazily, could wipe out that entire village, shooting that punk ass samurai from 30 meters.  With a sword, it’d be a lot harder to kill more than 5 people without getting straight kilt. The right to hold the life of another person in y0ur hand should at least be more difficult than getting a driver’s license, as with driving without proper training you can easily take someone’s life, though it would be accidental.

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“Accidental”

Lastly, consider the implications of such responsibility by replacing the gun with a heroin needle. Heroin is strictly banned, for therapeutic and medicinal usage, because of its corrosive nature of the body and spirit, the physical dependency, the degradation of character — and yet, it would be hard, indeed, to take out half a bar with a needle full of heroin. You’d have to refill and cook and then just hope to prick as many people as possible.

WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BARE ARMS.*

But the argument that heroin doesn’t kill people, people kill people is never made — because heroin has no built in symbolism hard-coded into the framing document of our young democracy. So, to understand it as a hold-out for one vestige of a traditional world some feel to be fading is better than laughing at the funeral. And though it may be long burning, and yet protracted, in the end the gap between safety and retaining traditional cultural identities may be yet bridged and all Americans, red and blue, urban and rural, will have the right to bare arms. And perhaps someday we’ll return to a world of the sword, with a samurai at the watchtower of every building, there to protect us from ourselves. Because as long as this remains the couch of traditionalism we must never rise from, we might as well admit it to be born of fear, raised by feral nomads, looking for freedom loving people everything, to take their jobs and destroy their way of life.

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HEAVE! HEAVE!

 

*I’m not apologizing for that joke.

The Game of Changes

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This is a guide to the Game of Changes, a game of divination played by many characters in HEIR TO RUIN, it is used to look into the future, and is based on the definitions of the Sybil’s Dictionary, maintained by the Sybilline Order.  This game, while created for fictional characters to consult the Oracle of Chance, it can be played by readers through the usage of 32 cards. And patience.

1 – A note on telling fortunes by cards in the Game of Changes
2 – By Past, Present, and Future – the guide to the past through the present into the future
3 – Signification of the Cards – the meaning of individual cards
4 – Dealing by Threes – one method of dealing the cards
5 – Dealing by Seven – a second method of dealing
6 – Dealing by Fifteens – the last way of dealing.
7 – The Italian Method of Consulting the cards – how to read a fortune in the Italian way
8 – The Constellation Method of Consulting the cards – how to read the cards in the English way
9 – The Sybil’s Dictionary, a guide to omens and signs maintained by the Readers of the Game of Changes.
10 – Hypatia’s Lottery – Gambling with the Game of Changes