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Susan Karp - WRITE CLUB - Away, 11/16/11


Eric Ziegenhagen - WRITE CLUB - Home, 11/16/10


Ian Belknap - WRITE CLUB - Man, 11/16/11

Imagine I am juggling grand pianos. And as I amaze you by juggling these grand pianos, somebody tosses in a human infant – and you all gasp because you know to gasp when it matters.

The Machine does not gasp. With The Machine there is no gasping.

For a moment, I keep it together –somehow, by one of those “mom-lifting-the-minivan” type of miracles, I compensate for the mind-boggling weight differential between these concert grand pianos and this human infant. And you are torn between covering your eyes to avert knowledge of the grisly end you see coming and the tensed inability to turn away.

And that is enough. That is difference enough. You and I can know surprise. You and I share in the dizzy thrill of swooping that infant out of harm’s way. You and I know the same heart sickness when my grasp fails and that piano crushes that tender little body into a sodden red asterisk on this floor as 1,300 pounds of piano hit the deck.

The piano is a very fine machine – it takes eleven months to build one, longer than growing a baby. But the instant that sleek airborne piano splinters into a chaotic fright wig of shards – that moment pales. Its destruction cannot matter to us. Because however fine it may be, it is just a machine.

The infant, this baby, with its howls so suddenly stilled. This small person pinned beneath the husk of this machine, is everything.

This person, who was howling in fear and protest just a second ago, this soft little man with his copious leg fat and unruly comma of hair – he matters to us suddenly more than anything.

When this little guy gets unfairly crushed by the piano I had no business juggling in the first place, we will know remorse and pain. When HE gets crushed, WE get crushed with him, a little bit.

Not so The Machine. Even a machine as finely wrought with the Old World charm of a concert grand piano is just – ultimately – some THING.

When The Machine sees that I have through my inattention crushed the infant, the machine does not wish for it to be otherwise.

The Machine does not wish anything. Except to continue as it has. The Machine has no pity for pudgy babies put in the path of a plummeting piano. The Machine does not wish. The machine cannot pity.

True, machines do not know fear and want and sorrow. The Machine falls not victim to the too-yielding flesh with its surplus of appetites, and its fragility and indignity and decay.

But: The Machine does not aspire.

The Machine cannot yearn.

The Machine sure as shit does not collaborate. As finite and flawed and Man may be – the story of human progress is a fitful trapeze act. For my family or village or tribe to have prospered, I needed at some point to dangle from my ankles, hurtle out through a patch of the void and clasp the outstretched hands of one of my fellows. From the trees to the savannahs to the caves to the land bridges to the steppes and jungles and mountain passes. From a handful of us huddled around sputtering fires to city states and fiefdoms and packed, stacked cities skewering the bowl of the sky above us.

To be frank, we seldom get it right. For every successful trapezing – every time you clutch my wrists with enough certainty and power to get me to the little tent pole ledge over there across the big top, there have been scores of times when your grasp failed or when you have decided mid-flight that you don’t much care for the look of me as I come rocketing toward you, and you have withheld your hands. It was Man, after all, who invented the dick move.

And speaking as an often reluctant participant in this here human enterprise, I can say there are days I’d just as soon pitch the whole mess. When viewing what I have been assured is a “sure fire crowd pleaser,” I remain stubbornly unpleased.

But I further know that it is NEO that flies into the fucking sky at the end of The Matrix, NOT Agent Smith.

Clearly, Scarlet Johansen and Angelina Jolie, to name but two examples, are sex robots from the future, but they can never appear fully human. For they have never learned to feign interest.

For though The Machine has come from the future to destroy us, they cannot. We shall always spot them. Curse you, Skynet!


Ian Belknap - WRITE CLUB - Jesus, 12/22/10


Mike O'Connell - WRITE CLUB - Santa, 12/22/10