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P. Fanatics - No Bustas. 9/11/11

It is by now clear that, broadly speaking, all of human experience can be divided into one of two categories: broke-dick bullshit, and fucktard horseshit. This conclusion is as inescapable as it is irrefutable.

On the surface of it, broke-dick fullshit and fucktard horseshit might seem to you so similar as to be essentially interchangeable. Maybe. If you’re a short bus popcorn fart who doesn’t know dick about dick.

If you can’t tell the difference between broke-dick bullshit, which is what I’m doing right now, and fucktard horseshit, then you my friend are so deep inside a vat of fucktard horseshit that you need a fucking snorkel to breathe. You are like the fish that cannot describe water, so deep inside the rank-smelling pit of fucktard horseshit are you. People like me, who traffic in the lowest form of broke-dick bullshit, frankly find fucktards like you pretty sickening. But since we’ve all gotta figure some way to get along in this world, I will explain things to you ONE MORE TIME.

If you make fun of vegetarians, you’re into fucktard horseshit.

But if you are a smug and preachy vegan, you’re all about broke-dick bullshit.

If you eat at Chili’s or Fudrucker’s when you have other options, that is fucktard horseshit.

If you eat at Chili’s or Fudrucker’s for their kitsch value, that it some broke-dick bullshit.

Fox News is fucktard horseshit; Huffington Post is broke-dick bullshit.

If you are wearing headphones and scream-singing along to Maroon fucking Five, you zip it right now, cause nobody needs your fucktard horseshit. Even if you had the voice of an angel, which, believe me, you do not, your song could only be improved by about a thousand per cent more shut the fuck up. And your dancing does not improve matters, either. What you bring mostly is weak-ass weakness.

However, if you never, ever sing or dance, that’s some broke-dick bullshit right there. You are a coward. You run from experience and demean other people because you are a scaredy little candy ass dick hole.

If you bring the six foot inflatable penis to the bachelorette party, that’s fucktard horseshit. Anything over four feet is gratuitous. Show a little class.

If you live tweet from the bachelorette party, that’s broke-dick bullshit. Your commentary adds nothing to experience. Watch the stripper. He’s a hard-working guy who has really thrown himself into the role of the naughty cop, here. Respect the craft.

If you are wearing flipflops and a backwards ball cap, you embody fucktard horseshit. If you make this worse by giving fist bumps all the time when there’s nothing worth celebrating within a mile of you, and you insist on calling dudes “Bra” even when you don’t know them that well, you are not only a meathead with fucktard horseshit running through your veins, most of us want to Taze you till you shit yourself.

But if you are wearing a Scooby Doo t-shirt and a fucking faux-hawk, and over-designed nerd glasses you don’t really need, and the first thing out of your mouth is [EYE ROLL] “Pfft”, and you use air quotes all the fucking time, then you are steeped in broke-dick bullshit. Anybody with eyes can spot you as an inauthentic little piss ant and we want to slap your fucking face till our hands are calloused.

If you honestly believe cutting taxes for the rich in the U.S. creates a single fucking job for anybody this side of Bangalore, that is some CLASSIC fucktard horseshit. If you think for a second that the rich give a rat’s ass about working people, then it is a wonder that a single human skull is able to contain that much stupid.

But if you DISBELIEVE this, and think that you can change a goddamn thing by clicking on the slacktivist petition from Think Progress, or forwarding the email from MoveOn-dot-fucking-org to all your goddamn friends who believe as you do, then that there is some broke-dick bullshit.

Ben Affleck is fucktard horseshit; Matt Damon is broke-dick bullshit.

Fucktard horseshit is the James Franco of Pineapple Express and Your Highness; broke-dick bullshit is the James Franco of General Hospital, and Eat Pray Love, and Howl, and that fucking short story collection of his, cause all of a sudden he’s a fucking WRITER, now, and hosting the fucking Oscars.

Sidebar for James fucking Franco: being a movie star is a really good fucking job that you are lucky to fucking have. From now on: more Rise of the Planet of the Apes, less irritating Renaissance man provocateur prankster shit, OK? Our minds are unblown and likely to remain so, so you can fuck right off. It’s worth noting the tenuousness of your position, Mr. Franco, because the CGI chimpanzee acted circles around you, so you should be very, very grateful, you millioinaire piece of shit.

You are in the thrall of fucktard horseshit if at any point you put a bumper sticker on your car that assures other motorists that “These Colors Don’t Run”. Your mind is a reductive coil of turd that takes the complexity of the worlds shocking events, puts it in a wood chipper, and makes a bland mulch to nourish the dill-weed garden of your preconceptions. Which is unnecessary since your preconceptions are as indestructible as if a diamond and a cockroach somehow had a baby together. Your urge to cut and paste whatever unimaginative idea that crosses your desk degrades the already piss-poor quality of the life or our minds to the point where we can only dimly remember a time when we had the capacity for novel thought. We would hate you, but the stupor juice into which you have helped to lower us is so, so restful.

But you’re slinging broke-dick bullshit when you take note of how sun-bleached and rain-faded that bumper sticker has become. “These Colors May Not Run, But They Sure Have Faded,” you say to yourself as you dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back. Your snide chortles, fueled as they are by your pride in the towering intellectual achievement at having rooted out this dizzying irony, reveal more than anything your cowardly tendency to shy away from the often grisly realities of this world, and to seek the gutless refuge of your own epic vanity. If the brainpower you devote to self-congratulation were put to some good purpose, what might the world look like? You are a drain and leech, and we might hate you were it not for the fact that you are too translucent and stingy for us to bother with, you faint-hearted little queef. There is no greatness in you, your enthusiasms are tepid and wan, you believe in nothing, and your conception of the world amounts to little better than a teetering stack of received ideas you barely understand that are cobbled together from Colbert, blog posts you’ve skimmed, and whatever’s trending on Twitter.

In conclusion: we are bustas, of one sort or another. We all of us land somewhere on the spectrum between fucktard horseshit and broke-dick bullshit. The good news is that we can huddle together in our ignorance and fear, our bafflement and hatred. The bad news is that we are stuck in this foxhole with a bunch of no-count, punk bitch-ass posers so busy fronting that they fold up like a fucking card table whenever shit gets real.

We are a dream team of frauds and morons, charlatans and nimrods. We are bound by the half-witted lies tell, the craven comforts we’re hooked on, the transparent and feeble deception we present to each other, and the gullible eagerness with which we gobble up the patently implausible shit people feed us. Thus we allow this rickety experiment we call civilization to hobble toward its fiery demise.


WRITE CLUB - Decatur Book Festival, Deed - 9/3/11

Help me out here.


“Actions speak louder than [INVITE/CONDUCT AUDIENCE TO JOIN] WORDS.”

BAM! DONE. Chris Rock mic drop. Like six seconds in.

But since I have like six minutes left, I continue.

I feel compelled to preface these remarks by noting that I have a great and lasting fondness for words. In many respects, I have devoted my life to them. Generally speaking, I would rather spend time in the company of a crossword puzzle than with any human being you could name.

It saddens me to report – but my devotion to the truth compels me to do so – that words don’t mean squat. Words don’t change a thing. Words, even well-crafted, well-intended, well-reasoned words – cannot HOPE to achieve anything when compared to even the most modest deed. The meagerest and most paltry deed does more than any word or combination of words can hope to.

Let me show you what I’m talking about. I am about to speak some words – a phrase – that will demonstrate the difference in the relative degree of potency between Words and Deeds.

I will forewarn you that the words I’m about to speak, again – for the purposes of illustration only – will likely be unsettling to you. You will find these words disquieting. You may find yourself feeling outraged. I emphasize once more: these distasteful, these disgusting words I’m about to speak are NOT ROOTED IN FACT. They are words ONLY – intended, as I say, to make a point, a point about how – even when they provoke strong feeling, words don’t DO anything.

Here is the phrase – a phrase I disavow except to the extent that it serves my larger point. The phrase is this:

So I’m finger-bangin’ the babysitter…

Now, I DID warn you about this phrase. Once again, I CANNOT stress to you strenuously enough that this upsetting, unsettling phrase is not a description of anything that ever took place. First off, the babysitters I get tend to be graduate students and I frankly find most of them pretty intimidating.

And furthermore, it might even seem to you that this fictional phrase serves to make a strong case on behalf of my opponent. The words

So I’m finger-bangin’ the babysitter…

DO, at first blush, exert a kind of power. But they are JUST WORDS. They don’t DO A THING. There is no effect upon REALITY – only DEEDS can do that.

History will judge you by what you DO. By the legacy of DEEDS you have left in your wake – not by the things you have SAID or WRITTEN or TWEETED or SUNG or MORSE CODED or SEMAPHORED or POSTED ON YOUR FRIEND’S WALL.

MAYBE if you’re like Tolstoy or something. But who among us is Tolstoy? And does THIS GUY [INDICATE NICK] look like fucking Tolstoy?


He actually does, a little bit.

But listen:

Say your neighbor is a dick. And say you FEEL like pitching a cinder block through his windshield, but you don’t actually DO anything about it, then nothing has transpired. If you TEXT him your intention to pitch a cinder block through his windshield, this may cause him to scramble out on his porch to check, but if you have not followed through with any ACTION, you will have succeeded only in confusing him. Facing the insubstantial onslaught of your words, the windshield remains unscathed.

If all I do is TALK about putting unsavory hands upon the nether-parts of the babysitter, befouled though your minds may be, she remains untouched.

Say you’re a cop calling for backup. You want the squeal of tires and your buddies drawing their guns and aiming them at your suspect. You do not want their thoughtful and earnestly worded card when you pinned down behind a squad car.

What is preferable to you: the THREAT of an atomic wedgie, or the wedgie itself?

And in the coming zombie apocalypse that threatens to engulf us all any day now – who do you wanna partner up with? A Man of Action? Or gifted, sensitive Writer Man, Who Grapples With the MEANING of the Zombies?

And lastly, lemme ask you this:

What caused me more rage and bafflement: the fact that my Dad killed himself or the NOTE he left behind?

Make no mistake: the note sucked, but if that had been ALL he’d DONE – JUST written a NOTE? I can tell you, the resonance would not have been as great as the DEED of taking his own life.

If any of you went home and handed a suicide note to your wife or your brother, or your mom, they would not DIG it, for sure. But when they saw you not actually DOING the killing of yourself, they’d get over it. IT WOULD BE OK, BECAUSE IT WAS JUST A NOTE. It was just words. You didn’t DO anything.

And just so you don’t get the idea that I believe all action in this life is negative or harmful, the WORD vs. DEED thing absolutely cuts the other way – your professions of love and regard mean NOTHING if you don’t back them up with ACTION.

When the river breaches its banks and floods your neighbor’s house – what’s he gonna thank you for most: your platitudes? Or the sandbags you fill?

When your daughter does a face plant on the playground and loosens a tooth, what does she need from you: a fucking lecture about being more careful? Or someone to hold her?

When your mom is fading in a hospital bed, with tubes in her and papery skin over bird bones, does she crave your words that bemoan the cruelty of fate? No. Hold her hand. Hold her hand and stroke what remains of her hair.

You DO something. Even – or perhaps especially – when you know it’s not enough. You know you must DO something.



Belknap, WRITE CLUB - Sacred

This was a rightfully defeated (by the killacious Jill Summers) piece in need of three more drafts. But as it was not presented with the benefit of three more drafts - I present it here for you to ignore.

The search for the sacred.

Was it not the Buddha that said:


HEY! Dickface! Focus up!

Could have been Ghandi. And I might be paraphrasing.

Anyway. Point is – the sacred is elusive.

Like most of us, whenever I close my eyes to reflect on the sacred, I see Oprah’s face. Oprah’s giant, disembodied face. For me, it’s always red carpet Oprah. I never get velour tracksuit Oprah who’s talking about her va-jay-jay. I get the Oprah with the weirdly appealing coppery lipstick.

The hovering, gigantic face of an overfed baby that’s also like your mom who you kind of want to sleep with a little bit. It’s really complicated.

But Oprah’s giant face is only a BOOKMARK for the sacred. It is a MNEMONIC for your soul – like if your inner life had Outlook on it and you get that little alert – BING – that it’s time to reflect. That’s Oprah’s face.

The sacred is at the bottom of a well within you. Oprah’s shiny disembodied head is the boulder you have to roll off to get to it.

After you muscle aside the towering spectral head of Oprah, though, you still gotta break through your religious training – the more you got, the tougher it is. This phase is comparatively easy for me, since I was a practicing Catholic until I was like nine. Then my Dad took off and we quit going to Mass immediately. And I remain un-priest-raped to this day.

So for me, there’s this line of scrimmage with like Jesus and the Pope and a bunch of Cardinals and Bishops. And you juke left around Jesus, whose footwork sucks, and you stiff-arm the Pope, who can’t take a fucking hit, and you got a wide open lane because the Catholic backfield CANNOT READ THE PLAY.

Where was I? Ah. Yes. The sacred.

Seeing as I am secular, I had to really dig for a notion of the sacred I could get behind. Leave it to your old pal the Oxford English Dictionary to do just that:

Blahblahblah “Eucharistic”, blahblahblah “deity”, blahblahblah “laws and teachings of religion”, blahblahblah “venerable” – AH! HERE! Meaning FOUR, Subsection C:

“4.) Regarded with or entitled to respect or reverence similar to that which attaches to holy things. C.) in sarcastic use.”

Listen: nothing is sacred. Nothing. Not your texts. Not your knowledge. Not your amulet. Not your heart. Not your ibis. Not your scrolls. Not your journey. Not your cow. Nothing.

All of it. As far the eye can see. You know what it is? Fair game.

I regard as sacred my right to make fun of anything. ANYTHING.

A lot of you probably hear me say that and go:

REALLY? Anything? Really? Well so, OK, Smarty Pants: what about your OWN stuff? What about your OWN life? Is THAT fair game? Hm? Because I mean that’s where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it?

Two things:

Look: ridicule has value. Scorn has an evolutionary basis – if we are in the same band of hunter-gatherers, and you are a do-nothing shit heel, you will arouse our scorn and we will banish or kill you. Our tribe is made stronger.

Here’s why making fun is sacred to me:

Ridicule – I’m not talking abuse, here, for I am no frat boy – I’m talking about thoughtful, well-intended ridicule. Ridicule – good ridicule, ridicule that is well crafted and is fueled by purpose, matters a great deal and aids human advancement.

And you’re like:


Shut your face and quit interrupting.

Ridicule aids human advancement. Ridicule dismantles assumption. Ridicule chips away at orthodoxy.

Ridicule stands in the forest of ignorance and habit and BURNS THAT FUCKER DOWN. And ridicule torches the woodland creatures of The Popular, for while they may be cute, they are dumb as a bag of socks and destructive. And ridicule sets dynamite in all the cabins of complacency and custom, which may be cozy but are filled with rot. And ridicule bulldozes the ashes of this forest – and here is the value of ridicule. HERE is why ridicule matters and how ridicule aids human advancement.

The entire POINT of ridicule – the thing that renders it sacred – is this:

When you have burned down the forest of convention and have killed the livestock of precedent; once you have detonated the cabins of the zeitgeist, then you must keep going.

You must turn your ridicule inward. You must become your target. You must be merciless. You must root out in yourself all that which you despise in others. You must castigate yourself for your hypocrisy. You must find and eliminate your blind spots and habits of mind. You must level your structures of vanity and appetite. You must jettison the dumb and corrupt. You must crush the stupid and repetitive. 

For it is only by laying waste to the self that any of us can hope to make any kind of progress. And is not the sacrament of ridicule the surest way to lay waste to the self?



Belknap, WRITE CLUB - Goodbye

Goodbye is one of the greatest words there is, because it is filled with “fuck this” and “fuck you”, and “fuck, no”.

The “good” of “goodbye” is a classic misdirection. It adds a thin shell of civility to the brutal finality of it. The “good” is like the skin of a Skittle – bright, brittle, and sweet. And then you bite into it and you crack your teeth off on this unyielding nugget of never again.

The most awesome trope in action movies is NOT the “punch you through a window” or the “crack wise and then shoot you in your face” or the “oh, thank goodness the unstoppable killing machine is dead after our protracted fight. I shall now turn my back on him SO HE CAN SUDDENLY SIT UP OH MY GOD HOW UNEXPECTED!!!” None of these.


The reason that this trope is a can’t-fail head butt of awesomeness is that everyone of us, at some point in our lives – even if only for an instant – has wanted to say the BIG GOODBYE. The TOWERING ORB OF FIRE GOODBYE.

“Hello” is tentative and skittish. “Hello” is a prairie dog or a meerkat – it peers out of its hole in the ground with a pleading look that wants you to fucking like it.

“Goodbye” doesn’t give a fuck if you like it. It’s done with you. You are dead to it.

“Hello” is voluntary, “Hello” is discretionary. “Goodbye” is non-negotiable.

“Hello” is a Yield sign. “Goodbye” says Stop.

“Hello” is an acorn. “Goodbye” is an axe.

“Hello” is a ribbon-cutting. “Goodbye’ is the tornado that rips your store to rubble.

“Hello” is a maggot. “Goodbye” is a flyswatter.

“Hello” is a kiss. “Goodbye” is a condom.

“Hello” is “Mother, May I?” “Goodbye” is “Hit the bricks, Shit Heel.”

“Hello” is a letter to the editor. “Goodbye” is a bullet.

I could go on.

You get my drift. “Hello” is soft and yielding and gutless. “Hello” is damp and recessive and smooooooooth as a fucking Ken doll.

“Hello” hopes like heck that you’ll like it and that you guys can sit together in a window seat and have caffeine-less tea together and knit fingerless gloves and wear cardigans and jumpers and repeat vapid horseshit to each other out of doughy faces white as fucking flour as you dab at your weird nose that is always, always running, no matter the season.

“Goodbye” is fierce and final and hard as a nightstick. “Goodbye” does crimes and smacks asses and breaks windows. “Goodbye” is cold and untroubled and deadly.

“Goodbye” will whip you with razor wire and roll you into a greasy puddle out by the Dumpsters and pitch a cinder block through your windshield and take a shit on your dashboard and collect your tears in a coke spoon and snort them like crank and grab your daughter’s doll out of her hands and light its hair on fire, and toss that flaming doll down the hole of a Port-a-Potty, and if she lives to be a hundred and seventeen years old, your daughter will NEVER forget the extinguishing hiss and sad spank as her doll lands in that horrifying shit stew.

“Goodbye” is much, much bigger than “Hello”. “Hello” is always a supplication. “Hello” is always, always, ALWAYS asking for something. But “Goodbye” is always a declaration – it is always an announcement.

Beyond bullets and hurricanes and axe handles, beyond suicide notes and crime scenes, “Goodbye” is also freedom, because “Goodbye” is walking out of that job for the last time without looking back. “Goodbye” is the guts it takes to hurl yourself out of an airplane – “Hello” is pulling the rip cord, but “Goodbye” is stepping out of the plane.

“Goodbye” is D.B. Cooper and Bigfoot, Ambrose Bierce and Nessie – “Goodbye” is having the balls to take a powder and avoid capture.

“Goodbye” is also the victory of sound ideas over shitty ones – it is Darwin’s boot on an evangelical throat.

“Goodbye” is hard to say, because it’s hard to mean. “Goodbye” is clasping your wife’s skeletal hand while you watch without flinching the life draining out of her. “Goodbye” is the heft of your brother’s casket when you serve as his pallbearer.

“Goodbye” is ministrations and tenderness and last kindnesses. “Goodbye” takes a whole hell of a lot more moxie and mettle than “Hello” does. “Hello” comes at the beginning, before there is anything at stake.

“Goodbye” comes by its nature at the end, when we have invested our time and treasure, when we have accreted secrets and sorrows, fondness and trouble, the savor and meaning and purpose we build with each other. At “Hello,” we have nothing to lose, but if we are lucky enough to get to “Goodbye,” then we will have arrived at that place where it matters to us, that rare and privileged place we sometimes earn where everything hangs in the balance.



On Memorial Day, I read this in a belated birthday celebration (I am now 45 fucking years old) and continuation of the Annual Manifesto tradition begun last year. Rachel Claff baked a mind-stopping cake, friends lent their attention, and the Hopleaf provided a swell venue. It was a humbling treat for me - hope you enjoy the text.

Last year, I bestowed upon myself super powers. I found that one man – even one with Oaken Fists of Flame and a ferocious brand of justice – is not equal to the rolling waves of tribulation.

The One Man Alone model cannot work. So instead, this year, in serendipity and solidarity with Memorial Day, I seek to raise an army.

An army unlike any the world has ever seen. An army that does not fight for nation, and does not fight for glory. An army that does not fight at all. An army that will never need to remember the fallen, because we will all die in our beds.

Welcome. You are the first foot soldiers. In The Great and Glorious Army For a New Millennium That is Already Eleven Years Late. This army shall be self-directed and non-confrontational and super productive.

To join, you need not be the best and the brightest. We will take the middling and the passable, the dim and the hobbled. We will take the feeble and the crazed, the anxious and afraid.

One day soon, our army shall number seven billion, and have no chain of command. Our army will occupy every continent and be the master of every sea. Our army will patrol a perimeter that follows every line of latitude on every map. Our army already has boots on the ground and is ready to roll. There will be no rank – we are all foot soldiers. There are no tours of duty or recruiting offices. You self-declare. You say you’re in? That means you’re in.

Not all are welcome, however. Thugs and exploiters, the witless and wasteful, the belittling and dismissive, the quashing and vindictive, the paltry-hearted and puny-minded – need not apply. The rest of us – this army without precedent, the members of The Great and Glorious Army For a New Millennium That Is Already Eleven Years Late – will surround them and take heart because they are hopelessly outnumbered. It is comical, almost, that these few – a handful of them, really – have drawn so much of our time and attention, and have snatched so much thought and worry and treasure and sorrow away from us. In a final act, we will bulldoze them all into a trench. We will dress them in oily rags issue each of them a lighter. They will erupt in a fireball of recrimination and self-justification right away.

We don’t even cheer, really, to be rid of them. We’re saddened by the time we wasted while mired among them. We fill in the trench and don’t look back. There is too goddamn much to do.

Victory is assured because we have already taken all the territory. What remains is ideology, which we will set aside. Altogether.

Listen to this. It no longer matters whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. It is too late to be a pessimist. Now, as a person torn between paralysis in the face of the shit maelstrom and the desire to actually change the world, I can say that this is a good goddamn answer. It is TOO LATE TO BE A PESSIMIST.

As recruits in The Great and Glorious Army For a New Millennium That Is Already Like Eleven Years Late, when next you are confronted by a freshly fizzing clusterfuck, I urge you: don’t stare at it. Don’t parse it and wring your hands over it. And for fuck’s sake, do NOT yearn for a rosier and more bountiful time before the clusterfuck. The clusterfuck is what you have. Remind yourself that it is too goddamn late to be a pessimist and roll up your sleeves. Lace up your boots and get cracking. For it is too goddamn late already. It is too late to be a pessimist.

Our weapons will be wooden spoons and surveying equipment; pitchforks and stop watches; pickling jars and ukuleles; crocus bulbs and computer code; rain tarps and egg timers; pitch pipes and bed pans; kite string and plumb lines; gauze pads and cinder blocks; calipers and protective eyewear; knitting needles and shoe leather.

We will take that next hill, but we will do it sheet music and grilled vegetables. We will occupy that next village, but we will do it with frozen yogurt and candle wax. We will storm that beachhead, but we will do it with swing sets and good conversation.

There are two ways you enlist:

  • The first is to dig deep and find the work that renders you expansive and truthful – the place in you where your greatness lies, the undertaking that enlarges your happiness and that of others. This is exceptionally difficult and daunting, but we are all foot soldiers in this same campaign and we believe in you. You will doubt and we will tell you: “There is greatness in you. Find it. Find it and grow it.” You will excel because it is in you to do so and because we need very badly for you to achieve.
  • The other is to look to your greatest outrage – the crime or loss or injustice that remains troubling and makes you grit your teeth and ball your fists, even if it took place a long-ass time ago. Keep clear sight of this thing, this outrage, for it falls now to you to help correct it. This is exceptionally difficult and daunting, but we are all foot soldiers in this same campaign and we believe in you. You will doubt and we will tell you: “There is abundance and tenacity in you. Find it. Find it and use it.” You will prevail because it is in you to do so and because we need very badly for you to create solutions.

Belief has never been the trouble. The FACT of conviction is not the trouble. The friction and the shower of sparks, the fireball and the impact crater do not come about because we have believed something. Conviction does not cause the hurt feelings and the split lip. It is not conviction that straps an explosive vest on you and detonates it in a market square, or sets you beheading hostages. 

It is the MISAPPLICATION of conviction that sends everything off the rails. I am like anyone. I am prey to shitty ideas. Sometimes, I am in the THRALL of shitty ideas. No doubt you are, too. Here’s what to do:


  • NOTICE your shitty ideas.
  • Get Hippocratic with your shitty ideas. The Hippocratic Oath holds  – first, do no harm. For my shitty ideas, that just means: don’t be acting on them, and don’t be shooting my mouth off. Unless there is a microphone. And people show up with the expectation that I give voice to them.


If you think that ideology cannot be extracted from us – and I’m not suggesting it will be easy – here’s what I propose: raise the bar for spouting off. To mouth off about something, just ask “Am I QUALIFIED to mouth off about this?” Here’s what we mean:  


  • If you wanna mouth off about abortion, have a uterus.
  • If you wanna get lippy about gun control, get shot.
  • If you wanna holler about the zombie problem, be eating brains or blowing heads off.


Here’s what I’m talking about – I am QUALIFIED to have a position on the death penalty because my family PAID for it with the life of my grandfather. He was murdered in 1985. My POSITION is that killing is never not wrong. Ever. For any reason. No matter who’s doing it. I can debate the merits of this position with somebody who has an opposing view – if their family has paid the price of admission. If there is murder in their past, believe me – I understand their desire to strap somebody into a chair and push a plunger that routs the life out of their veins.

But we could have a frank exchange – and it would be above all respectful, since a terrible cost had been exacted for both of us prior to such a conversation. Our beliefs will have arisen from events – we are not bending events to wedge inside the bucket of our beliefs.

What this approach will do is render the vast majority of human experience as what it has been all along: none of our goddamn business. The new way is this: just because we have been made aware of something does not render us  participants, or what they call stakeholders. Tons of shit – MOST of the shit, in fact, happens ALONGSIDE us, but does not require our meddling. By refraining from adding our voices to the shouting chorus, the discussions around all the hot buttons can get more focused and calm.

So, to review: If the token of your trauma does not fit in the turnstile, you cannot pass. If you haven’t paid the admission, you shut your fucking face and get busy.

This is one means of negating the constricting morass of too much conviction, this imposition of stringent standards for mouthing off. The other is a simple trick. This trick is not original, this trick is not new. But this trick is potent, and this trick can change everything.

The trick is this: expand your definition of self-interest. Expand it to include your neighbors. Expand it across your species. Expand it across your habitat and your ecosystem. Expand it across time. Expand it to include fairness, and tolerance, and while it is corny to say it, expand your definition of self-interest to include love. When your fellow foot soldiers are your brothers and sisters, it is a damn sight easier to serve alongside them, is it not? Of course it is. 

So, as new conscripts in this Great and Glorious Army for a New Millenium That Is Already Eleven Years Late, here is what constitutes our duty:


  1. Make Something. Make something every week. Make something new every week. And money doesn’t count. We will not be shifting our priorities. Our priorities are a tear-down. The phrase “making money”? It has always been a criminal mischaracterization and we are done with it. The kind of reverence we have had for “making money” will be reserved for things like “building a kick-ass tree house” or “making these mind-blowing waffles”. Income will depend upon impact. A third grade teacher in Englewood who reads to the blind will make ten million dollars a year. An investment banker who collects cars will make six bucks. That investment banker can find his way back, though. If he works in a hospice and roams around with one of pointy community service sticks picking up trash at the park, he’ll be back on top before he knows it. Here’s what he can mutter to himself as he attempts to retrain his brain: “If it is esteemable, it is lucrative. If it is esteemable, it is lucrative.” Or, if that’s too highfalutin for him, he can tighten it up to: “Quit being a scumbag. Quit being a scumbag. Quit being a scumbag.”
  2. Help Out Someplace. This one is super simple. Help somebody. A real, actual person. No check-sending or three-click petitions online. You can still send checks or sign petitions if you feel like. These things are fine, but you also have to do something. Ladle out some soup. Turn the soil in that garden. Shelve books in the library. Clean cages at the shelter. HERE’S where it gets tricky though: Help Out Someplace, But Then Don’t Brag About It. You go. You do your thing. You enjoy the work. Be satisfied with the effect it has. Accept the thanks of the people you help. And then you don’t say a word about it. This will be really, really hard for all of us at first, but it is guaranteed to increase the overall awesomeness of the world if we all just do good and zip it. It will grow easier to believe the best about everybody if we know it to be true about ourselves.
  3. Make Food. Every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s toast. Make something delicious every day. You are certain to grow weary of toast and expand your repertoire.
  4. Wander. This might actually be the most important one. Listen to this very carefully. A month CANNOT go by when you have not embarked upon a destination-less journey of some kind. It can be a walk around a new neighborhood, or you can book a train ticket to a city you’ve never been to – but you MUST WANDER. When we all become devoted wanderers, we will all begin more sentences with phrases like “You’ll never believe what I saw the other morning…” Or “Here’s something that never occurred to me before…” Or “You have GOT to try this…”
  5. Learn. An instrument. A language. Patience. Hardly matters. As long as your brain is striving after something, and you are seeking greater mastery, you cannot fail to become more interesting and interested. And imagine for a second if everybody who crossed your path was fascinating and engaged. Imagine yourself to be such a person.
  6. Teach. An instrument. A language. Patience. Hardly matters. If you say “I don’t know anything worth teaching,” I will strike you. If you don’t have it, find it. Teach fly tying. Teach taxidermy. Teach swimming. Notice what you know and try to impart it. Imagine for a second that everybody you encounter has secret knowledge and they are eager to grant you access to it. Imagine yourself to be such a person.
  7. Play. Play a sport. It does not MATTER that you are doughy and slow. There is value in it. Play a game. Run like you’re being pursued by bears. Jump like you can smack the top of the backboard. Be a teammate and a worthy adversary. The words I am speaking right now are your License to Suck. Everybody rules at some number of things. Everybody sucks at a bunch of things. When everybody’s doing it, judgment goes up the chimney. Results don’t mean dick - Grab a mitt and get in the goddamn game.
  8. Care For an Animal. A mammal is best. If you have allergies, then do what you can.
  9. Eliminate Self Regard. At the stroke of midnight tonight, every mirror in the world will explode into silvery dust. You are no longer able, and have never been qualified to self-assess. You will no longer decry your man-boobs or your turkey neck or your weird hairline or your cankles. You cannot see them. They do not matter. The means of assessing yourself and your performance in this life shall reside in the gazes of others. If you see fondness and regard, this is what you must see in yourself. Earn fondness and regard. Multiply them. Learn to see your own beauty by seeing it in the eyes of your fellow foot soldiers.
  10. Your Enslavement Ends TODAY. That thing. That burrows up under your eyelids or corkscrews down your ear canal. That thing that coils in your brain and controls. That thing that makes you say dumb, hurtful shit, or makes you skate away from the people you love, or makes you hide from yourself. Liquor. Or chips. Or strip clubs. Or the riverboats. Or rich, creamy cheeses. Or back alley handjobs. Whatever that thing is. You will be free of it. You will cop to it. You will cut it out. You will be free. If you need to go off someplace and get help, do it. Get free. Because we need every foot soldier we can get, and that thing – the one that rules you, even in secret – it is an oil slick on the precipice. Because it is too late to be a pessimist.
  11. The Great Inversion Begins NOW. “Making money” is dead. Fort-building with kids matters like hell. All the things we’ve been chasing. Do. Not. Matter. Prestige is a fiction. Teaching the neighbor kid to make a thumb whistle with a blade of grass is at the top of your To Do List. Posterity is a sad fallacy. Building a sand castle endures. There is care, it is true, and obligation. There are burdens. There are sorrows. I have known some. So have you. But all the bounty is here, all of it. You need no telescope to see the glory. Use your eyes. The physics of motor oil puddle rainbows cannot diminish their awesomeness. There is sanctity, I think, in the tender claws of daffodils stabbing skyward. Or the undulant dance of wind in the limbs of an willow. Or a hawk catching an updraft. Or the spazzy and frantic laughter of kids running through the twilight, when the sun has dipped behind the trees to cause a crisis of color in the west. Or sitting in a boat, drifting, while the reeds on the bank murmur and sigh. Or the lean of a dog, entrusting the weight of his head to your lap. Or the cool heft of a glass doorknob in a summer house. Or the rude music of a basketball hitting the rim. Or the yielding damp crumble of soil that, if you close your eyes, thrums with the promise of the vegetables that will grow in it. The fat of a baby’s leg. Or that hand on the small of your back when most you need it. There is no end to it. If you are paying attention, there is wonder beyond measure. If you are paying attention, the prizes are many and priceless. If you are paying attention, really paying attention, the husk of your pessimism falls away and you are new-skinned and new-eyed, and ready to march. For you will have joined The Great and Glorious Army For a New Millennium That Is Already Eleven Years Late.