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Wednesday
Jan222014

WRITE CLUB, Strength - 12/9/13

Strength need never account for itself.

Strength does not explain.

Strength does not seek your counsel or your solace.

Strength is irreducible and complete. Strength is self-possessed and self-sufficient.

Or.

At least.

This is what Strength tells itself. This is what Strength would have us believe.

Strength makes a big show of… well, of strength, but secretly? Strength is actually pretty ragged and – if we’re being honest – isn’t doing so hot, actually.

To tell you the truth, Strength is pretty beat up. And has been feeling more than a little sad. I mean, it’s been getting dark so early, it’s tough on all of us, a little bit. For Strength, though? This has been a long time coming.

Not that Strength is headed for a breakdown, or whatever. But the demands. Placed on Strength. In recent years.

Have been a drain. And a hassle.

And Strength… I mean, Strength remains STRONG, obviously. I mean, it isn’t that. It’s just… Strength has wondered – in a mostly idle way, you understand – a purely, like THEORETICAL way – whether it’s even WORTH it, anymore.

The struggle.

I mean – it’s ENDURABLE, obviously. This is still STRENGTH we’re talking about, here. But, just… sometimes. To be honest. Strength would way rather be having a glass of wine in a hot bath. And a good cry. Than all this… like, stoic abiding. That is expected. From all quarters.

The thing is: Strength doesn’t want to QUIT, or whatever. Strength can HACK it – it isn’t anything like that. But Strength could sure use a break. That’s all. Just a break. Because it never lets up. Does it? No. Never does.

Strength would just like to catch a goddamn BREATH without, you know, without the constant threat of everything falling completely apart if Strength doesn’t bring the A game all the damn time.

All Strength is ASKING – which, when you think about it is totally reasonable and in no way out of bounds, or whatever – is to sit DOWN for five minutes to grab a cup of fucking COFFEE without being, like MOLESTED by whatever the latest goddamn CRISIS is.

Honest to GOD, you guys.

Strength could use a little HELP around here. You know?

Strength would really appreciate it – like a LOT – if you could just figure shit out for yourselves for like ten goddamn minutes so Strength could just, I don’t know, not have shoulder the ENTIRE BURDEN ALL THE GODDAMN TIME BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE CAN SEEM TO HOLD IT TOGETHER.

Is it so much to ASK?

Jeez, Louise!

You know what it is, you guys? Real talk. Sit down. House meeting. Strength is calling a house meeting. Right now. Drop what you’re doing and listen up. Let’s go. Circle up.

It’s the everything-ness of what you expect of Strength. The unrelenting-ness and totality, the every-moment-of-every-fucking-day-ness of it.

Look. I get it. Some stuff only Strength is gonna be able to handle well. You pull a double shift when you’re fighting a cold – that’s a Strength job, for sure. Or your sister needs a ride to chemo. And sit with her while she fights the nausea. Strength all the way.

But there’s plenty of other areas where the rest of you guys have GOTTA pick up some slack. Come on – get off the bench, you guys. Quit riding the pine.

When the fucking client makes the racist joke in the meeting – you guys all clam up and look at Strength. Convictions? Principles? Where are you guys when that shit happens?

When you turn from your mailbox to see your landlady crying, you guys all slink past her and leave Strength to ask her what’s wrong. Even though he had the same shitty day as the rest of you, and has never liked her that much. Compassion – step up. Decency? You, too. Get in there.

Or when your spouse tells the same story – badly – for the millionth time, it falls to Strength to hold the tongue, to stop the eye roll. What about you, Discretion? How about you, Simple Kindness? And Love: where the FUCK have you been all this time?

Strength feels pretty, well, strongly, you guys, that if you just pitch in a little bit, if everybody just pulls together and does their part – then maybe we can get through this. Because. You guys. Right now, it is not looking good.

And Speed – what are you even DOING here, man? You contribute nothing but hyperactivity and fidgeting and annoyance.

But if not – if you guys cannot get your shit together and do your share – if you keep over-relying on Strength to get us through every fucking situation, then we all run the risk of Strength losing it completely and turning on us.

And we do NOT wanna cross Strength.

Because I think we can agree – none of us wants to go toe-to-toe with Strength. Strength could crush us without breaking stride. Strength could snuff us out without breaking a sweat; Strength alone has the power to destroy us all. 

Wednesday
Jan222014

WRITE CLUB, Nice - 12/17/13

As the founder of this thing, I’ve written something like 70 WRITE CLUB pieces. I’ve performed the show in five North American cities. I’ve written to a wide range of topics.

And I can tell you this:

Nice is the worst fucking assignment I’ve ever given myself.

Not only am I temperamentally unsuited to the task of advocating for Nice, but from the standpoint of writerly craft, Nice is one of those gutless, toothless, limbless words that drive me right around the bend.

You know the ones. The words.

Nice.

Happy.

Like.

Great.

Cute.

All those fucking words that are so thumb-worn and degraded from centuries of having drizzled off the tongues of the insincere that they have ceased to contain any vestige of their meaning. Words so compromised and pissed-upon that they may as well be made-up non-words like “edutainment” or “nutraceuticals.”

In every office and coffee shop, at every bus stop and at the end of every bar, they sit, these words, by the bucketful. Used by the desperate in the wrong-headed belief that any utterance, no matter how hollow or false, is preferable to the silence that surrounds us always. People who would sooner say SOMETHING, because the prospect of a stretch of nothing said, a howling pause in the something-ness, well it’s more than most can bear.

[SILENCE FOR A BEAT.]

There, now. Wasn’t that nice?

It is no secret that many people labor under the misconception that I am not a nice person. I am quick to hatred, and live suspended in a molten pool of judgment and harshness.

But it is not for want of ABILITY that I am not a Nice person. It is because I believe that being NICE is not worth aspiring to. NICE people are well suited to standing in line till they die; NICE people make outstanding hostages. If you want a trainee for middle management or a lamb for the slaughter, call a Nice person. Nice people are good cannon fodder or medical test subjects.

In short, Nice people are mostly stupid and afraid. I also am mostly stupid and afraid, but I am nonetheless lacking in Niceness.

But setting aside the hollow and senseless aspects of Nice, the pleasing and vacuous and agreeable aspects of it, what do we find? What was the original intent of the word?

Well. Murky as fuck, as it turns out.

[PRODUCE Oxford English Dictionary]

Following are several archaic definitions of Nice, which will demonstrate that despite the vastness of my hostility, the nanoscopic scale of my patience, and the combustibility of my good will, I am, in point fact and despite the evidence of your senses, Nice.

“Shy, reluctant, unwilling”

“Wanton, loose-mannered, lascivious”

“Requiring or involving great precision, accuracy, or minuteness”

“Critical, doubtful, full of danger or uncertainty”

And finally “Fastidious in matters of literary taste”

Now then. On the surface, the misguided among you could argue that I am a bit of dick. But if one RETURNS to true nature of the word, it is plain to anyone that I am as Nice as I can be.

Where reluctance and being critical are concerned, where one has need of doubt and lasciviousness, one would be hard pressed to find anybody more fully empodying these attributes than I. I am a PARAGON of unwillingness, a TOWER of uncertainty. In fact, when you apply the right metrics of assessment, I rapidly emerge as THE NICEST PERSON YOU HAVE EVER MET.

It is precisely BECAUSE of my misanthropy and formless dread that I am so Nice. It is LESSER people, people lacking the courage to be judgmental and unforgiving that actually LACK in Niceness.

It is the people who seek always to be agreeable and civil, actually, that are the dicks, here.

Not this guy.

I am distasteful and truculent enough to recognize that it is those traditionally regarded as The Nice who ACTUALLY demonstrate the worst kind of cowardice and hypocrisy with their solicitude and tact and enthusiasm. It is the TYRANNY of jocularity and accommodation, in short, that have conspired to ensure that Nice Guys like myself finish last.

You have it in your power, however, to RECLAIM Niceness from the legions of the attentive, the armies of the cordial, the fascism of the friendly.

You have it in your grasp, here, this night, to seize for good and always the sense of what it means to be Nice. Do NOT LET this singular opportunity slide, ladies and gents. Do NOT permit these CHARLATANS to continue selling us the snake oil of their respectfulness. DEPROGRAM YOURSELF from this Cult of the Kind.

NOW is your time to stand and be counted. 

[FLIP THEM OFF.]

Who among you is Nice enough to return my salute?

Monday
Sep302013

Bring Me the Head of James Franco

Latest solo show, 

Bring Me the Head of James Franco, That I May Prepare a Savory Goulash in the Narrow and Misshapen Pot of His Skull

runs 10/19 ($25 - opening night) thru 11/16 ($15 rest of run)

Please to attend. Tix HERE

Good wise-assed fun HERE and HERE

Advance press for show - Chicago Reader: 1 of 8 shows to see this fall; Chicago Tribune: Theater Sneak Peek; Chicago Sun-Times feature on the show; Red Eye feature here

Saturday
Sep072013

If You're Like Me, You Find Readin' to be a TON of Work, So…

HERE's a link to the Paper Machete podcast, wherein I read my fast food essay. Which is quite good. 

Paper Machete podcast.

Sunday
Aug042013

Fast Food Nation - Paper Machete, 8/3/13

Fast food workers have staged one-day walkouts in seven U.S. cities, demanding a “living wage” of fifteen dollars per hour, up from the current minimum wage of $7.25.

From New York to Detroit; Milwaukee to St. Louis, fat-asses are baffled as to where they might go to stuff their faces with the well-salted gristle they have come to depend on for their five to seven daily… well “meals” is probably not the right word. But I don’t know that there is a single word to convey the activity of shame-dunking your face into another round of sad greasy meat paste.

Maybe there’s a German word for this. I don’t know.

In an appalling demonstration of the insensitivity to the nation’s lard-assed community, workers at fast food outlets walked the picket lines instead of slinging the dispiriting slop we have come to depend on as the only means of quieting for a moment the self-loathing that plagues us. For if we are not permitted the unrestricted opportunity to shovel sodium nuggets and despair patties into our gullets till gravy runs through our veins, then what is freedom even FOR?

These fast food workers, who are attempting to uncouple the lard-hose from our face-nozzle underestimate the power of riled-up fatties to oppose gastro-tyranny in all its forms. Because make no mistake – that’s precisely what this is: tyranny, plain and simple. Asking us to rouse ourselves from our gluttony-pods to reflect on your struggles as you drive this obesity train, asks TOO MUCH OF US – leave us in peace to consume our thrice-daily bucket of diabetes dippin’ sticks.

Your unrealistic demands to make what you glibly call a “living wage” would mean an increase the price of a Big Mac up to SIXTY-EIGHT CENTS. Which, I don’t have to tell you, would the DEATH OF FREE MARKETS AT THE HANDS OF UNION THUGS.

Listen: my first job was actually at a McDonald’s – Route 9 in Hadley, Massachusetts. Did I like it? Hell, no, I didn’t like it. Nobody did. The only guy that DID like it was this developmentally disabled kid named Donny.

But even though it was tough, thankless, underpaid work, I DID learn many valuable lessons during my frankly disgusting tenure there that have served me well to this day.

I learned that work is hot, stressful, greasy, dangerous, boring, gross, smelly, depressing, and pointless. I learned that the workplace – no matter how low the stakes – is a nest of vipers more interested in sowing intrigue and in futile, stupid power struggles than in actually getting anything done.

I learned that every job affords a level of fulfillment and satisfaction comparable to dry humping a pile of pinecones for nine hours at a stretch. While people complain about your technique. And you take orders from a pathetic little despot you’d still struggle to respect if you discovered him stepping out of a time machine dragging Hitler’s corpse.

According to Nelson Lichtenstein, director at the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, there are a number factors governing the corporate rationale for opposing a wage hike, most of which center on the time-honored principle of American business, namely the principle of I Got Mine, Jack – So Do Us Both a Favor and Go Fuck Yourself.

Owners of fast food outlets actually benefit from high worker turnover, so they obviously have a stake in keeping their people pissed off.

Lichtenstein says:

“From the company’s point of view, if they know their employees are going to be there for three years, then there’s also this informal pressure on the managers to accommodate the workers,” he says, citing the possibility of wage creep and further increased labor costs for employers. “Managers then can’t just move people around all the time. Firing gets more difficult. So they don’t want a permanent workforce.”

Let’s take a sec to define our terms.

“Wage creep” is what used to be called “upward mobility,” or, more quaintly, “the American dream.”

For you young people, this was a fiction whereby working people were encouraged to cling to the delusion that through hard work, they could attain prosperity. History has of course demonstrated that this is not only not possible, for the rich, it is not desirable.

The cunning of this delusion is that working people – whom reality has trapped for all time in a permanent underclass. An underclass that care for the nation’s obese and ill-tempered children, that keep the nation’s food trough brimming with oily, pre-cancerous slop, that serve as cannon fodder overseas, and that are the baristas that reverse the nation’s sluggishness. According to this fiction, workers cling to the false hope that the only thing separating them from the rich is just catching a break or two. They are not poor people whose tenuous hold on stability is crushed at every turn by a system rigged against them – they are people whose riches are just over the next rise, people whose wealth is merely in its dormant stage. We’re not POOR, goes the fiction, we’re just PRE-RICH.

By perpetuating this delusion, the 1% have a bottomless barrel of cheap labor that remains docile and that consistently votes against its own interests. The fiction has succeeded in shifting worker allegiance to their overlords, and away from their fellow wage slaves next to them on the assembly line, or at the fry station, or at the Genius Bar. And they keep clocking in, and they keep voting to ensure they live and work in a lake of unregulated poison, their dumb, fat kids go to shitty schools, and their aging and demented parents will die in shabby and squalid nursing homes.

For the public to support fast food workers would entail the abandonment of several generations worth of destructive and self-defeating beliefs. Because the idiotic delusion has for us come to resemble economic hope.

So listen up, you fast food workers. Be clear on what you are: you are the wranglers on the nation’s industrial feedlot. You are to fatten us on a slurry of bone meal and hormones, herd us up the ramp onto the killing floor, and push from your mind the role you have played in turning us into deli meats for the rich.