I am an alien. Rip Van Winkle. Missed the Faustian Bargain.
Father’s Day. Twenty-thirteen. Took one of my charges to Multnomah Falls on the Columbia Gorge Scenic By-way. One of five charges, but this client – we’ll call him Drew – and I head out because the house where all the other clients live together as five integrated adults is empty this Sunday. Two others took a Disney Cruise to Alaska through a special program for adults with DD – developmental disabilities. Another client is at home, with parents, for a weekend. Yet another one got a Lift (handicapped) ride to his parents’ house in Portland.
This job and these people, well, that’s a whole other story. It’s a three-hour outing we took, and the hoards were out, and the 1.2 mile up, well crowded, was a microcosm in America, the America of immigrants, the America of melting pot-bellied and piss-poor educated folk, clamoring with dogs, gaggles of family members, and endless jostling to find a place to rest rumps.
I’ve been asleep at the cultural wheel, it seems. Really asleep, deep narcolepsy . . . though I count myself as someone who can masticate the mush coming from Hollywood-Mainstream Bunk-Corporate Marketing-Media quickly, efficiently, without a skip in the comprehension level . . . just by going onto tepid places like Alternet, Salon, the other crap-ol-ah things like Huffington Post. But I feel like some guano-dropped hominid stuck in a world that, maybe, only existed when I was on the road. Diving in Mexico in the 1970s and ’80s. Writing in El Paso in the 1980s and 1990s. Maybe that force of revolt and revulsion was enough to get me through the nightmare of youth and not-so-young facing me in my college classes as I taught youth who were on the verge of devolving into the preening, product-driven, putzes we have become as a nation of Hollywood-wannabes. WTF, I was that guy: cutting edge, way beyond the mainstream when it came to war, politics, climate change, activism. I didn’t have enough time to get sucked into TV-yammer and sports suck-up talk. I lived a life that involved talking, deep ties to community, very little screen time, face-to-face arguments, some physicality, and a whole lot of rumbling with people, ideas, and counter-culture. There was plenty of anarchy, plenty of anti-establishment work, plenty of what, against the law and the law did not win kind of play.
It’s not with glee that I say we are cooked – this infantile society, self-important, so cardboard in our continence, so holographic, so dribble-brained with the numerous belly-button gazing and crotch shots. Spitzer and Weiner, back on top, back on the glory-getting political climbing. Maybe guys like me are cooked. This is a silly game of consumers jockeying for more silliness, infinite impotence, unimportant thought, and driveling drone dervish to show just how juvenile and unmanly we are in our machismo that is anti-evolutionary. Men like children. Watching the pathetic TV and NBA finals. The amount of LSD-forced crap coming out of that box, out of the marketing game, all the popular culture and the sports culture, it’s been viral, exponential, disastrous. Men who are insignificant. Children, spoiled, too much disposable income for Doritos this, Dodge that, Dumbing Down this and that. Twenty-somethings gathering around the TV box, each new season of each new mindless so-sophisticated or slapstick series their gathering force . . . their drum circle.
I’ve been Saran-wrapped in a cybernetics coffin, of some strange kind. These sports junkies are bizarre, overpaid capitalists, strange humanoids, Consumer-sucked in Citizens of the Planet Credit Purchases. Men and women chanting and cheering and crying while these unimportant, do-nothing athletes play ball. TV is sickening, each angle, each replay, each far-out frame of flash and dash the meaningless of a meaningless adventure in someone else’s meaningless adventure. The game segues from 99 angles of 10 stooges pushing bodies toward a bouncing ball. The movie promos – the movies, my god, what punks, what stupidity, what vapidity, what creative-less sponges formulated for marketing, profiting, financing – and the commercials, with these overpaid felons, these illiterate car salesmen and saleswomen as the voice box announcers and prognosticators, analysts. We are flabby brained fools, lacking story, lacking a geography of narrative, lacking the rite of passage of serious service to fellow humans.
Narcissism is at a premium. Overpaid gluts. Silliness in every sentence, every word. The superficiality is deafening. Coach for the San Antonio Spurs – “Gotta make it count. This is a big boy’s game.”
Cut to grown men with meaningless tattoos. Spoiled rotten to the core. Uninspiring, vapid, not even entertaining. Just commercial machines. The coach like some two-bit insurance door-to-door salesman. The phlegm producers talking over slow mo after slow mo. A hundred flashes and ticker tape infographics, pulsating. These games, what a horrific example of the nothingness of Consumopithecus Anthropocene.
Okay, okay, not a totally inspiring commentary on the death of all of it when considering NBA basketing balling, TV, the crap of culture. Sure, the Father’s Day throng at the Multnomah Falls – massive crowds. So many chubby dads, chubby moms, chubby fathers. Huffing and puffing away. Sucking ice-cream, lollipops, Mountain Dews. Outfitted like some Reebok or Nike ad model gone heavy. Nothing but the classlessness of the corporate logo class, the athletes shilling Taco Bell, Gator Aid, Red Bull, iPhone, Microsoft, the sappy PSA crap – oh, the fans, the NBA fans, sticking it out for 82 games, the loyalty, through thick or thin.
You can’t put this shit in a bad novel. All these vapid volumes of boiler plate sport talk, all those promos for the most amazingly pathetic movies coming out soon. Fascists, the facilitators of dumb-downing and buckets of disassociation from community, from anything serious, anything worldly or political, participatory, anything from some insipid pool of democracy for losers.
So, what is coming of us? What failed grand plan of the capitalists with a capital “C” is actually successful in the denuding of democracy?
People talk about products. Beer. Food. Fools for humanoids – athletes. They talk about the next fun infantile thing that will push more dopamine into their dopey numskulls.
Budget cut after school cut after public transportation cut after social net cut after each and every cut and take away perpetrated by the political class – and we just turn away, suck on a Coors, all-you-can-eat a three foot Subway, drive relentlessly to some miniature Disneyland or little vacation spot that looks, sounds and is like every other city full of Burgervilles, Applebees, Cabellas, Pizza Huts and some replicable entertainment zone or strip.
Win from Within – Gator Aid ad – juxtaposed by that he-she billionaire Johnny Depp in his preview for oh, sure, The Lone Ranger. Xfinity Home – safeguard the home and monitor the kids. Music by the Allman Brothers bringing back the female reporter asking the white-ass old man coach before the last 11 minutes of the game.
This is the way young and old process information, in and out of the classroom . . . or consume news . . . or try to wrestle themselves out of endless debt and the unending rip-off schemes of the US military-prison-poison-pollution-petroleum-computing complex.
I’ve been asleep, pushing away these gnats of the centerfold mentality of America – TV, malls, overweight and huffing and puffing kids and adults, the star spangled banner pushed out by bellies and rolls of love handles . . . everyone is filming . . . snapping away . . . pushing out manufactured breasts and strutting around like two-bit actors.
John Steppling is an inspiration when it comes to looking at the vapidity of the volumes of junk coming out of the film-huckster-hedge fund thing called entertainment. Flaming hot burritos with flaming hot Frito chips smothered in fake cheese, rolled up in fake flour tortillas, minced up with salt-happy fake meat and dashes of pepper spray left over from the SWAT team’s Occupy Wall Street practice sessions.
This is very important. In fact, crucially important if we want to begin to understand what has happened to theatre as an art form, and also to understand the wider society of neo liberal violence.
Let me quote Vovolas again, who is among the more insightful theorists writing about theatre today.
“…the mask influences the actor spatially is the essentialization of the movements and gestures. The strong extrovert direction given by the new field of view promotes an increased awareness of the body‟s axis, the spine, the pelvis and the physical actions. In an outdoor theatre the actor has not only to express the role but also, simultaneously, focus the audience through his presence and movements. Being visible and discernible means being essentialized. The actor must develop presence,
connections to the space, and must get rid of all the personal, parasitical movements of every-day life.”
This is important if one considers film acting as its found today. I have written before and had conversations on this blog, about the increasingly robotic bodies of Hollywood actors, as well as a sort of principle of establishing a banal “real” from which all observations are referred (i.e. ” that wasn’t very realistic”). I am reminded here of the work of Grotowksi, and of Kanter as well. It may be that this was the last real investigation of a *healing body* as part of a theatrical experience.
Today’s institutional theatre, what one finds off-Broadway on the stages of 99% of US theatres is a banality of movement, and something akin to the flattering of an audience granted an artificial sense of privilege. It is the theatre of bourgeois banality and pandering. In film (at least studio film), it is Spectacle, the theatre of mayhem….The “Spectacle”, a capitalist orgy of domination.
However, this raises another question; and that is the erasure of possibility under a process of social domination.
If one watches today’s theatre, even those attempting some version of what Grotowski did, one cannot help but see the trivialization of all theatre. Perhaps, trivialization is unfair, because it is a dialectic and the audience has been infantalized and trivialized itself. There is a failure to listen, to focus one’s attention, and this raises a host of secondary questions about the actor and his awareness of being seen.
INFANTALIZED. Every waking moment Americans regress back to primal diaper-wearing oral fixations.
You see, this all comes out of my few months working with adults, men with developmental disabilities, and the beauty is that I get to see a lot of TV, old series like All in the Family, Beverly Hillbillies, Dallas, Lassie, and then all the movies – X-Men, Action Film Infinitesimal. These guys are cool, really, and they have “IQs” of 65, or lower, and all sorts of reasons why they are in an adult home. But, bottom line, really, think about it – America is addicted to the stuff that these gentlemen love.
These guys have much more discerning eyes than the average Joe Blow. So, what’s smarts got to do with it? All this screen time – big screen, plasma, on-demand in your pocket, iPad, little smart-dumb phone, instant-data base, instant-download, anything for a promotion, some chance at 15 hours of reality fame, something tied to the endless mirror in the sky, under the bed, in the bathroom — snapped, edited, uploaded, Hello Facebook.
Two-way mirror into the inner degenerative minds of the masses of America, screwed, blued and tattooed by the Consumerists.
Stories folded into high tech talk, Denzel Washington some stud actor, each line as campy and fake and overacted as anything copped by politicians and generals. Deja Vu!
What is the dragnet now, the militarized NSA state, each motion on earth triggered by camera, satellite, beams and chips embedded in groin, gullet, gut? This is the new species, open to the probe, anything for the Lotto chance, any wet dream bringing him or her closer to make-over and guidance by master chef and economic tutelage by some flabby jowl of a millionaire. Zillions of opportunities to imagine the unimaginable.
Everyone is an actor – plastered mugs, beamed into the inner chambers of the toilet, the Play Station is our life. Electrons, jumbled, electrical ecstasy. We are doomed to the looping and loopy reality show of every Tom, Dick, Sally, Harry.
And, as we see in June 17th DV, the new new is the very new and untested young:
Any time the name ‘Ralph Nader’ comes up, it is sure to stir controversy. It is like waving a red flag in front of the Democrats.
We’ve heard it all. “He’s too old”. Let’s look at that one. Would it be acceptable to say: “He’s too white, too Hispanic, too black, too short, too tall…” Ageism is one of the most destructive prejudices that can exist in any culture. It devalues and trivializes an entire class of people — sometimes those with the most experience and wisdom.
Other cultures understand this. They value their elders. Only in the United States do we not ‘get it’. The current trend would put Nader on an ice floe and replace him with a kid who just spent four years at a keg party. That is the view promoted by the culture.
Now is a time when we should celebrate all who contribute to our survival, young and old. Age is irrelevant at a time when a 29-year old and other relatively young men are making enormous contributions. Not only is age irrelevant, but also we need to take another look at the ‘paper chase’. Edward Snowden has taught us that being a high school drop-out is not necessarily a bad thing. Self-education will be the way of the future.
Nader is motivated by conscience. The list of Conscientious Objectors to USA policies is growing: numerous progressives have been joined by Greenwald, Assange, Manning, Hammond, Snowden, and many others. Nader was one of the original COs.
We owe him a lot. He might never be President. Instead he will always have an even higher status… that of Super Statesman. He is honest. He is moral. He is incorruptible. He cannot be bought. That is more than we can say about those we vote for and elect.
– See more at: **
Finally, a letter writer, to me, commenting on a past DV op-ed. Prescient. Real. She goes by Beverly from North Carolina:
I’d prefer you’d just use my first name and that I work in NC. Went to one of the “good” schools in VA.
The “other” low-wage workers, i.e., those who make more than MW but still are poor (the 25k-35k crowd) should be strong supporters of a minimum wage increase too. An increase in the minumum may result in increases in pay for them.
I was nodding in agreement/understanding with every word of your article. I got out of college in ’84 and never had much luck with landing a big time job, i.e. one that paid a decent salary. My top wage has been 43k – a commission/salary account mgr/merchandiser gig at Coca Cola. Wouldn’t you know, they cut that gravy train, stripped mgr title, and set salary at 35k. Something about cost cutting but I noticed upper management kept their same fat paychecks. Now, I’ve sunk to the lowest ranks of society – clerk at stinking county courthouse for even less money.
The SEIU and its Big Labor brethren are beyond corrupt. Big Labor’s role is to silence dissent within the ranks and use the ranks to raise money and get votes for the party’s fascist candidates. The rank and file need to abandon these groups and form unions that will actually work for the benefits of their members – something Big Labor hasn’t done in several decades.
If the rank and file don’t break free, at least they should stop voting for whatever conman/woman their criminal union bosses foist upon them. If forced to go door to door to drum up support for candidate, rank and file should hand out literature on an alternative party candidate instead – some kind of civil disobedience to counteract the corruption at the top.
Good luck with your job search. Forget racial discrimination – these days the biggest impediment to getting hired is age. Get past 40 and you become a leper in employers’ eyes. I’ve heard and read articles about HR managers admitting mgmt tells them not to hire people past a certain age. This mgmt being composed of a shitload of fuckers who are over 50 themselves.
If they are worried about older workers costing them via healthcare costs, it’s interesting that these companies never support single payer/Medicare for All. Such would reduce their health insurance costs to a pittance.
The job market is one big racket – in good economic times and bad.
And, working on Beverly’s anti-ageist imploring, our own poet’s lament, here **
“Old Man Job Interview” by Paul Lojeski / June 17th, 2013
Cooked, we are, as state legislatures cut-cut-cut home health aides; while they keep in limbo hundreds of thousands of teachers’ contracts; while they continue with the tax welfare handouts in the billions to corporations, polluting ones and the ones wanting labor to be fully indentured. Story after story about the imbeciles in government, and then all the hand-wringing by the quasi-elite and DC/NYC -based prognosticators, so-called journalists.
Each and every step advanced forward toward economic and environmental justice, five steps back. The two-ten step shuffle of the elites and the takers. Next up, a piece from head of the Washington (state) Part-Time Faculty Association on WA state gutting measly health care provisos for the majority of faculty at 34 of the state’s community and technical colleges. After that?
A book review and analysis of Gabor Zovanyi’s The No Growth Imperative. Former graduate school professor and friend. Riffing off of his 300-page book, after reading DV post on another new book (all these books, and nothing to show for them but theories and book contracts and speaking tours, I am afraid . . . .)
Upcycling: Saving the Planet By Design
DV review by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall