Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown Address

Four days and seven hours ago, our Republicans brought forth in this Congress a new concept, in the name of liberty, that health care is not a right and that not all people are not created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

But in a larger sense, our Republicans cannot consecrate—they can only desecrate—our great nation. The brave fools, Ted Cruz and his lackeys, have struggled here to shut down the government should they not be allowed to add or subtract at whim from laws passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by a conservative Supreme Court. The world will little note, nor long remember, what Ted Cruz says, but it can never forget the damage his ilk has thus far ignobly advanced. It is rather for us to hope that these tiny men shall give their last full measure of madness, and that a government of the Teabaggers, by the Teabaggers, and for the Teabaggers shall perish from the earth.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Origin of Sound

Silence. Big Bang. Inside the newborn universe, no ears exist to hear the blast. Billions of years churn without sound. Stars coalesce, supernova, and collapse into points of density so infinite that nothing can escape. Around a star orbits a planet. Under quintillions of gallons of water, the crust fractures and life arises in the magma heat. Aeons of natural selection lead to sound-reception cells. A single tone subdivides into uncountable sounds—harsh and soothing, high-pitched and low-, volcanic eruptions and drizzling rain. Millions more years pass before human voices sing. Plastic sound divides into word and image, lyric and gasp.

The Symphony of the Everyday

In 1922 in Baku, Soviet composer Arseny Avraamov directed the revolutionary Symphony of Sirens. An eruption of urban sounds, this unusual symphony featured “choirs thousands strong, foghorns from the entire Caspian flotilla, two artillery batteries, several full infantry regiments, hydroplanes, twenty-five steam locomotives and whistles and all the factory sirens in the city.” Using flags and torches, Avraamov directed the motley collection. He even encouraged passersby not idly to observe but to take part in the sonic melee. 

It is not Symphony of Siren’s vast and inimitable scale that impresses. Since the Pyramids of Giza, humans have been creating with such enormous magnitude. Nor is it the use of factory and martial machines as musical instruments. More than forty years before, Tchaikovsky had included cannons in the 1812 Overture. Rather it is the repurposing of industrial noise as music that makes Avraamov’s work both inspiring and chilling. 

If, as Masanobu Fukuoka claims, the  “murmuring of a stream, the sound of frogs croaking by the riverbank, the rustling of leaves in the forest, all these natural sounds are music—true music,” then what does it mean that the sounds of terracide can also be considered music? 

Does Avraamov’s symphony speak to the essential optimism of humans? Can we find beauty in the screeches, clunks, and explosions of industrial conversion of nature into product? Does his symphony speak to the debasement of the human ear? Once attuned to the sounds of nature, then to the mellifluence of music, did our ears in the 20th Century turn toward cacophony? 

It’s been nearly a century since Avraamov’s revolutionary concert. Even as the din of Late Capitalism grows louder and more deterritorializing, Avraamov’s music has not caught on with the masses. Are we still too bourgeios truly to hear? Or do we refuse to listen to our own destruction?

Find out more in Roman Mars’ terrific 99% Invisible podcast on the Symphony of Sirens.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Fortune has shined upon me. A piece of flash prose about watching the assassination attempt on President Reagan has appeared at the innovative online journal Whole Beast Rag.

Find the piece here: "March 30, 1981."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lockout to Blackout

2012 NFL Season as Harbinger of Nation’s Troubles

If the NFL is a microcosm of America, then the recently concluded season reveals with stunning clarity the fissures and crises afflicting this nation.

The season began with a referee strike and lockout. The referees, lowest paid and least glamorous of football’s public hierarchy, sought to protect their pensions from the owners’ greedy claws. Rather than give in to the peasant’s demands, the owners brought in scab referees. I remember reading about a prick owner—likely a billionaire—shedding crocodile tears that even he didn’t have a pension, so why should the referees? Nevermind that he could sell one of his beach houses and retire with greater security than most pensioners. Within seconds of their first appearance, the scabs lost control of the game, blew calls, allowed the sport's simmering violence to boil over into fist fights, and eventually cost the Green Bay Packers a victory by flubbing an end-zone call that even a child could see was an incomplete pass and offensive pass interference. Soon after that blown call, the owners relented, but not without the referees giving in to some awful demands and having to move eventually to a less-secure 401k rather than a fixed pension.

The season was also marred by off-field violence. In May 2012, shortly before the season began, beloved linebacker Junior Seau took his own life by shooting himself in the chest. He was later found to have “debilitating brain disease.” And Seau was not the first former NFL player to shoot himself in the chest in order to preserve his battered brain for scientific study into concussions. Also, drunken KC Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before killing himself in the presence of his coach. When announcer Bob Costas took the opportunity of Belcher’s death to talk about common-sense gun policies, the right-wing mediasphere lit up with furious glory. Not long thereafter, Adam Lanza, armed with high-powered weaponry he stole from his prepper mother after murdering her, broke into the Sandy Hook Elementary school and annihilated twenty children.

(Read Garry Wills “Our Moloch” for an insightful and spiritual analysis of what is wrong with our gun culture.)

Super Bowl XLVII itself was an exciting game in which the Baltimore Ravens gained a nearly insurmountable lead, only to nearly give it all away to the hungry San Francisco 49ers. It was a game in which an antler-spray addict accused of double murder became the spiritual center of the Super Bowl–winning Ravens after claiming “he was told by God to lay hands on Jacoby Jones, who scored two break-the-game-open touchdowns.”

But fans will remember this game for the blackout. Shortly after a 109-yard kickoff return for a Ravens' touchdown, the power went out in the recently refurbished Mercedes-Benz Superdome. We all remember the Superdome as the site of horrendous suffering, violence, and terror when refugees from Hurricane Katrina found themselves trapped in the crumbling sporting arena. We also remember that when some of those refugees found their way to the equally uncomfortable Houston Astrodome, former first lady Barbara Bush commented, “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. . . so this is working very well for them." Now with New Orleans' triumphant return to the national stage, they suffered the most infamous blackout since 1977. As our nation continues to frack, to demolish mountain tops, to drain tar sands, and to spread our military around the world in order to maintain open shipping lanes for oil, our aging electricity infrastructure crumbles. In terminal decline, America can't even keep the lights on during its nationalistic orgy of violence.

Is it any wonder that a poetically foreboding symbol of death, the Ravens, won this game so shortly after the Mayan Calendar ended?