I came to extreme poverty late in life, and did very badly at it. I should have done some kind of crime. But what kind? That’s what I couldn’t figure out. What kind of crime can you actually do, if you aren’t a lawyer and don’t understand computers?
There were certainly plenty of people who could have offered me some advice on the matter. We were living on a boat, moored in a skuzzy little harbor full of small-time criminals. The one guy who went off to a job every day was a figure of awe and mockery, a freak. Everybody else scavenged or stole to buy their booze and weed. (more…)
I’ve been reading anthologies again, God help me. It’s all about money, as in we ain’t got none. So it’s back to teaching, and that means reading the anthologies that attempt to take a bunch of innocent kids through the dismal art of the twentieth century in one semester. Today’s culprit is The Norton Anthology of World Literature: The Twentieth Century. It’s not bad. I guess. No worse than the others. The problem is the century itself, anyway, not the anthology.
A bad one. It makes no sense at all. This creature, your relative—Hell, your dog—was a constellation, a huge Venn diagram of metonymies, with a middle name and opinions and allergies and anecdotes. Doesn’t much matter if they were bad anecdotes, annoying opinions, a stupid middle name; there was the same density of little fiber-optic cables spreading out from them that mattered.
He may be dead now, I don’t know. He should have been dead long ago, but these early boomers, born in California, have many lives. From some angles, Alex’s life was clear proof of what spoiled, invincible brats they were, the ungrateful beneficiaries of hippie primogeniture.
I remember him sitting in the little room his wife had assigned him in their hilltop mansion, his “study.” What Alex studied, mainly, was how to get more crack and get more blowjobs from prostitutes on his nightly forays into West Oakland. (more…)
There are three animals to welcome me home to California: the ants, the grasshoppers and the mockingbirds. To meet them, you walk past the traffic walls to the trash desert. There’s a shortcut to RiteAid across the army-colored dirt, trails scuffed out between the Australian-colored scrub with the Safeway bags snagged on it.
Way off there, over the Fort Apache fences protecting the houses, you can see the real mountains, with a few dirty scraps of leftover snow. There ought to be nothing sadder than those few gullies of snow, but in the interim I’ve been cold and I don’t, can’t love the snow the way I did growing up here. I appreciate the warmth of the ground, could all but lie down in the warm khaki gravel where the ants have their many bloodthirsty Mayan cities.
(Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of crazy talk about a “nuclear-free world.” So what better time than now to rerun an eXile classic by Dr. Dolan–an elegy penned before its time, to the nuclear winter which never arrived, and now is gone forever. Amen.)
There are no nihilists — but suppose there were. What would they say?
Once you dare to consider this question, the answer seems obvious: if there were any real nihilists, they would praise nuclear weapons as the means to bring an end to the world via nuclear winter. They would sing hymns to the warheads, seeing in them the first weapon we have ever obtained against the universe which has brought us into being to suffer and die. Even if these imaginary nihilists were too squeamish to advocate nuclear winter outright, they would be compelled to praise nuclear winter as the first real CHOICE any organism has ever had about whether to continue in the fated cycle of birth, pain, and death. (more…)
“If you’re going to talk truthfully about the world, you might as well start with the bottom line: killing people in your way.” Listen to the first episode of our new eXiled Radio hosted by John Dolan. In this premiere, Dolan strolls around the 20th century’s great killing fields with Philip Short, author ofMao: A Lifeand Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare.
Most Recent Photograph of That Guy That Plath Popped Out
(bottom right; circa 1962)
Sylvia Plath’s son died yesterday. That’s how it was reported, even by the BBC. The dead man’s name was Nicholas Hughes, not Plath, but in death we learn which parent really mattered. For the record, he was also the son of a poet far greater than Plath, a man named Ted Hughes.
Hughes has been snubbed and despised for most of my lifetime, on both sides of the Atlantic. The American response is typically simple-minded and moralistic: “He killed poor Sylvia!” The British scorn for Hughes is (also typically) bitchy and disingenuous. But the result has been a boycott of serious appreciation of his work throughout the English-speaking world, and so powerful in England that they’re willing to lose the services of the best man on their team rather than give Hughes his due, while cheering their cheesiest and most worthless literary lights, like the pitifully untalented W. H. Auden. (more…)
I got out of bed this morning and told Katherine, “Hey, I think my foot is bet-” At which point my gouty big toe slammed into the table leg. When I finished howling and bouncing around on the other leg, I amended my earlier statement: “Well, OK, not so much better now-ow-ow-ow.”
Frey the Irrepressible is back with a new book, Bright Shiny Morning. I knew that; I even read his book, because Frey and I go way back. But BSM, BS for short, was so silly it wasn’t even funny, so I thought I’d beg off reviewing it. I’ve kicked Frey with my gouty foot over and over again; what’s the use? He’ll always be famous; he’s too stupid to absorb criticism. Hell, he withstood a scolding from Oprah herself and came back hamming it up worse than ever–what could I do to him? I’m old, dead broke, sick and unknown. Any pretense of superiority I ever felt toward Frey is looking very wobbly right now. (more…)
Robert Creeley: Great Poet or One-Eyed Interspecies Plagiarist?
Here are two pieces of twentieth-century verse. One has been called “…the most often quoted, even the most widely known, short poem” of the 1960s; the other is from a long-forgotten collection of comic newspaper verse. One was written in 1954, the other almost four decades earlier. (more…)
It’s what they call the whole spectrum of human emotion, or primate anyway. They’re so stunned they wander for a while through digressions like whether the sperm donor in question was named after a pair of pants or not.
One loyalist with the wonderful moniker “Solid Wood” insists it can’t be true, must be a liberal media lie, until someone sends the two-word death sentence: “Fox confirms.” Then he settles for calling everyone who mentions the story a leftwing troll. (more…)
That was how he died, Professor Robert Beloof, my first mentor: crushed by a hippie van.
In Portland, yet. It was a ridiculous way to die, and Beloof was, let’s face it, a ridiculous man. But it was also a very uncanny, fey manner of death for a Berkeley professor made and broken by the hippie era. You almost want to say something pompous, like “We were all run over by that VW van,” carve that on the headstone of the whole place. (more…)
In this slight, self-indulgent memoir, Bill O’Reilly tells us how he got so “bold” and “fresh.” A humble man, he attributes his success to his own innate greatness, with honorable mention going to his solidly rock-headed upbringing in Levittown, N.Y. For all his generous praise of Levittown, O’Reilly is very clear that most of the credit should go to himself: “Looking back, the reason I have succeeded in life is that I relied on myself.”
Now that services have ended at the First National Church of Crawford, Texas, it’s clear America needs a new religion. Not to nitpick, but it could be argued that rule by the most loudly born-again or, as scholars call it, Screechocracy, was not a success.
That’s not to say we can hope for an improvement by veering leftward, into one or another version of softcore Buddhism, as recovering Christians tend to do. Let’s face it: Buddhism has some nice statues and incense, but it’s no fun at all. Indeed, adopting that most dismally mature of religions means giving up forever on the idea of getting any fun out of existence. That’s the whole message of Buddhism.
How do you cope with defeat when your whole creed is “You can’t argue with success”? In the wake of Obama’s victory, American conservatives have some of the best minds to come out of Regent University working on this problem. Little wires are sparking in those Yugo-primate crania, tiny tendrils of smoke are pouring from their hairy ears.
In our new feature, Obama Crawl, The eXiled will introduce you to some of America’s Funniest Lame Rationalizations, featuring yesterday’s apex predators squeaking like confused Scandinavian lemmings as they try to bluff, lie, flirt and betray their way to survival. (more…)
Little did I know that when I lost everything last year, I was doing research. At the time I thought it was just stupidity or bad luck or both. But now that the economy’s crashing, it turns out I’ve been out there gathering valuable tips for millions of new paupers.
Most people had never heard of Sarah Palin when she was named Republican VP nominee. But I’d been hearing her name all too often, because I belong to a group called Defenders of Wildlife–and in her time as governor of Alaska, Palin has used her position as governor of Alaska to ruin the Alaskan wilderness in every way she could.
Her most recent “victory” came on August 26 when Alaska’s voters defeated Measure 2, an initiative that would have banned hunting wolves from airplanes for sport.
I saw a jet trail in the sky this morning and wondered why there aren’t so many of them any more. And instantly started grinding through the useless, absorbing little inquisitions that keep the mind from wasting its time on lesser matters like making a living. I’ve learned to be wary of the first, natural hypothesis of any 53-year old mammal’s brain, which is simply that the world is going to Hell, damn it. I’ve learned to squint around that little mental cataract and formulate slightly more rigorous options, little lists of possible responses like the heads-up display that leads the Terminator to choose “Fuck you, asshole.” Standing at the top of the alley, the dog sniffing the weeds beside me, I came up with three quick possibilities for the scarcity of jet trails:
1. Jet trails must be some sort of condensation of hot exhaust in cold air; so, because of global warming, the outer air isn’t as cold so condensation doesn’t form.
2. Better engines and jet fuel mixes mean less exhaust; hence, fewer jet trails.
3. There are as many jet trails as ever, idiot. You’re just getting old and whiney: “When I was a boy, there were jet trails so thick the woolly mammoths used to trip over them….” Shut up and keep walking. (more…)
Hezbollah explains ‘Arab Spring’ to residents of West Beirut
Now that the Beijing games have wound up, we can get on to a sporting event with real significance: a Neocon Olympics to decide the most grossly wrong, stupid prediction by a Neocon pundit post-Iraq. Of course, it’s a very rich field. Being totally wrong about absolutely everything is the Neocons’ job, and they’ve been working overtime on it. Their proudest moment had to be in the lead-up to the Iraq war when Kenneth Adelmanassured America that democratizing Iraq would be “a cakewalk.” Indeed, early Neocons like Adelman and Richard Perle (who predicted that Iraq would settle down “at the first whiff of gunpowder”) set the bar for disastrously wrong predictions so high that some have suggested that the trophy be retired in their honor. (more…)
The political establishment’s racist, authoritarian reaction to the 1992 LA riots—blaming broken black families, massing cops and troops, and Ron Paul’s advice to his family on how to kill black “animals” and get away with it…
Indonesia just executed two Australians by firing squad, putting a bit of a chill into bilateral relations. For me, this is great news. Until now, I had been led to believe that the tension between Indonesia and Australia was my fault…
Years ago I got an angry email from somebody claiming to be in one of the Baltic militaries. Whoever he was, he wrote in grammatically perfect English so he just had to be from Northern Europe. We can’t talk English…
Last Sunday I was grumbling about how there are so many great books about war and not that many great war movies. That got a lot of readers lobbing in their suggestions for good war movies. One reminded me that…
Today’s Civil War Caturday (by the way, that’s pronounced “Kivil War Katurday”), right in the middle of Easter. Got me thinking about my religion, if I have one now, and I realized I do, kind of: The Monitor and the…
Seems like I ought to do something religious today, so I picked a battle from the the ultimate military expression of religious devotion: The Thirty Years War (1618-1648), Europe’s way of debating the Catholic vs. Protestant thing by counting corpses.